Scotland come up short in WT20 opener
Scotland v Afghanistan at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur 8 March 2016 [Scorecard]
Afghanistan beat Scotland by 14 runs in their opening ICC World Twenty20 Group B game in Nagpur. Scotland ended 156/5 chasing 171 to win.
Kyle Coetzer (40 off 27 balls) and George Munsey (41 off 29) top scored and put Scotland in a commanding position with an 84-run opening stand off 8.5 overs, but after both got out the game got away from the Scots.
Rashid Khan was excellent with the ball taking 2-28 in his four overs and was well supported by Mohammad Nabi (1-27) and Ameer Hamza (0-24).
The three bowled 26 dot balls in their combined spells, effectively four and a half overs without Scotland scoring.
Afghanistan scored 170 for five from their 20 overs with Mohammad Shahzad scoring 61 (3x6 and 5x4) from 39 balls the chief destroyer. Skipper Asghar Stanikzai scored 55 not out from 50 in a 82-run second wicket partnership with the keeper.
Mark Watt (1-30) and Alasdair Evans (1-24) were the pick of the bowlers, while Safyaan Sharif (0-29) was economical without success.
Saltires’ captain Preston Mommsen felt the game was lost in two parts. “I think if we kept them down [by] 10 or 15 runs less, that would have been a better reflection of our [bowling] effort,” he said.
“There’s always areas where we can save runs, particularly with the ball. We will [also] need to address the middle period where their spinners bowled pretty well at us, which tied us down and was effectively where we lost the game.”
The slow wicket suited the spinners and Afghanistan had more of theirs bowling well in tandem - especially at the death. Both teams were 120 after 15 overs but where one found the ropes, the other could only muster singles.
Asghar won the toss and elected to bat saying he felt 150 would be a decent total. As was the case during the ICC World T20 Qualifiers, he and Shahzad caused Scotland’s bowlers all sorts of headaches.
Their innings was one of fits and starts, taking 41 from the power play before Shahzad and Asghar got into what seems their perennial groove against Scotland.
Some of the stroke-play altered between the sublime to the ridiculous as they dispatched the bowling to all quarters of the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium.
Last July in Edinburgh, the captain and wicketkeeper put on 110 runs off 63 balls with the 50 coming off 26 deliveries. Now the two put on 82 from 61 balls, with the 50 taking up 40 deliveries.
On that occasion Mommsen chose Michael Leask to open, today Watt, who at the Grange was taken for 41 runs from his only two overs.
Today he bowled with control and guile. Evans and Sharif were economical but the bowlers failed to take wickets regularly.
Asghar was dropped by Richie Berrington on 23, a costly miss as he propelled his team to their winning score.
Scotland’s openers set the foundations, but a batting collapse after the fall of Coetzer proved costly as they lost four wickets for 24 runs.
They started cautiously, assessing the conditions. Initially they looked flustered; taking risky singles while attempting some unorthodox strokes.
Both hung in, the ball evading the fielders as they rode their luck. Any chance of victory would hinge on a good opening stand and big power play - which they achieved.
Coetzer and Munsey then upped the tempo and by the end of the sixth over Scotland were 60 without loss.
Mommsen described the start of their innings as “brilliant”. and praised their performances. “Kyle and George batted beautifully,” he said.
“Through good cricket shots they gave themselves a chance up front and importantly, they went beyond the power play, got ahead of the game which is vital when chasing.
“Unfortunately a cluster of wickets [fell] and [we] couldn’t find any rhythm or momentum after that. Their spinners did a good job in the middle and we couldn’t combat that.”
Then a double blow saw both lose their wickets before a mix-up between Matt Machan (36) and Calum MacLeod resulted in the latter being run-out.
Soon after Berrington was out stumped for eight and from a position of strength the Scots had lost three wickets for 11 runs from eight balls and never recovered. From there Mommsen and Machan struggled.
The damage done and Afghanistan’s spinners, aided by the slow outfield and big boundaries, strangled Scotland. The end came rather timidly.
“There was a period where we tried to rebuild,” Mommsen said afterwards.
“Throughout the chase we thought we had it under control [but] it slipped away and was an issue for us and something we will need to address.
“We thought we needed tens [runs] in the last five overs which we felt was manageable, but in hindsight it wasn’t - perhaps we should’ve gone harder earlier.”
When asked why Scotland did not play another spinner the 28-year-old said that they were happy with the team that was selected and with the first half of the game.
“We got ourselves into a couple of winning positions but we only have ourselves to blame that we couldn’t get over the line.”
He also praised Shahzad’s destructive batting performance and conceded that they cannot contain the wicketkeeper.
“Shahzad is a very skilful player and he showed his class today. We’ve got plans for him but he still manages to punish us every time he plays against us. He’s got a very good record against us and he hits good balls for four or six.”