JOINING Ireland in the automatic qualification spots for the World Cup might be beyond Scotland this weekend but Matt Machan, the team’s new star all-rounder, believes it will not be long before the two teams are evenly matched again.
Scotland’s challenge is to achieve better results in Belfast today and on Sunday than Afghanistan manage against Kenya and the Netherlands against Canada. The reality is that they could easily be fourth in the standings when the World Cricket League winds up, and anything worse than second means a World Cup qualifying tournament in New Zealand in February.
Ireland have ruled the roost among the ICC’s associate membership, which operates beneath the Test circuit, since their breakthrough performance at the 2007 World Cup. But they have lost two players to England and top bowler Trent Johnston is retiring at the end of the year. Machan senses a shift in the axis.
“They’ve been to more World Cups and done it more consistently than we have,” he admitted of today’s opponents.
“But I think their average age is about 28-29, whereas ours is 23-24, so in five years’ time – if this group of players stick together and go forward – maybe we can be doing what they’re doing. That’s the ultimate goal.
“I feel we’re gelling together as a team. A lot of guys have long county seasons and others are up in Scotland, so we only see each other sporadically but we all get on pretty well.
“We did well recently against Kenya. Hopefully, we can do the same against Ireland and qualify for the World Cup.”
Machan, with 39, was top scorer in Tuesday’s bruising encounter with Australia. But he insisted that 200-run battering would be the last thing on the players’ minds as they take the field at Stormont.
“We’re disappointed to have lost that game by such a big margin but we can take a lot of positives,” said the Sussex player.
“We were playing against a world-class side, in Australia, but I think we can take some momentum going into the Ireland games and, hopefully, we can get two wins.”
William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, says that his side will be fighting just as fiercely as Scotland for final-round victory.
He said: “This is a fresh round of games for us, and we are focused on playing good cricket and finishing the competition strongly. For us, it doesn’t matter that we’ve already won the competition – we will approach these games just like any other.”
Ireland’s leading run scorer, Porterfield will celebrate his 29th birthday today and says that victory would be the perfect birthday present.
“Without a doubt, we are looking to win both games,” he said. “We want to keep showing people that Ireland is the leading associate side, and that Ireland deserves to be in every global event.”