At the 21st attempt, Scotland finally ended a prolonged wait for a win at a major cricket tournament with an eight-wicket defeat of Hong Kong in Nagpur that ensued they bowed out of the World Twenty20 with elation rather than disappointment.
In a match curtailed by rain, it was left to Matt Machan to sign the Saltires off in style with a thunderous six that ensured his side surpassed their revised target of 76 with two of their allotted ten overs to spare. Following crushing losses to Afghanistan and Zimbabwe earlier this week, hopes of advancing to the Super 10 stages were already gone. That it was the tournament’s rank outsiders who provided a maiden conquest mattered little. Breaking the duck was just consolation.
“It’s huge,” Scotland captain Preston Mommsen declared. “Obviously it’s our first win. It’s been a long time coming. Hopefully it frees us up. We have to keep qualifying for these tournaments. But now we have this win and you hope it opens the floodgates.”
Opting to bat, Hong Kong were reduced to 33 for 3 as the Scots, opting for extra pace at the expense of spin, quickly jolted their rivals. Their skipper Tanwir Afzal was run out by a brilliant piece of fielding from Gavin Main. Mark Chapman became the former colony’s linchpin but he was caught by Kyle Coetzer on 40 and it required a late flurry to reach 127-7.
The skies opened. Scotland were made to sweat. A no-result would have felt wholly unsatisfactory. George Munsey swatted a rapid 19 from 11 balls, Matt Cross completed a fine event with 22 and while Coetzer’s unbeaten 20 was critical, it was left to Machan to apply the finishing touch to spark high fives, hugs and an outpouring of relief.
“Going back to the last 50-over World Cup, we thought we should have won two or three games there but we let ourselves down,” said the Sussex all-rounder who took 2-26. “So it’s great to come here and get that win. We wanted to restrict them to 120 odd, then had wickets in hand and we got over the line.”
With few expecting Oman to block Bangladesh’s path into the Super 10 phase when the preliminary round concludes today, it will probably be left to Afghanistan alone to uphold the honour of the Associate nations after they crushed Zimbabwe by 59 runs to top the group and progress. They will now be a totem for those who want the International Cricket Council to pay more than lip service to the second tier.
Sensibly, Mommsen and his Dutch and Irish counterparts Peter Borren and Will Porterfield have seized every opportunity to publicly shame the governing body into addressing a chronic lack of fixtures that will see the Scots idle until a home series with the United Arab Emirates at some point in late summer.
“It’s a pretty empty schedule,” Mommsen declared. “We want to play more cricket. Hopefully our performances here show we deserve more games against the bigger nations and we get extra fixtures.”