Ireland are going out of their way to make sure they will not be at this year’s World Cup finals after yet another last-over defeat.

The squad are only in Zimbabwe because they lost too many close finishes from winning positions but they haven’t learnt their lesson and after a tame surrender in the first qualifying game against Oman, they threw away the chance of a first victory here in Bulawayo with a last ball defeat by Scotland.

It was all looking so good with Scotland, set an unlikely 287 to win – Ireland were 33 for four – needing 44 from the last four overs with just two wickets left. No surprise then that Andrew Balbirnie called up his strike bowler, his IPL bowler, Josh Little to bowl the 47th over.

Six balls later, the target was down to 22 , as Michael Leask hit Little for two sixes and two fours. And yet still Ireland had the chance to win it at the death.

Eight needed off the last over, bowled by Mark Adair, and he had Safyaan Sharif caught at short thirdman and three balls left at No 11 Chris Sole with the Scots still needing three to win.

They scampered a crucial bye off the fifth ball and a fortunate inside edge by Leask flew past keeper Lorcan Tucker for the winning runs and take his personal score to 91 from 61 balls.

Adair walked off alone, disconsolate, but it should never have come down to a last-ball finish as Balbirnie admitted afterwards.

“It’s a hard one to take. Apart from the first 10 overs of our batting and the last 10 of our fielding we were in charge, I was really confident of getting over the line but that’s cricket, if you aren’t on the ball things can get away from you and certainly Michael Leask did that today. It was a high quality innings,” he said.

“But when you get yourself into a winning position you should most of the time  get over the line and over the last 12 months we have done that and it’s just about finding a way of winning ugly, if that what it takes.”

The start of Ireland’s innings was as ugly as it gets, with Paul Stirling, in his 150th ODI, and Balbirnie both failing to survive their first balls and when in-form Harry Tector nicked off to slip at the start of the fifth over, Ireland were 17 for three.

Lorcan Tucker quickly followed, to another slip catch but the ‘9am conditions’ could hardly be blamed for the quick fall of wickets.

New opener Andy McBrine survived 53 balls, hitting four boundaries, but when Curtis Campher joined George Dockrell it was dig-in recovery time. They did it to perfection with Dockrell continuing his superb recent form to post his third ODI half century in four innings and Campher – in for Graham Hume in the only change - showing why he should never have been left out on Monday.

Curtis Campher acknowledges the applause for his century (ICC/Getty Images)

The pair added 136 for the sixth wicket and even after Dockrell was bowled for 69 - opening bowler Brandon McMullan’s fourth wicket - Gareth Delany and Mark Adair kept Campher company as he brought up his maiden ODI century, from 99 balls with seven fours and three sixes, as 75 were added in the last six overs.

Just five matches ago, Campher hit 111 in the second Galle Test, yesterday he bettered that international best by nine runs before a fatal attempt at a ramp shot from the penultimate ball of the innings. It was about the only ball he missed all day.

The pitch did not turn as much as Balbirnie expected but his slow bowlers were much more accurate than in the first game with Dockrell taking his 100th ODI wicket, a landmark only Kevin O’Brien had reached for Ireland.

That reduced Scotland to 152 for seven but Leask proved the immovable object and now Ireland, realistically must beat tournament favourites Sri Lanka on Sunday to keep their World Cup dream alive.