Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer has signalled cautious optimism that his side can complete the group stages of cricket’s ICC World Cup Qualifier unbeaten and put themselves, perhaps, within two victories of an unexpected place at the showpiece in England next summer.
The best of their initial foes has been saved to last, with Zimbabwe awaiting tomorrow in Bulawayo, with the concluding match of the opening phase moved to a larger stadium in the wake of the local interest generated. Already guaranteed a place in the Super Six round following victories over Afghanistan, Nepal and Hong Kong, now is when the chase truly begins, the Aberdonian opener acknowledges.
Despite a rearguard movement, initiated by the Irish, to belatedly increase the World Cup beyond ten teams, it seems assured that only the two teams featuring in the 25 March final will advance. It will be cut-throat, Coetzer admits, but highly combative.
“Reducing the number of teams qualifying for the World Cup now creates a tricky scenario,” the 33-year-old said. “You could potentially have two Associates making it and four Test teams missing out. You could potentially have the best white-ball bowler in cricket (Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan) not playing at the World Cup.
“But the one thing it has done is make this an exciting tournament. There’s a real pressure cooker atmosphere now lighting up. It’s just disappointing that more people can’t watch it because the standard is so high.”
The batters have swung for the fences and hit long for Scotland. Calum MacLeod’s midweek 157 against the Afghans was superlative. The skipper had led by example. A little more ruthlessness might be needed from here on, especially once the West Indies and Ireland are on the slate. Yet this all feels like a natural order prevailing, Coetzer maintains.
“Some people seem to be surprised by the position we find ourselves in,” he added. “We’re not. We believe in what we’re capable of. There’s excitement there. But we know how important beating Zimbabwe is in terms of carrying points forward into the Super Sixes.
“And the experience we have helps. It’s a massive part of it. We’ve looked at our methods and how we get ready to cope under pressure by challenging ourselves. Having a decent number of caps plays a role. But we’ve found ways to improve. That’s pretty important as well.”