Cricket: Forget about the maths – just win

SUCH is the convoluted play-off system used by the ICC for the World Twenty20 qualifiers that even Preston Mommsen doesn’t quite understand it.

“I don’t even know how it works,” confessed the Scotland all-rounder.

He is far from alone but, should the Saltires defeat Ireland at the Dubai City Stadium this morning, their place in the latter stages should be a formality. Toppling Italy and the USA after that would make their path to next Saturday’s finale all the easier. Overhauling unbeaten Namibia at the top of the group would put skipper Gordon Drummond’s side one win away from grabbing one of the two places in September’s showpiece in Sri Lanka.

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“For both of us, this is a massive game,” said Mommsen of the Ireland clash.

“We’ve built up our confidence again after that loss [to Namibia]. We’ve had two wins in a row. We’re scoring big and defending it well. We’re playing to our plans and now we have to keep doing it.”

Seeing off their traditional rivals would be a statement, he adds, but it is not a private battle. Both teams have lost to the Namibians, illustrating the vagaries of 20-over cricket.

“It’s crunch time,” he said. And, while the Americans have been woeful, Italy – propelled by Michael Di Venuto’s experience – will be no pushover. Such challenges are what South African-born Mommsen hoped for when he debuted for his adopted country two years ago.

On a Cricket Scotland contract since last autumn, the 24-year-old has seen the benefits. He said: “To be full-time, means you have more opportunity to focus.”

That focus was required on the Scots’ recent tour of Sri Lanka. The heat was like nothing they had ever felt before but had to be ignored. Facing the hosts’ A side in the humidity, the youthful tourists learned how to adapt and are now applying that experience in the Emirates.

“I’ve seen the benefits in our batting,” Mommsen added. “Guys have been really free in their strokeplay. They’re expressing themselves well. It’s been fearless cricket.”

Calum Macleod has had three Man of the Match awards in the Saltires’ four outings to date, including one after an unbeaten century against Oman on Friday.

“We’ve always trusted him and backed his skills,” said Mommsen. “He hits it hard. He’s very skilful in the way he manipulates the field. There’s no real surprise he’s scoring runs now and hopefully it will continue.”

Drummond could return today after sitting out the past two games with a side strain. Watching on, the captain has taken hope from how his colleagues, under stand-in Kyle Coetzer, have rebounded from their solitary loss.

He said: “We’ve got off to some great starts and followed it up through the middle. And, at times, when we’ve had to ask guys to kickstart things again, they’ve done it.”

He doesn’t get the mathematics either. The most straightforward way to qualify is just not to lose again.