T20 Qualifier Blogs #2 - The Final Phase
Cricket Scotland's media manager Ben Fox gives us the second installment of his blogs from the UAE.
What a few days it has been. The group stages are now over and we are now have a clearer picture of who has progressed to the final phase of the tournament. In my last blog Scotland were still searching for that elusive first win after games against Bermuda and Afghanistan.
Well, that victory came in our next game, which was against Nepal. A good crowd had gathered to watch, almost entirely Nepalese, but that added to the atmosphere with the horns, chanting and flag waving.
The Scots put in a disciplined bowling display after electing to bowl first. Gordon Goudie's bowling has really excelled over here, mixing up his pace and being clinically accurate, and he's been rewarded with a number of notable performances. It’s no surprise that he has a five wicket haul against the Aussies to his name.
With the bat, Scotland's Calum MacLeod and captain Coetzer saw us home with minimal fuss. This certainly didn't deter the Nepal fans who remained supportive of their team to the end, and beyond!
So the team were off and running and there would be no looking back… Or so we thought! Next up was Kenya, a team Scotland had recorded five wins over in Aberdeen during the summer.
Cricket has a tendency to bite you in the behind when you least expect it.
It was a horror show from a Scottish perspective, live streamed for all to see. Kenya came out swinging and, as soon as the first ball disappeared to the boundary, they were off.
Just when Scotland thought they had regained some control, Ragheb Aga played a terrific innings at number eight to rack up 183/7 - a huge T20 total
Our batsmen got off to a good start, but when the top four were all dismissed in quick succession, the game was up. Wickets tumbled and Scotland found themselves all out in the 14th over 92 runs short. As Coetzer admitted after the game, we were outplayed.
Moderating a national organisational body’s social media presence means you can expect the odd disgruntled fan commenting, but that day was a tough one for players and back room staff alike. Our tournament future was now hanging by a thread.
A solemn day followed the Kenyan match, two ‘must win’ games against Papa New Guinea and Holland lay ahead. No pressure then…
Heavy rain greeted us as we got onboard the bus for our match against PNG, and it was lashing it down as we arrived at the ground. "What were the chances of this?" was the general consensus.
Thankfully, the emerging sun and the sand based ground soon ensured the lying water was dispersed. PNG won the toss and elected bowl first.
MacLeod and Machan helped us reach an imperious score of 181/5. A terrific display by the bowlers and the field helped Scotland to a convincing victory and the players were able to take that performance into the next game.
Now to the sternest test yet - our ‘other’ old rivals, the Dutch. They won the toss and asked Scotland to bat first. Richie stuck in and, together with Mach, created a platform. However, wickets started to quickly fall and suddenly Scotland needed to ‘score big’ in the final five overs.
Rob Taylor and Mach chose a great time to produce fireworks, giving Scotland some real momentum as they went into the Netherlands innings. The team’s body language suggested they were well up for the fight.
It was a nerve jangling 20 overs as the game ebbed and flowed, but wickets were taken at vital times, keeping the game just out of reach for the Dutch. Neil Carter bowled the final over (in the 399th cricket match of his career!) with the Netherlands needing 24. Scotland got the win by 15 runs.
The mood on the bus journey back was rather a different to the earlier post match journeys. The team had come a long way in a week but remained reflective, albeit more upbeat.
Scotland had shown astounding resilience but knew that a win against Denmark would see them progress to the next stage of the competition.
The first innings against Denmark couldn't really have gone any better. Mach will be getting sick of me singing his praises by now, but he is currently averaging 70 in T20 cricket! He struck an unbeaten 90 and this, combined with an impressive innings from MacLeod and my old roomie Leasky, ensured that Scotland made 205/3.
Denmark made 130 in reply. While we had been told by official sources that Scotland must restrict them to 121, the twitterati had said it was under 130 –and it turned out they were correct! Denmark scored 130, so Scotland missed out on third place by 1 run!
Ah well – Cricket was always about statistics and small margins, and we're still in it (which looked unlikely a few days ago), but you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t wonder ‘what if’…
We head to Abu Dhabi tomorrow morning, with Italy the opponents on Wednesday. Win that and we play the loser of Holland v UAE. Win again and we're in a World Cup.