Mark Watt’s role in Scotland’s defeat of England was crucial

Mark Watt made Scotland's breakthrough when he had Jason Roy caught and bowled. Picture: PA.
Mark Watt made Scotland's breakthrough when he had Jason Roy caught and bowled. Picture: PA.
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The main headlines went to man-of-the-match Calum MacLeod for his sublime unbeaten century and it was seamer Safyaan Sharif who clinched the victory with his corker of a yorker but young left-arm spinner Mark Watt’s crucial role in Sunday’s momentous win over England should not be overlooked.

The 21-year-old plugged away against some of the most devastating batsmen on the planet and his three wickets at key moments helped make an afternoon which could have seen England cruise to a record run chase, instead end in the greatest day in Scottish cricket history.

On a batsman’s paradise of a pitch with boundary ropes pulled in to accommodate the TV gantries, Watt distinguished himself with superb figures of three wickets for the loss of 55 runs in his ten overs.

As Scotland’s new-ball pair of Sharif and Chris Sole initially struggled to contain England’s openers, particularly Jonny Bairstow, Watt was called upon to give the opposition something new to think about.

“Myself and Leasky [Michael Leask] started looking at each other early on when Saffy and Soley were going for a few runs and we thought ‘we could be needed soon and this could be a struggle’,” recalled Watt.

“We managed to bounce back after a tough start and as the scoreboard pressure started to build everyone stayed calm out there on the field and took their chances when they came.”

England had raced to 129-0 in quick time and Scotland’s record 371-5 was looking less imposing which each passing over when Watt made the crucial first breakthrough when he had Jason Roy caught and bowled.

“Jason Roy is up there with my best-ever wickets,” said Watt. “I could see the ball coming back to me and knew the catch was on, but my whole world stood still for a few seconds, but I managed to hold on and that was a big moment.”

Watt first picked up a cricket ball on Leith Links, where his dad and then himself played for the Leith FAB club before moving on to 
Heriot’s and now Tynemouth.

“We knew that they would come hard at us and Bairstow batted unbelievably,” continued Watt of the opener who went on to make a 54-ball hundred and become the first Englishman to score centuries in three consecutive ODIs.

“He really put the pressure back on to us and we had to take a step back and change our bowling plans.

“It was a bit worrying at the point when I was bowling and the ball kept disappearing over the fish and chip van. Even my dad came and had a chat with me on the boundary and told me how I should bowl!

“I’m not sure if his words of wisdom helped, but I had to think about how to change things and thankfully the wickets came.”

Watt’s dismissals of Sam Billings and then Moeen Ali, who looked as if he would see the game home before skying a catch to George Munsey in the deep, prised open what passes for a tail in an England side which actually contains accomplished batsmen right down to No 11. Having the world’s best ODI side all out adds to the impressive nature of Sunday’s win on a magical day Watt will never forget.

“There were over 700 runs scored, the place was packed out and we got over the line, it doesn’t get much better,” he said. “It was one of the best games I have ever seen, but to be playing in it makes it even more special.”