YESTERDAY’s high winds may have brought golf to a halt at St Andrews but the unseasonal conditions could not stop Scotland’s cricketers booking their passage to India for next year’s ICC World Twenty20.
Instead, the weather gods for once smiled kindly on the Scots, allowing their game with Oman to go ahead at Goldenacre while torrential overnight rain in Stirling denied Afghanistan the chance to win Group B by beating bottom-of-the-table Canada.
Scotland duly won their match and then waited for the final piece of the jigsaw to fall into place when the Netherlands defeated Kenya at Myreside, completing the combination of events required for Preston Mommsen’s side to win the group and automatically qualify for next year’s global tournament.
There was, though, a dramatic late twist when the Dutch came within a whisker of overhauling Scotland’s superior net run-rate by chasing Kenya’s 97 in just 8.3 overs. Had they done so a couple of balls quicker, it would have been the Netherlands who were celebrating.
The Afghans, Dutch and Omanis will now have to take their chances in the nerve-jangling play-offs while Scotland will re-enter the competition at the semi-final stage.
Coach Grant Bradburn said: “I’m extremely proud of the players. It was incredibly tight in the end but we’ve come through and we’re delighted. I was always confident we could bounce back from last week’s defeats to Holland and Afghanistan because I believe in this group and in their skills.
“It is a fantastic achievement to finish top of such a tight group – especially because I think we can still improve.”
The day had started with ominous dark clouds swirling above Golden- acre and gusting winds tossing spectators’ plastic chairs on to the outfield. Indeed, the wind was so strong that the media tent was taken down as a safety measure with members of the fourth estate being decanted on to the Scotland team bus to compose their copy.
Oman, who went into the match at the top of the group after surprise wins over Afghanistan and the Netherlands, may have thought the weather was bad but their bowlers were soon buffeted by a further storm provided by Scotland’s opening batsmen.
Kyle Coetzer led the way by striking the first two balls of the match for boundaries while Calum MacLeod was also quickly into his stride. MacLeod produced a perfect pick-up which looked set to sail over the deep mid-wicket boundary before being caught by a vicious gust and the batsmen had to scamper two quick runs.
However, the tone was set and the Scots raced to 60-0 from the power-play overs aided by an enormous straight six from Coetzer which cleared the sightscreen.
MacLeod was adjudged lbw for a run-a-ball 20, a tally matched by Matthew Cross but when the latter and George Munsey departed in quick succession, the run rate eased for several overs, Zeeshan Maqsood doing most to apply the brakes with 3-29. The left-arm spinner finally accounted for Coetzer who had made 63 from only 38 deliveries with nine boundaries and that six.
Scotland picked up again as their innings came to a close, Richie Berrington producing some crisp hits in his 20-ball 26 before Mommsen applied the finishing touches with two boundaries and two maximums in his 32no. It allowed the Scots to reach 173-5 and they showed they had no intention of releasing their grip as Ali Evans and Safyaan Sharif claimed two top order wickets each.
When Sharif then bowled top scorer Aamir Kaleem for 59 to finish with 3-27, Scotland went on to complete victory by 23 runs.
Sharif said: “The batsmen did their job but there was still pressure on the bowlers. I was happy to get a couple of wickets up top and then I nailed my yorker to bowl Kaleem.
“It’s great to know we are through and hopefully we can now go on and win the qualifying tournament.”