The road to the 2023 ICC Men’s World Cup begins in Aberdeen this week as Scotland, Oman and Papua New Guinea meet in the opening round of the inaugural Cricket World Cup League 2. The double round-robin at Mannofield represents the first of the 126 ODIs which will be played between August 2019 and January 2022 to decide the three automatic entrants to the 2022 Global Qualifier.
Scotland and Oman renew their acquaintance after playing out a memorable three-match series in the Sultanate in February. The visitors’ ruthless victory in its opening game – courtesy of Oman’s capitulation for 24, the fourth-lowest List A total in history – was followed by a 93-run reverse the next day, and while Scotland went on to claim the series 2-1, Shane Burger’s side will be mindful of the threat posed by the team which breezed through the group stage of World Cricket League Division Two in Namibia exactly two months later.
With 5 wickets at 12.40, all-rounder Mohammad Nadeem was Oman’s stand-out bowler in the three games at the Al Amerat facility, but it was first-change seamer Fayyaz Butt who took many of the plaudits at Windhoek. The former Pakistan Under-19’s 16 wickets at 13.43 offered an ideal foil to the experienced new-ball pair of Bilal Khan and Kaleemullah, and with overhead conditions at Mannofield likely to favour seam again, the quartet will hope for more of the same on what is their first visit to the north of Scotland.
The slow left-arm of Zeeshan Maqsood offers his side options, too, but it is with the bat that the role of the captain is likely to be most important. His 102-ball 109 against Canada got Oman’s WCL2 campaign off to an emphatic start, and his form will be central again if his team is to be in with a chance of a repeat performance in Aberdeen. Aaqib Ilyas and Suraj Kumar will also have parts to play, but all-round consistency, so long the Achilles heel of the side, will be most imperative of all.
PNG’s 145-run win over Oman in the final round match of WCL2 secured their League Two berth in sensational circumstances. Leading into the last day of round robin action PNG were dead last, but after their emphatic win and with Namibia thrashing Hong Kong this left the Barramundis in poll position, two points ahead of Canada who needed a huge victory against rivals USA to get close. Davy Jacobs’ Canada team pulled off an impressive 40 run victory but it wasn’t enough, as USA, 9 wickets down and a long way short of the target, limped past the target they knew would send PNG ahead of their neighbours on net run rate to puzzling cheers from the USA dugout. PNG finished a mere 0.012 ahead on NRR.
Assad Vala’s team made sure of a third-placed finish when it mattered by way of a comfortable five-wicket win over USA in the play-offs. The influential left-hander will be central again as he leads a squad containing three ODI debutants to Scotland, but with big-hitting batsman Tony Ura as well as leg-spinning all-rounders Lega Siaka and Charles Amini providing some of the supporting experience, PNG will go into its opening match against fellow qualifiers Oman on August 14th with confidence.
For Scotland, the opening round of the tournament marks a return to competitive action after the rain-affected ODIs against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in May. Although both completed matches ended in more DLS-induced disappointment, Kyle Coetzer’s team was in a good position to add to its tally of Full Member scalps in each, and, with CWCL2 offering the extended run of matches they have long called for, the hosts will be looking for a strong performance to carry into October’s T20 World Cup Qualifier as well as for the remainder of the League Two campaign itself.
Richie Berrington, whose injury-enforced absence was felt in Scotland’s middle order against Sri Lanka, returns to the squad, as does 6 foot 8 inch pacer Adrian Neill, who followed up his T20I debut figures of 3 for 21 with 4 for 7 in the first fifty-over match in Oman. The twenty-five-year-old has been in fine form for Gloucestershire’s Second XI recently, and he will be hoping to win a first cap on home soil on his return to the ground of Aberdeenshire CC, for whom he played club cricket for a number of years.
Kyle Coetzer and George Munsey will look to transfer the excellent form they displayed in the Global T20 back to the fifty-over game. After his maiden ODI half-century against England last year, Munsey, in particular, has had a season to remember; Scotland, back at Mannofield for its first ODI in five years, will hope for the same.
Scotland: Kyle Coetzer (Capt), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Alasdair Evans, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, Gavin Main, George Munsey, Adrian Neill, Safyaan Sharif, Tom Sole, Hamza Tahir, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt.
Oman: Zeeshan Maqsood (Capt), Jatinder Singh, Khawar Ali, Aqib Ilyas, Mohammad Nadeem, Sandeep Goud, Khurram Khan, Suraj Kumar, Ajay Lalcheta, Amir Kaleem, Jay Odedara, Ahmed Fayyaz Butt, Kaleemullah, Bilal Khan.
Papua New Guinea: Assad Vala (Capt), Charles Amini, Tony Ura, Sese Bau, Lega Siaka, Riley Hekure, Kiplin Doriga, Simon Atai, Norman Vanua, Hiri Hiri, Chad Soper, Gaudi Toka, Damien Ravu, Nosaina Pokana.
ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 – Round 1 Fixtures (Mannofield, Aberdeen):
WED 14th August: Oman v PNG
THU 15th August: Scotland v Oman
FRI 16th August: Rest/Reserve Day
SAT 17th August: Scotland v PNG
SUN 18th August: Scotland v Oman
MON 19th August Rest/Reserve Day
TUE 20th August: Scotland v PNG
WED 21st August: Oman v PNG
All matches begin at 11.00 BST (GMT+1)