After the disappointment of missing out to the Netherlands on net run-rate at the European Qualifier in Spain, Scotland could have perhaps been forgiven had they carried a little of that burden into the T20I Quadrangular Series in Holland this week. That Steve Knox’s team bounced back in such style speaks volumes of a side which recorded four wins despite missing its captain and a number of senior players. With the Global Qualifier just a fortnight away, La Manga seems a very long time ago.
Not that Scotland’s form in that competition had been especially worrisome. One poor performance with the ball against the Netherlands proved to be the difference, and although the Scots recovered to level up the head-to-head with their old rivals via a thrilling Super Over victory at the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Oval, the Dutch had already done enough against Germany to all but guarantee their passage to the 2021 Women’s World Cup Global Qualifier as tournament winners. Scotland was left empty-handed, but with a number of positives nonetheless.
Prominent amongst them were three names for the future. Charis Scott, Megan McColl and Katherine Fraser all took their international bows in Spain, but for Fraser, in particular, it has been the past week in Deventer which has provided the breakthrough. The fourteen-year-old finished as Scotland’s leading wicket-taker with 9 at an average of 9.55, and with three-wicket hauls against both the Netherlands and Thailand, the off-spinner is sure to have a big part to play in the Global Qualifier at the end of the month. McColl, meanwhile, whose 3 for 22 against the Dutch helped set up Scotland’s fourth win of the campaign, did much to advance her case for selection, too, and although Scott will be disappointed to have had only one opportunity to show what she can do, she will have benefitted from the extra exposure to the international environment just the same. With Abbie Hogg also receiving her first international cap in the Netherlands, Scotland has plenty of talent coming through its ranks.
The competition began with a 74-run loss to a Thailand team fresh from an undefeated Asia Qualifier campaign, and Sornnarin Tippoch’s side quickly reiterated its credentials with further wins over Ireland and the Netherlands to set a new world record streak of 17 T20 international victories in succession. That Scotland ended it with a five-wicket win to add to its wins over the Netherlands and, most significantly of all, Ireland – only its second ever – is enormously important in the context of what is to come. Alongside Namibia, who have been drafted in to replace Zimbabwe, the three will contest Group B of the Global Qualifier, and with one of their number mostly likely to provide the opposition should Scotland successfully negotiate Group A, the Semi-Final should hold no fear for a side which has already come within touching distance of a World Cup berth in the past.
Balancing its youth is a considerable amount of experience, of course, and it was again to the fore in Deventer. Sarah Bryce, captaining the side in the KSL-related absence of her older sister Kathryn, led the way with 169 runs at an average of 42.25. Her unbeaten 63 against Thailand – the wicketkeeping all-rounder’s first T20I half-century – anchored Scotland’s chase of 124 in nerveless fashion, typified by her pull for four to seal the win off the final ball of the match. Bryce’s 19-ball 41 and 41-ball 49 got Scotland up and running in its second matches against the Netherlands and Ireland, too, and while her side was unable to capitalise in the latter, she leaves Holland having enhanced her already considerable reputation even further.
After a frustrating time in Spain, Lorna Jack rediscovered her form with 149 runs at 37.25, and while the middle order missed the steadying influence of Kathryn Bryce, most notably in the last-day defeat to Ireland, Priyanaz Chatterji, Becky Glen and Ellen Watson all made useful contributions to the cause. Katie McGill (6 wickets at 19.16) and Samantha Haggo (3 wickets at 10.00) backed up their reliability with the ball with tenacity with the bat, too, and although the final loss will be felt, second place in the table, above both the Netherlands and Full Member Ireland, represents a more than adequate compensation.
While events have unfolded in Holland, Scotland captain Kathryn Bryce has been gathering invaluable experience in Loughborough Lightning’s Kia Super League campaign, where she has counted Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World Smriti Mandhana amongst her victims. When she next leads out Scotland it will be against USA, Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh; with her team hitting form at just the right time, the chance to write history has never been greater.