Scotland slump to lame defeat

SCOTLAND'S quest to reach the Intercontinental Cup Final was dangling by a slender thread last night after the shock troops of Afghanistan completed their demolition job at Citylets Ayr.

The hosts had entered the fray on the final day needing application and a huge amount of luck to claim an unlikely share of the points.

But a spate of lbw verdicts left them with too much to do and they plunged to defeat by 229 runs.

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Now coach Peter Steindl must set his sights on a victory over Zimbabwe in the autumn to maintain their hopes of contesting the trophy showdown in Dubai come November.

Having surged to excellent away wins against Kenya and the Netherlands, Steindl had been confident of continuing the positive run.

But an all-out tally of only 139 in the first innings left Scotland with a lofty mountain to scale.

The fact that a single home batsman, Ewan Chalmers, was able to pass the 50 mark simply underlined the gulf between the sides throughout the match.

At least Steindl's men showed more guts and determination in the second dig, making 316.

Scotland's overnight pair, Richie Berrington and Chalmers, had looked secure during the opening exchanges - though the former did offer half a chance with a mistimed pull.

A big double breakthrough came for the visitors when Berrington and Qasim Sheikh perished in quick succession.

First, the Greenock man played back to a straight delivery from slow left-armer Abdullah Mazari and was palpably trapped in front of middle stump. He had made a watchful 22 from 48 balls, but never looked like showing the type of form that yielded so many crucial runs during the opening half of the season.

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That brought Sheikh to the crease, knowing he had to linger as long as possible to help stave off defeat.

In the next over, however, he was following in Berrington's footsteps, cursing his luck in double measures.

A bulls-eye full-toss from Hamid Hassan not only had him plumb lbw, but left him with a crushed big toe.

Sheikh was in such discomfort that he was whisked off to the local A&E with a suspected fracture.

Moneeb Iqbal in tandem with Chalmers halted the immediate rot, but when the latter perished at the start of the 55th over, it was effectively curtains for the Scots.

Again it was tweaker Abdullah who did the business, prompting the Watsonians batsman to glove it into the hands of the alert Samniullah Shenwari at silly point.

It was a meek departure for Chalmers (67), who had earned himself the opportunity to claim a first-class century.He had found the ropes 11 times in his 126-ball vigil.

Iqbal and Majid Haq managed to stave off any further setbacks in the build up to the lunch break.

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They continued their gritty rearguard action until, with the tally on 203, Haq became the third lbw victim of the day.

He also failed to get forward far enough against Hamid Hassan and the appeal from the Afghans was raucus to say the least.

The dreaded finger was raised yet again in the 87th over to end the stoic effort of Iqbal for 42.

Like Sheikh, a pinpoint yorker was his undoing, making contact with his toes bang in front of the stumps to give Mirwais Ashraf his first wicket.

The remarkable sequence of lbw dismissals continued when wicketkeeper Simon Smith fell to centurion Shinwari for 20.

And again it was a full-pitched delivery which tied the home batsman in knots.

Hassan returned to clean-bowl skipper Gordon Drummond and deliver the final blow by finding the edge of Matthew Parker for a fighting 42.

The catch took Hassan's tally of scalps in the match to 11.