In the end, it came down to an unexpected shower and an umpiring blunder. Eventually, the West Indies simply seemed like undeserving beneficiaries of two lucky breaks, one courtesy a human error and the other through nature’s diktat, as they booked a spot at next year’s World Cup at the expense of a devastated Scotland team, who for most parts of the day looked all set for a fourth World Cup appearance.
For, if Scotland had lost one less wicket at the point a heavy drizzle turned into a mini-storm and forced the players off, they would have been ahead by three runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method and therefore been adjudged winners. Instead at 125-5 in 35.2 overs, they were five runs behind.
Five runs, which will leave them on the periphery of cricket’s big league for four more years, when they’ll get their next shot at a World Cup spot. That one calamitous wicket that cost them so much had come less than four overs earlier when Richie Berrington was given out LBW off the bowling of Ashley Nurse. The off-break had pitched on middle-stump and looked to have struck the right-hander’s front pad slightly outside the line of leg-stump. The impact should ideally have ascertained that the ball had no chance therefore of coming close to striking the leg-stump. But not in Australian umpire Paul Wilson’s opinion as he raised his finger.
The clouds over Harare Sports Club had turned bleak nearly 20 minutes before the actual downpour. At that point, Scotland had overcome three early setbacks to steady their ship. Callum MacLeod and Berrington had put on 42 crucial runs to calm the nerves a little. MacLeod’s dismissal, to an acrobatic return catch from Nurse, turned into a timely setback as George Munsey walked in to provide some much-needed momentum. Berrington kept grinding away as the safe-keeper of the run chase before the unfortunate howler cut his innings short, along with, as it turned out, Scotland’s promising hopes of going to England next May.
Blast from the past
This wasn’t quite Sydney 1992 when South Africa were robbed by the rain rule or Durban 2003 when the Proteas misread it. If anything, this was even more heart-breaking. Scotland had, after all, dominated most of the match. For the record, the man-of-the-match was Scottish seamer Safyaan Sharif for his splendid spell of 3/27.
And it was Sharif who pushed the West Indians to the brink very early, by removing Chris Gayle off the first ball before striking again to reduce them to 2/2. Marlon Samuels and Evin Lewis did resurrect the innings somewhat but the Scots struck back to bowl them out for just 198 with Sharif and new-ball partner Brad Wheal sharing the majority of the spoils.
As their innings plummeted from being shaky to complete disarray, veteran commentator Fazeer Mohammed couldn’t help but provide a reality check on air about where West Indian cricket had plummeted to. He repeatedly mentioned that their plight — the last-minute desperation to tiptoe into the World Cup — wasn’t a result of a sudden decline but a culmination of everything gone wrong with cricket in the Caribbean. You could almost sense him fearing the worst.
They might have held their own, barely on occasions, in this league of nations. But it’s difficult to imagine them competing against the top nations of the world in a year’s time, considering how disconnected they seem from the modern way of playing 50-over cricket. Gayle and Samuels still remain their key batsmen in this format with hardly any new match winners emerging, while their strategy of plugging along in the first half of their innings to set up for an almighty slog-fest seems rather outdated.
Later in the day, Munsey, who remained unbeaten on 32, would take a potshot at the West Indians tweeting, “Pleased to hear the @westindies celebrating dramatically after a game in the balance settled by rain beating us the associate!”
He wasn’t the only one. Even the ICC, who made the unpopular decision to reduce the World Cup to a 10-team event, for once chose to call it like it is with the headline of their press release reading, “Rain takes West Indies to next year’s World Cup”. Unfortunately for the Scots, they left umpire Wilson out.
Brief scores: West Indies 198 all out in 48.4 overs (Evin Lewis 66, Marlon Samuels 51; Safyaan Sharif 3-27, Brad Wheal 3-34) beat Scotland 125/5 in 35.2 overs (Richie Berrington 33, George Munsey 32 not out) by 5 runs via the DLS method.
What if Decision Review System was implemented and why it wasn’t…
Had the men from the Caribbean lost, Scotland would have gone through with the two-time champions missing out altogether if hosts Zimbabwe beat the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.
The sore point
In the 32nd over, with Scotland needing 94 runs with six wickets in hand, Richie Berrington was deemed LBW by umpire Paul Wilson, though off-spinner Ashley Nurse’s delivery struck the pad outside the line of leg-stump. With no DRS in place, there was no recourse for the batsman.
How did it impact the game
When rain came in, Scotland were found five runs behind the par score. Had they been four down, they would have won by three runs.
As a number of games are not televised, and for conditions to be consistent for all matches, the ICC has decided not to use DRS for any of the games. Also, the World Cup Qualifier isn’t a profit-making event for the ICC so anything to keep costs down.