Chris Sole produced a searing spell of pace bowling as Scotland moved tantalisingly close to World Cup qualification with a thrilling triumph over Zimbabwe.

Defending a modest 234 in the must-win Super Six clash in Bulawayo, the Scots needed early wickets to stay in contention for two vital points.

And Sole obliged in sensational style, reaching speeds of up 10 151.5kmp as he ripped through Zimbabwe’s top order with three key scalps.

His contribution put the Scots on top and, despite a spirited fightback from the hosts, they went on to clinch a 31-run victory.

A further win over Netherlands on Thursday will seal Scotland’s place at the global showpiece in India later in the year.

Sole, who claimed 3-33, said: “The best advice I was ever given was to bowl as fast as you can and I did that today and luckily enough I got a few wickets.

“We thought we were in the game at half-time especially if we got in amongst it and that’s what we were able to do.

“We’re not looking too far ahead but we will enjoy this moment – because beating the host nation in their back yard is a great achievement.

“The crowd were fantastic – and not just for their own team – they love cricket and were backing both sides.”

Sole claimed the wicket of Joylord Gumbie with the first delivery of Zimbabwe’s innings and followed up by clean-bowling skipper Craig Ervine.

And he really had the Scots on top when he also ripped through the defences of in-form Sean Williams who had scored 599 runs in the tournament.

Zimbabwe rallied bravely with Sikander Raza (34) and Wesley Madhevere (40) repairing the early damage.

The hosts were still firmly in contention when Ryan Burl’s run-a-ball 83 eased them within sight of their target.

However, Michael Leask struck a decisive blow when he had Burl brilliantly caught by Brandon McMullen before Safyaan Sharif wrapped-up victory with his 100th ODI wicket.

McMullen and Leask had two wickets each while Chris Greaves and Mark Watt were the other wicket-takers.

Earlier the Scottish innings was a mixed bag of a solid start, a mediocre middle and an enterprising end.

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Sent in to bat in a tournament which has favoured the bowlers in the early stages, the Scots appeared intent on seeing off the new ball and keeping wickets in hand.

They were largely successful in this endeavour, reaching 102-1 after twenty-five overs with Chris McBride the man out, bowled by Tendai Chatara for a patient 45-ball 28.

Opening partner Matthew Cross was equally watchful while McMullen displayed more aggression as Scotland attempted to increase the scoring rate.

However, they suffered two blows in quick succession when Cross was bowled for 35 by Williams and two overs later the same bowler removed McMullen for a run-a-ball 34.

He had stroked six boundaries but, in attempting a clearance, he offered a running catch to Blessing Muzarabani in the deep.

Zimbabwe’s spinners proceeded to control the middle overs of the innings with Williams striking for a third time to have Richie Berrington caught at long-off.

Suddenly Scotland had slumped to 118-4 and were in desperate need of a partnership.

However, it was tough going for George Munsey and Tom Mackintosh, neither of whom could dominate the bowling, the latter hitting a streaky boundary in his 13 before being run out backing-up at the non-striker’s end.

Munsey showed brief glimpses of his class but took 52 balls to reach 31 before being bowled behind his legs by Richard Ngarava.

A second run-out accounted for Greaves before Leask briefly silenced a relentlessly raucous home support.

Just as he had in the opening match against Ireland, the Forfarshire all-rounder stood up in his country’s hour of need, finally showing how to dominate the Zimbabwe bowlers.

He bludgeoned three boundaries and two big maximums in racing to 48 from 34 balls and was only out, caught on the boundary while attempting to clear the rope again.

Watt, a consistent contributor down the order, this time offered 21no from fifteen deliveries with three boundaries.

With a superior net run-rate than the Dutch, Scotland could afford a narrow defeat tomorrow and still qualify for the World Cup. However, they will be aiming to complete a perfect Super Six record to reach Sunday’s tournament final against Sri Lanka.

Skipper Berrington said: “I’m incredibly proud of the boys – to show the fight they did to stay in the game.

“Taking early wickets was absolutely key – our bowlers have been fantastic all through the tournament and I’m really pleased for Chris Sole to get man-of-the-match.

“He has bowled some incredible spells earlier in the tournament and deserved his reward.

“It’s a quick turnaround to another tough game against the Netherlands but we’ll take confidence into it and come back strong.”