2013 T20 Qualifier Blog #1
Cricket Scotland Media Manager Ben Fox gives us the first of his blogs from the UAE.
So here we are, many, many miles away from the prominent hills of bonnie Scotland, in the United Arab Emirates to thrash it out for our place on the T20 world stage in Bangladesh in 2014.
The next two tournaments, within the space of a couple of months are extremely important to cricket in our country, make no mistake about it; in fact, it’s hard to overstate just how important they are.
After a long journey from Edinburgh to Dubai, via Amsterdam, I arrived at the Apartments in the early hours of the morning.
It transpired that there had been a slight mix up in rooms, but I eventually found a place to lay my weary head, rooming with all-rounder Michael Leask.
Our room was situated in an apartment with Gordon Goudie, Richie Berrington, Majid Haq, Moneeb Iqbal and Safyaan Sharif - a good set of down to earth lads. Berrington and Goudie are usually at the heart of any entertainment, with FIFA being a particular favourite pastime of the group!
It was a brief sleep as at 9am we were off to train and attend pre-tournament meetings at the ICC's Global Cricket Academy; what an amazing facility, with two top class outdoor pitches and a myriad of nets replicating wickets from around the world.
The team had registered two convincing wins against the USA and Namibia in the official warm up games and everyone was feeling well prepared for our opening match against Bermuda in Sharjah.
It is fair to say that the match didn't quite go according to plan from a Scotland perspective! It was a match that emphasised that T20 is a format that absolutely suits the unconventional.
Bermuda produced a swashbuckling first innings, with balls going to all parts of the ground as they reached a competitive total of 149 from their 20.
We didn't have the best of starts, losing Calum MacLeod to a direct hit without a run being registered. Worse, he didn’t even get to face a ball (and on his 25th birthday too).
Talented Sussex star Matt Machan was then dismissed to an unbelievable one handed catch by Derrick Brangman; it was one of those where you just jump and reach to the sky in hope more than expectation, and it just stuck. The Bermudans went crazy and suddenly they were on top.
Kyle Coetzer played well along with Rob Taylor, but when both were removed a shock was on the cards - eventually giving a buoyant Bermuda an 18 run victory. It was a very quiet hour-long bus journey back to Dubai.
The coach and his two new assistants, Craig Wright and Paul Collingwood, wouldn’t let anyone get too down about it though, which was exactly what was needed if we were to perform against Afghanistan the next day.
On arrival back to the hotel and there was a team de-brief, before Calum was presented with a cake. I tried to offer him consolation in playing me at FIFA - I somehow won (he absolutely dominated throughout) and we both conceded it wasn't to be his day.
Afghanistan was next up and we knew they would come hard at us having played them at the same venue back in March.
They did exactly that, but after they had made a flying start Scotland fielded and bowled well at the end of the innings. They didn't concede a boundary in the last four overs, with Majid his ever economical self, and Afghanistan were finally ‘restricted’ to 174.
Hearing Sharjah so quiet was quite eerie, as Saturday is a working day over here, but those who did come along could still be heard.
Calum showed good mental toughness in putting the previous day’s disappointment behind him and, joined with Mach, kept us in the hunt. The pair managed the run rate well and both reached a deserved 50 with the tension building, especially as both teams had lost the previous day.
Unfortunately for Scotland, Dalwat Zadran, a firm fans’ favourite, dismissed MacLeod at a pivotal point and then continued to bowl well, just taking the game out of Scotland’s reach.
Kyle summed it up well by describing the match as one of the toughest games of T20 he had come across and, despite defeat, he was proud of the players’ efforts.
Today consisted of a team meeting in the morning, followed by much needed rest for the players after nine consecutive days of cricket!
Nepal tomorrow morning will be a huge game, and if we can get that win we'll be off and running.
As we've already seen with the surprise packages dealt up by Bermuda and Papa New Guinnea, anyone is capable of beating anyone on their day.
We need to win four out of the next five games to have a chance of progressing but there is plenty of belief and professionalism around the camp.
Personally – I am hoping for 5!