THE performance was certainly more solid than spectacular, but Scotland yesterday found enough gumption to ensure that their World Cup qualifying bid did not enter sudden-death territory before it needs to.
Defeat to Nepal after an opening horror show against Hong Kong would probably have left the Scots needing to win all their remaining games in the New Zealand tournament to have any hope of the top-two finish in the Super Six which will result in a return trip to the Antipodes for next year’s World Cup.
As it was, a 90-run success over one of world cricket’s fastest-growing forces, Nepal, who, unlike Scotland, have qualified for the upcoming World Twenty20, gave the Scots both renewed confidence and a positive net run rate as they prepare for a game of colossal importance on Sunday against high-flying United Arab Emirates.
The UAE won their opening games against Nepal and Canada by the kind of margin that Scotland once enjoyed as a matter of course over the weaker members of international cricket’s second tier. But the way Freddie Coleman and Safyaan Sharif ended Scotland’s innings in Queenstown yesterday and the way Rob Taylor and Iain Wardlaw started the rot for Nepal, in reply, at least conjured up memories of happier times.
Captain Kyle Coetzer described it as a “good, solid performance”, but wasn’t getting carried away as he added: “But there are still areas we know we can still improve. Our disciplines with the ball were very good and our efforts in the field were much closer to where we expect them to be.”
Coetzer found runs tough to come by but at least lasted long enough in tandem with the free-scoring Calum MacLeod to ensure that Scotland would have a platform after being sent in to bat first and having to wait 75 minutes for rain to clear. When MacLeod fell for 46 and Matt Machan (37) and Preston Mommsen (35) similarly failed to build on good starts, it fell to Freddie Coleman to take responsibility and make sure Scotland got somewhere near 250.
The 22-year-old Warwickshire batsman duly delivered, and arrived as a Scotland international, with an unbeaten knock of 64 off 67 balls.
Coleman must have worried he was running out of partners as a familiar collapse saw Scotland slump from 156 for three to 190 for seven, but Sharif kept him company and more with three boundaries in his 17-ball cameo.
Taylor shrugged off a lean start to the tournament by taking a wicket with the first ball of the reply, and there was no way back for the inexperienced Nepalese after Wardlaw reduced them to 27 for three.
For once, Scotland even showed a ruthless streak, with Nepal’s highest stand worth 36.