TThere was a point, around an hour after their World Cup started, when everything seemed to be going badly for Scotland. Playing against Bangladesh, ranked No.6 in the world and big favorites to dominate the first group stage, the Scots first lost the draw and then started losing wickets. 44-for-one at the end of the seventh, in the next 27 balls they scored nine runs, lost five batters, and the prospect of them becoming history in week one seemed completely out of the ordinary.
âWe were pretty worried in the locker room,â said Matthew Cross, the wicket batsman who was the first of those five quick-fire wickets to die for. âThe top order hadn’t worked out as we had hoped and we found ourselves in a difficult position, but then Chris Greaves came out and played brilliantly, and when we put the pressure on their bowlers started to make mistakes and found we could score a bit more freely.
Greaves, one of the few players on the Scottish squad who did not have a central contract, took his squad to a loosely competitive total of 140, and what followed was a remarkable victory that served as a springboard to propel the Scots to three wins in the first round. and in the Super 12, they start with a game against Afghanistan on Monday.
Scotland was transferred from Oman to Dubai on Friday evening and came down for breakfast on Saturday morning to find the Irish team in the lobby, check in and return home. It was a reminder of the thin margins that separate success and failure, not that it’s a team that needs it.
The long road to this point has often been far more from humiliation than from heroism. The day after the Bangladesh game marked the second anniversary of Scotland’s first game in the qualifying tournament that brought them here, another shocking result but with the Scots this time receiving a humiliation from Singapore. They finally made it through this competition, but there will be no such worries for the next event as their success here has already earned them a place at the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia.
âIt’s kind of glossed over in all the talk of us hitting the Super 12s,â Cross said. âIt’s absolutely huge for Scottish cricket, and it’s also good because the next qualifying is going to be a nightmare – the quality just keeps improving.
âThat’s what I don’t like about the format of this competition, and I hope they change it for Australia. Whoever qualifies will have the right to play the World Cup against the biggest teams in the world, not in a first group stage which is basically seen as another qualifying event. The quality is there – the associated nations keep getting stronger and this must be rewarded. “
The 2019 qualifiers were co-hosted by Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which, after the tournament moved from India, also became, along with Sharjah and Oman, the venue for the final. The UAE has gradually become the destination of choice for traveling international events, so much so that over the past five years, Scots have played as many one-day internationals in Dubai as they have in Scotland (nine) , and more than twice as much T20. (12, against five at home). Cross, who at 29 is playing his second World Cup, has taken part in all of these matches.
âThe nature of associate cricket these days is that we all spend a lot of time here,â says Cross. âWe know the conditions now and have been here long enough that we are starting to feel acclimated. But in Scotland we are used to high temperatures of maybe 23 Â° C in summer and in Oman they sometimes grew 40 Â° C. As a wicket keeper, I stand there in long sleeves, gloves and my helmet on and I’m just cooking. It’s not that bad at night, but daytime games I just cook.
The format means a perfectly sharp Scotland faces teams that are just starting their tournament – and Afghanistan’s world rankings are two places below that of Bangladesh. âWe have already beaten Afghanistan [in ODIs], and we beat [second opponents] Namibia in the warm-ups, so we’re going there without any fear, âsays Cross. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but there’s a chance we can go on and do something really special.”
There is just relief to be had, so long after qualifying and having endured 18 months entirely devoid of international action. Showpiece’s home matches against Australia and New Zealand were among the matches suspended due to the pandemic, and Zimbabwe’s visit to Edinburgh for a three-game T20 series in September represented the first competitive matches of Scotland in all formats since 2019. At that time, the most important sport The Cross Saw was in its own home, with a series of trick shot crossover golf / cricket / table tennis videos which has gained a cult following following the online and inspired copy efforts of former South African bowler Shaun Pollock.
âI was so bored,â Cross says. âMy roommate had come home and it was just me on my own, day in and day out. It was fun for a while, there was a bit of a buzz around them, especially when Shaun got involved. He brought a few golf clubs and table tennis balls to the World Cup, in case he needed anything to distract himself from cricket. They did not manage to get out of the bag.