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Scotland ‘oozing confidence’ as they eye unlikely place in Super Eights
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Scotland ‘oozing confidence’ as they eye unlikely place in Super Eights

Talk of net run-rate calculations may have all but evaporated after England’s obliteration of Oman but a route to the T20 World Cup Super Eights remains for Scotland: beat Australia in St Lucia on Saturday night and they are through.

If so then Kyle Coetzer, their former captain, would consider it the greatest moment in their history, topping wins against Bangladesh and West Indies during the two previous T20 World Cups, plus that famous ODI victory over England at the Grange in 2018. It would also be further vindication for the expanded tournament in which all 20 teams were at the same starting line a fortnight ago.

Coetzer, who led Scotland 110 times before stepping down in 2022, said: “There have been spectacular days in our past that still bring shivers down my spine but given the way this World Cup is set up, with Australia and England in our group, there is no reason to say this wouldn’t be our greatest ever achievement.”

Unless it was lighthearted, Coetzer found the suggestion of Australia manipulating the run rate in the match to eliminate England “a little bit disrespectful”. But even with their opponents likely to rest some first-choice players on the night, he accepts that Scotland will be heavy underdogs. After all, Australia’s men have not lost any kind of World Cup match to a non-Test playing nation since Zimbabwe in 1983.

Nevertheless, in his successor, Richie Berrington, Coetzer sees a shrewd captain who has taken the side in a confident new direction and leads by example; a leader who doesn’t speak for the sake of it, but is “powerful” when he does. Batters such as Michael Jones, Brandon McMullen and Michael Leask are also taking it to attacks, not sitting in and playing what Coetzer calls “old-style associate cricket” – eking out a score and hoping their opponents trip over themselves.

“They’re all oozing confidence,” said Coetzer. “Tournaments are about timing of form and it seems they’ve found a good balance. George Munsey at the top of the order has always played reverse-sweeps but over the last 10 years more players have understood the requirement of being 360-degree players in Twenty20.

“Michael Jones is looking a high-quality player especially against pace and they all understand that spin overs are no longer the quiet overs, they have to attack and they’ve become really skilful with the horizontal shots. Richie and Doug Watson [the head coach] will have them in a good frame of mind to really push Australia.”

Scotland’s captain, Richie Berrington, bats against Namibia.View image in fullscreen

More broadly, Coetzer fancies this T20 World Cup to be the most “wholesome” to date given it has a record 20 sides competing and, unlike previous years, there was no pre-qualification round for the lower-ranked sides. The 40-year-old’s time leading the Saltires coincided with the 50-over World Cup being reduced from 14 teams in 2015 to only 10 teams for the two most recent editions. Thankfully, this is set to be reversed for the 2027 tournament in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

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“It’s the most wholesome World Cup I’ve seen for a while,” he says. “It just seems better. USA have been great to watch, Canada are a quality team. It has been great to see Uganda simply get here [ahead of Zimbabwe]. And I think Afghanistan [an associate team as recently as 2017] are a shout to win the whole thing. You’re seeing good stories, great characters and guys desperate to play against the best.

“When the 50-over World Cup was cut to 10 teams, it was gut-wrenching. Yes there were routes to qualify but it just seemed like the rug was pulled from underneath us. You say the right things but I was at the back end of my career thinking ‘What am I playing for here?’. That was heartbreaking, really.

“I still see 50-over cricket as the pinnacle for associate nations but this T20 World Cup, with the pitches bringing sides closer, has been so refreshing.”

Source: theguardian.com