SCOTLAND’s bid to mark their first home YB40 fixture of the season with victory ended in disappointment as Essex proved dominant at a chilly Grange.
In a match reduced by steady morning rain to 29 overs-a-side, conditions should have suited the Saltires when Preston Mommsen won the toss and elected to put the county in to bat.
However, this final season in English domestic cricket has been earmarked by coaching staff for development and the policy will inevitably result in several painful lessons – as it did in this 59-run defeat. Ironically, though, it was the more senior bowlers who came in for the heaviest punishment as Essex blazed their way to 217-7.
Chasing such an improbable target, the Saltires suffered an early setback when Calum MacLeod was trapped in front in the second over. His opening partner Matthew Cross quickly followed, a leading edge off Tim Phillips spooning up to Mark Pettini. Richie Berrington went in identical fashion as Phillips’ left-arm spin found sufficient turn to discomfort the Scottish batsmen.
Meanwhile, with wickets tumbling and dark clouds gathering, the D/L target on the scoreboard continued to rise, with the Scots around 50 runs behind the asking rate after just ten overs.
There was, though, some encouragement, provided mainly by Freddie Coleman who stroked his first half-century in Saltires’ colours.
Playing in just his fifth one-day match, the 21-year-old Oxford University student showed great confidence in reverse-sweeping Tom Westley and Greg Smith for boundaries before hitting an even more expansive shot over extra cover off Phillips.
Coleman reached his 50 at almost a run-a-ball, sharing in a century stand with Mommsen who made his second consecutive YB40 half-ton. But this was essentially an exercise in crease occupation and confidence-building for the Saltires, their chances of victory long gone.
Coleman eventually holed out for an excellent 64 while Mommsen was unbeaten on 70 from 66 balls with nine boundaries.
Earlier, Essex piled on the runs after Scotland’s opening bowlers failed to take advantage of the new ball.
Calvin Burnett, unable to find a consistent line or length, came in for particular punishment. Westley and partner Pettini were able to bring up the 50 in the seventh over and had taken the total to 79 before Scotland made a belated breakthrough.
Michael Leask, on his Saltires debut, was the man to succeed when Dewald Nel pulled off a fine catch on the long-on boundary to remove Pettini for a brisk 47.
It was the slow bowlers who continued to trouble Essex, with Moneeb Iqbal dismissing Jaik Mickleburgh thanks to Mommsen’s sharp catch.
Iqbal’s figures took a hammering when Graham Napier hoisted him for back-to-back maximums before Majid Haq trapped the Essex man in front.
Haq also removed the equally dangerous James Foster for a 15-ball 29 while Mommsen joined his off-spinning team-mate with two victims.
However, Essex were able to add 67 runs from their final five overs as Nel and Gordon Drummond saw overs bludgeoned for 26 and 21 respectively, Westley top-scoring with 63 for the visitors.