Scotland determined to end World Cup adventure on a winning note

SCOTLAND have now lost seven matches in a row, of wildly varying difficulty, but they will be asked today to remember when victory was as routine an outcome as a pink sky at dusk in St Kitts.

On 4 February in Nairobi, Scotland routed Kenya by 77 runs to maintain a four-match 100 per cent record at the World Cricket League and secure a place at the Twenty20 World Championships.

Since then, they have lost a dead rubber to Bermuda, the World Cricket League final against Kenya, World Cup warm-ups against a Barbados Select, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and now Australia and South Africa on the greatest stage of all.

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It's no coincidence that in none of these matches has the batting fired like it did when the team was winning.

Today, the Scots will be reunited with a calibre of opponent they invariably rose above when it mattered in Nairobi. The Netherlands await at Warner Park, St Kitts, in what is a final act for both teams as Caribbean adventures run their course.

Scotland's coach, Peter Drinnen, has one simple requirement of his team: to reproduce the optimum form of their sojourn in the Kenyan capital, where the Dutch were among the victims of a surge of momentum and opportunism.

"I hope we put out a really polished performance, like the one we gave in the fourth match against Kenya in Nairobi," Drinnen said as he waited for his players to emerge from sharing a dressing-room beer with the South Africans on Tuesday night.

"That day, we got our batting right and we got our bowling and fielding right. If we do that against the Dutch, I think we'll be hard to beat.

"I think our batters showed a little bit against South Africa and if we get a bit more from them, I feel as though there is a really good, solid performance threatening from us here.

"We need to win this one, and everyone knows that. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We have played against numbers one and two in the world, and they are pretty damn special. But we have done things in patches through both games that will stand us in very good stead against the Netherlands."

In Nairobi, the Dutch choked on the brink of victory over Drinnen's unit. Needing five runs off the last over to clinch the game, they incurred a run-out before two tail-enders were cleaned up by Paul Hoffmann. Rarely do bowlers decide one-day cricket matches in such as fashion.

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The teams' previous encounter was equally tight. Chasing 138 to win a match at Ayr reduced to 20 overs-a-side, Scotland only prevailed when Craig Wright scored the necessary six runs by clearing the ropes on the penultimate ball.

Such historical parity makes it rather discomfiting that a maiden World Cup victory - at the eighth attempt - has been so ritually demanded of Scotland today. The Dutch are armed with two professional county batsmen - to Scotland's one - in Ryan ten Doeschate and 17-year-old Alex Kervezee, while medium-pacer Tim de Leede and pinch-hitter Darron Reekers fared well in an otherwise one-sided meeting with Australia.

Having said that, Scotland are favourites and must honour the tag, as they have in previous associate assignments. Glenn Rogers bounded onto the team bus on Tuesday carrying none of the despondency that afflicted others in the aftermath of South Africa's facile run chase, promising that nothing would be left to chance in the finale.

"We're all pumped up for the Dutch," said the left-arm spinner. "We'll have all this experience to draw on, and it will be a game we'll try to dominate. Up to now, we've been trying to just compete. Now we flip it over."

At least one neutral observer tipped Scotland to beat the Netherlands in what could be an epic Group A clash between minor nations on Thursday.

"Scotland are the better unit," said South African captain Graeme Smith. "They seem more athletic around the field and they have one or two more bowling options and a few decent batters in their top six. I would back Scotland but I think it should be a good game to watch."

Scotland (from): C Wright (capt), R Watson, F Watts, M Haq, N Poonia, G Hamilton, D Brown, C Smith (wkt), P Hoffman, J Blain, G Rogers, N McCallum.

Holland (from): L van Troost (capt), D Reekers, B Zuiderent, A Kervezee, R ten Doeschate, E Szwarczynski, D van Bunge, T de Leede, P Borren, B Stelling, J Smits (wkt), M Jonkman.