SCOTLAND suffered further misery yesterday as they collapsed to 125 all out on the opening day of their Intercontinental Cup clash with Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi.
The Saltires, comfortably beaten in both T20 and 50-over formats, had sought some solace in a tournament in which they have a good record.
Instead, their wretched Middle East tour plummeted to a new low as they slumped to 68-9 after being sent in to bat at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
But for a spirited last-wicket stand between Rob Taylor and Safyaan Sharif, this would have been Scotland’s lowest total in the ICC’s flagship first class competition for Associate nations.
In the event, their recovery was not of the magnitude needed to trouble the Afghans who proceeded to claim the first innings bonus points and will today attempt to pile on the misery by setting up the chance of outright victory.
Almost inevitably it was Mo Shahzad, so often Scotland’s nemesis, who took Afghanistan into the lead, spoiling Taylor’s day in the process by plundering five boundaries in one over from the Leicestershire left-armer.
Shahzad, who knows how to kick a side when they are down, soon sauntered off the field having smashed the last ball of the day from Matt Machan over midwicket for six.
There were wickets for George Drummond and Taylor and two for Majid Haq but, with Afghanistan closing on 150-4 and Shahzad well set on 30no, the prospects are distinctly gloomy for the Scots.
Earlier, Scotland looked on course to fall short of their 82 against the same opponents in the same tournament, but Taylor and Sharif spared them from that humiliation.
Taylor top-scored with 48, including eight boundaries while Sharif, batting at No 11, made a mockery of the efforts of his more experienced team-mates with 20 in only his second first class match.
Yet there had been little hint of the mayhem to follow when the new opening pairing of Kyle Coetzer and Josh Davey made a steady start in testing conditions.
Both batsmen hit two boundaries but Coetzer, having reached 12, was caught in the slips off Mirwais Ashraf.
His departure sparked a disastrous spell during which the Scots contrived to lose nine wickets for just 47 runs in fewer than 19 overs.
Mirwais also accounted for Davey, uprooting the Middlesex man’s off-stump, before Izatullah Dawlatzai, a 21-year-old pace bowler making only his fourth appearance in this format, routed his rivals.
He removed Richie Berrington and Haq in one over before Ashraf trapped Calum MacLeod lbw.
Dawlatzai returned to account for Sussex’s Machan and David Murphy, of Northants, in quick succession.
He was stalled by Drummond, who hit three boundaries in a briefly defiant 14 but both the Scotland captain and Gordon Goudie were bowled by Dawlatzai as the Scots hit their nadir at 68-9.
Drummond’s men now face a massive task to force victory if they are to cling on to second place – ahead of the Afghans – in the eight-team I-Cup table.