The Final T20 Blog

03 Dec

Taylor and Borren shake handsCricket Scotland media manager Ben fox writes his final blog from the T20 World Cup Qualifiers. 

Alas, it was not to be. It was a campaign that had more ups and downs than a wave machine set to maximum, but the downs finally won.

As I sit here in Dubai, the last member of the 2013 Scottish cricket touring party to leave and with 12 hours to burn until my own flight back, I have been pondering; “How am I going to undertake this final instalment on what has been a long, but ultimately unsuccessful trip?” 

The last blog that I wrote, which seems like an age ago, was as Scotland were preparing to take on Italy in another must win game. 

Scotland lost the toss and were asked to bowl first. Italy came hard with Middlesex's Gareth Berg smashing a few to the boundary. Safyaan bowled with good pace, and sent Berg's leg-stump cartwheeling backwards, and after that the Scots had the Azurri's innings well under control, thanks to some tight bowling and fielding. 

A century opening stand by Richie Berrington and Calum MacLeod made sure that the Scottish heart rates were kept in check, achieving the total asked for with minimum fuss. 

Leask reaches his 50 Later on that day the Netherlands played the UAE, the loser of which would play us in the winner takes all contest. The general feeling was that the UAE would be our preferred opponents, despite having beaten the Dutch in the earlier rounds. As it turned out UAE won, and so it was the dangerous Oranje up next. 

The support sent by Scotland fans ahead of the game was incredible; well-wishers from all around the world were #backingblue. 

Unfortunately, the game got off to an atrocious start, with the two heroes from the previous day both dismissed without scoring – it seemed at that time to be a very typical Scottish trait to make things tricky for ourselves! Then came a blistering partnership between the gritty Machan and the young pup Leask. 

I'd spoken to Leasky before the game and we were both sure that today would be his day. He took the game to Holland with some huge sixes, while Mach was his methodical and successful self. 

As happens so often in T20, both were dismissed going into the latter part of the innings and it was difficult for the new men in to find any momentum after the Dutch re-seized control. Only 35 runs came from the last 4.9 overs. 

Confidence was still visible at the break, as 117 had been an unreachable score for Holland the day before. We were 20 overs away from a World Cup. 

It's difficult to say what went wrong during the following 20 overs. They didn't bowl as well as they had against the Dutch in the group stage and, apart from a well-disguised slower ball by Carter bowling out Myburgh, Scotland seemed always to be on the back foot. Wesley Barressi batted with confidence and, together with Ben Cooper, took the match away from Scotland. It seemed to be a ploy to target our most consistent bowler, Majid Haq, and it paid off. 

It was over. The ship had sailed. What a wretched feeling. After winning three must win games we'd not made it over the final hurdle. Twitter erupted and, suddenly, it felt like all the support had gone. 

I think I speak unanimously for whole touring party when I describe it as one of the most sombre 12 hours I have experienced. 

Scotland took on PNG for 7th place on Friday morning. It was difficult for the players to pick themselves up after the previous day, but a spirited 70 from Richie and a Coetzer anchor role ensured we needed 16 going into the final over. 

Cross helped Scotland secure 7th Rob Taylor was caught on the boundary with 8 needed from the last two deliveries, when up stepped Crossy (Matthew Cross) to biff a huge straight six followed by a pull for four from the final delivery, taking Scotland over the line in what was an entertaining game of cricket.

The nature of sport doesn't allow for much margin for error, and the team acknowledged that the slow start against Bermuda meant we only got one bite at the cherry instead of two. But this is not the time for excuses. 

There will, no doubt, be patriotic and passionate cries claiming that it's not good enough, and to a degree it's difficult to disagree. But, in my view, this is not time for knee-jerk reactions calling for heads to roll – the team was a team, coaches and players alike. T20 is a brutal game that leaves little margin for error or bad luck – personally, I do not believe it was reflective of what Scotland can do. 

There is very little time to relax. The next World Cup Qualifying tournament kicks off in five weeks time in New Zealand. 

Of course it would have been wonderful to have qualified for the next phase in Bangladesh, but the real and absolute necessity is for Scotland to perform to the best of their ability in the 50 over format.  I believe they will, and have seen them at close enough quarters to feel that belief is grounded in something other than patriotic fervour. 

Finally, I will sign off by thanking all those behind the scenes who have supported me and the team over the past few weeks. It has been a great experience, one I'll never forget, for a variety of reasons!  

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