SCOTLAND’s cricketers were denied the chance to go for a clean sweep over Ireland when the final match of their T20 series was abandoned yesterday.
Persistent heavy showers in Bready meant no play was possible but national coach Grant Bradburn expressed satisfaction after his side’s two morale-boosting wins ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifying tournament.
Thursday’s six-wicket success was followed by victory by the same margin on Saturday, a match hastily arranged in the wake of another washout on Friday and Bradburn declared: “The rain has frustrated everyone but the two games that did go ahead have given both sides some golden practice.
“Our batting has been superb and the positivity combined with a lack of fear has been really pleasing to see. But there were occasions when we weren’t as clinical in the field as we want to be.”
As in their opening victory, Matthew Cross took centre stage in Saturday’s encounter as the Scots demonstrated that positivity which pleased Bradburn so much.
The former Aberdeenshire wicketkeeper/batsman was the destroyer-in-chief, blasting a rapid 48 to launch the Scots towards glory as they passed the 167 target with 11 balls to spare.
Skipper Preston Mommsen then finished the job by racing to his highest T20 international score of 47 not out from only 29 deliveries.
The Scotland chase had been rocked by an immediate setback when George Munsey’s streak of fine form came to an abrupt halt before he had got off the mark. He played round a quick delivery from Tyrone Kane, which shattered his stumps.
Kyle Coetzer was then reprieved as Graeme McCarter spilled a simple chance at fine-leg.
The visitors proceeded to cash in as both Coetzer and Cross scored at a rapid rate to seize back the momentum.
Cross was timing the ball beautifully, slamming Craig Young for a six and two fours in the fifth over. The pair added 73 in only 46 balls before Coetzer was smartly stumped off tweaker George Dockrell for 34.
Cross perished in the tenth over, two adrift of his second successive half century, but Michael Leask carried on the positive work by confidently dispatching McCarter for two quick-fire fours.
However, the guile of Dockrell was underlined when he pierced Leask’s defences as he tried to cut square.
It was then Mommsen’s turn to punish the Ireland attack, with Richie Berrington playing the support role. They plundered 17 off the 15th over, wrecking the home side’s chances of a late fightback.
Earlier, Safyaan Sharif had made the first breakthrough, prompting Stuart Poynter into edging a low catch to keeper Cross with 16 on the board.
Andrew Poynter and Andy Balbirnie steadied the Irish nerves with a brisk stand of 45 before the former hit Leask to Sharif to make it 65 for three in the tenth over. Sharif was back in the spotlight to run out Balbirnie with the total on 101 – then Leask safely held a catch off Richie Berrington to dispose of Stuart Thompson.
A series of lusty blows by Dockrell set the Scots a target that still proved well within their reach.
There were few surprises when Cross was named man-of-the-series and Bradburn added: “Until now Matty hasn’t had the opportunity to show his skills.
“However, we know what he is capable of and it was great to have the chance to give him the opportunity and even better that he took his chance.”
The 13-man squad on duty in Ireland will be augmented by Durham’s Calum MacLeod and Rob Taylor of Leicestershire who were unavailable due to their county commitments.
Scotland complete their preparations for the World T20 Qualifier with official warm-up matches against Namibia and Jersey on 6-7 July before their opening Group B fixture against UAE at The Grange on 9 July.
Six countries from the 14-team qualifier will progress to the ICC World T20 in India next year.