Scotland begin their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup campaign today as they take on Afghanistan in Sharjah looking to maintain their momentum from the 3-0 record in Round One of the competition.
Scotland have never won a T20 international against Afghanistan in six attempts, but coming off the back of a series of impressive victories there is a confidence in the camp that they can turn to the tables this time. They come into the match as table-toppers in their Round One group, without a loss to their name so far. Playing their first ever match at this stage of the tournament, they are ready to take on all comers.
Afghanistan took an emphatic win in their warm-up against West Indies, when they posted 189/5 before keeping the Windies to 133/5, but their preparations have otherwise been behind closed doors.
“I think it’s going to be a fascinating matchup,” said Scotland’s Calum MacLeod ahead of the game. “I think it will help both our batters and challenge the bowlers in a different way. I think Oman, the pitch was maybe not quite so conducive to the powerplay for the batters, so I think as a batting unit we’re going to have to change quickly to what a par score in the powerplay is going to be, and our bowlers are going to be put under some definite pressure. But I think these are three seamers who we’ve relied on so far, even if Mark Watt has to bowl in the powerplay, as well. I think we’ve got a unit who can swing the ball that can bowl with definite skills who hopefully will be able to challenge what is a dangerous Afghanistan top order and hopefully come out on top.
“I think it’ll be a challenge against all their spinners. I think everyone understands the attack that Afghanistan have got with three world-class spinners in there.
“I think the biggest thing is you have to try and put the pressure back on them. I think like all the top-class teams that you play against, if you let the bowlers just bowl at you, their skills will be too good for you over a period, so I think you have to find a method of putting the pressure back on them, whether that be with sweeping or coming down the wicket, whatever your method is about it, and I think you’ve got to stick to it and be pretty disciplined to go with it.”
While the Scots are preparing for this match-up as they would for any other game, the significance of their achievement so far or the importance of performances over the next two weeks is not lost on the players.
“I think it’s hugely significant,” said MacLeod. “Not just for the team but for the organisation and some of the aspirations that Cricket Scotland have. We want to be the leading associate, and we want to push our case to be the next full member.
“I think if you look specifically at the way Afghanistan and Ireland did it, they did it from doing well at World Cups, and I think we’ve now got five great opportunities to go out and show world cricket what this organisation and the team is about.
“Then for the players it’s a great showcasing opportunity to show some of the Twenty20 skills that this group has and get them out there on the world stage. You never know what sort of opportunities can come on the back of this for some of the players if they have a good group stage.”
The match against Afghanistan starts at 3pm UK time and will be live on Sky Sports and BBC Radio with regular updates on the Cricket Scotland twitter feed.