Scotland maintained their winning start to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup with a 17-run victory over Papua New Guinea. On a record-breaking afternoon in Muscat, player of the match Richie Berrington’s superb 70, Scotland’s highest individual score at a T20 World Cup, saw Kyle Coetzer’s men to an imposing total of 165/9: the country’s best-ever in the competition, the result puts the Scots into pole position as they bid to reach the next stage of the tournament for the first time in their history.
Asked to complete their highest-ever T20I run chase, PNG had always been up against it, and when the dangerous Tony Ura chopped the ninth ball of the innings onto his stumps, their task was made all the harder. Brad Wheal found Lega Siaka’s edge to make it 20/2 before skipper Assad Vala top-edged Ally Evans to Wheal in the fifth: a run-out next over made it 33/4, while Berrington crowned his red-letter day with a terrific one-handed catch at backward point. PNG, now 35/5, was reeling.
But PNG, as they showed against Scotland in Cricket World Cup League 2, has a tail more than capable of wagging, and it did so again, Norman Vanua and Kiplin Doriga getting Scottish nerves jangling by taking 35 off three overs: their departure, however, extinguished any real hope of completing their comeback. The understanding between Heriot’s team-mates Cross and Mark Watt was evident as the bowler fired one past Doriga for the ‘keeper to complete the stumping, while Vanua fell next over for 47 after gloving behind Josh Davey’s slower-ball bouncer. The last two followed quickly as PNG were bowled out for 148, the Somerset man finishing with excellent figures of 4 for 18.
Earlier in the day, Berrington and Cross had led the way after the loss of Scotland’s openers within the first four overs of the game. Kabua Morea found the initial breakthrough off the second ball of the third, bowling Kyle Coetzer with a ball that nipped back and through the gate, and when Siaka then caught a skier from George Munsey, Scotland had slipped to 26/2.
The PNG bowlers had their tails up as they went through their variations, but in Cross and Berrington the Scots had plenty of experience with which to counter. Berrington broke the shackles with a massive six down the ground in the seventh, while Cross, playing his fiftieth T20 international, swung Charles Amini over cow corner for another to bring up the fifty partnership off the last ball of the eleventh.
That blow signalled a change in gear as another big hit from Berrington took Scotland into the nineties. The hundred was up five balls later in an over that cost 18: 42 had come off three, and Scotland was in control. Although Cross (45) then Berrington departed as five more wickets fell in two manic final overs, their partnership of 92 – the country’s highest for any wicket at a T20 World Cup – had already done enough to set up Scotland’s second victory of the competition.
“We certainly would have taken this before the first game of the tournament,” said Kyle Coetzer. “We just have to keep the momentum going.
“You need to try and find one or two partnerships in a T20 to really give yourself a chance to post a decent score. Richie Berrington and Matthew Cross played outstandingly well today. Richie has been doing that consistently for us over the last month or so.
“I actually feel we probably left a few out on the park,” he continued. “Credit to PNG for the way they bowled in the death overs – I thought they bowled excellently and really used the boundary sizes to benefit them. So there’s a few things for us to look at going into our last game. but I’m pretty happy with where we are.”
“We have to be happy with a win in a World Cup,” agreed head coach Shane Burger. “We will certainly take it and make sure that we take a lot of the learnings from this going forward. I don’t think that we were particularly excellent in any departments, but we did show that we held our nerve pretty well and even when we did get a couple of things wrong we were able to make up for it, so that’s a sign of a team that’s getting used to winning.
“I’m incredibly chuffed for Richie Berrington, I thought he played really well. The partnership with Matthew Cross was superb and really won the game for us. There’s areas we can improve, definitely, but we’re happy and we’ll take the victory.”
After the pain of twenty World Cup losses in succession, Scotland’s cricketers now have three wins in a row. Another will make certain of their biggest piece of history of all.
Scotland’s final match of the preliminary stage, against Oman, is on Thursday.