Zimbabwe needed a win to guarantee a top-two finish in the Super Sixes and with it a place, alongside the West Indies, in the 10-team World Cup in England and Wales next summer.
But in a rain-shortened encounter, Zimbabwe fell three runs short of their adjusted victory target of 230 from 40 overs, finishing on 226 for seven to open the door for both Ireland and Afghanistan.
Both teams lie one point behind Zimbabwe in the standings, meaning a win for either side would be enough to go through, while Ireland’s superior net run-rate would result in their progress if there is a washout.
In the event of a tie, Ireland’s net run-rate would fall, meaning Zimbabwe would hang on to second spot.
The Windies became the first nation to qualify on Wednesday after a five-run triumph on the DLS method over Scotland.
Meanwhile, Cricket Scotland chief executive Malcolm Cannon claims the International Cricket Council is limiting the growth of the game after cutting down on participation at the World Cup.
Scotland came up agonisingly short of qualifying for next year’s showpiece event in England after rain denied them the chance of a famous win over the West Indies.
The fact the Saltires were even on the verge of qualifying for the competition was an achievement in itself, given the ICC cut the number of teams competing back from 14 (in 2015) to 10, with sides such as Zimbabwe and the Windies forced to scrap with Scotland, Ireland, and Afghanistan, among others.
The decision has attracted widespread criticism, with accusations the ICC are discouraging associate nations from growing the game.
“Our major bone of contention is not the rain,” said Cannon. “It’s not bad umpiring decisions or the lack of DRS. It is the fact — and this is something we have been lobbying strongly for the last two years — that the ICC are the only global sport that are reducing the number of teams in the World Cup while others are increasing to grow the game globally.
“It is something we have fought very hard against and will continue to fight against and we desperately think it’s wrong.
“We thought it was wrong before we were done out of a place, so it’s not being after the event. This is long standing and will continue to be an argument from us.”
Cannon’s views are reflected by Fifa’s plans to grow the football World Cup to 48 teams from 32, intending on making it a more global event.
The decision to cut down on participating nations in the cricketing equivalent meant, with West Indies and Zimbabwe forced to qualify, that it would be even harder for the smaller nations given the comparative lack of funding for full member nations, and Cannon believes this gap will only continue to grow unless something changes.
He said: “What this does do is limit our potential for growth and it limits our potential to compete on the world stage.
“The gap will continue to grow.”