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For the third time in succession, Scotland have entered a competitive tournament as favourites or near-favourites and suffered a shock opening defeat. In both the recently concluded World T20 qualifier and their first round of League Two in Aberdeen, Scotland opened well below their quality before slowly acclimatising and producing their best performances at the back end. Coming up against a USA team on a high after an opening win against a UAE team in a messy state, Scotland took the batting ability of the Americans lightly and allowed too many runs on a slow pitch with some assistance to spinners.
Scotland’s inability to adapt quickly to conditions has come under the microscope recently, and though being in the UAE only a month ago for the World T20 Qualifiers may have assisted them, even mild desert temperatures are a serious shock coming out of the sub-zero temperatures north of the wall at the moment. The team selection also could be questioned, with them again choosing to only play four frontline bowlers, a tactic that got them into some sticky situations in the T20s.
Safyaan Sharif opened the campaign with a potent reminder of this team’s ability to blow hot and cold – his first ball taking out Xavier Marshall’s middle stump and his second being a wide full toss that Steven Taylor belted through the covers for four. After a short batting recovery, Mark Watt had an equally good start to his spell as Steven Taylor also lost his middle stump, leaving USA 30/2.
Aaron Jones joined Monank Patel and the pair dug in to construct a match-defining partnership, frustrating Scotland for 28 overs and 140 runs. The pair saw off a long miserly passage from the spin pair of Watt and Hamza Tahir, before taking to the returning seamers in a barrage that was once again ended by a wicket from the first ball of a spell. After throwing the ball to Calum MacLeod and Dylan Budge in order to steal ten overs from the batsmen, it was Richie Berrington’s military medium finally accounted for Patel, who couldn’t find the power to clear the infield and continue the aggression he showed against Sharif and Alasdair Evans.
Jones continued to attack the seamers, now joined by Ian Holland, who finally managed to get under one from Mark Watt, sending the left armer into the stands to damage his almost flawless figures at that point. Jones attempted the same shot two balls later however and perished in the process, edging a wild swing behind to depart for a well-constructed 74.
The American tail, led by Holland, then attempted to bolster their run rate, hitting above ten an over for four straight overs before a flurry of wickets dented their progress. Watt removed both set batsmen, as Akshay Homraj slogged one to give Calum MacLeod a simple catch at midwicket, before Holland perished to a much more difficult grab by Richie Berrington in the covers.
Safyaan Sharif also claimed two in the following over, with both Cameron Stevenson and Rusty Theron bagging first-ballers attempting wild slogs. Captain Saurabh Netravalkar gave the innings a boost in the death after the wickets stalled progress as he dealt a final blow to Alasdair Evans’ middling figures, sending the final three balls of the innings to the boundary to push the team total to 282/8, a very competitive score on a wicket where Scotland’s spinners showed an ability to dictate scoring.
Scotland’s chase got off to a shaky start, as they too found themselves two down without much on the board. Matthew Cross nailed a cut straight to gully off Netravalkar, before Kyle Coetzer’s defences were broken by Theron. Michael Jones and Calum MacLeod then sought to rebuild, and mimic the 140-run stand that the US had for their third wicket. And they did a fairly good job of it, with MacLeod dropping anchor and absorbing the strike, letting Jones play a freer role and not allowing the spinners to get on top.
But this cautious approach allowed the required run rate to slowly rise towards seven, and although MacLeod dropped his cautious approach to launch a pair of sixes, Jones fell shortly after to a sharp return catchy by Nosthush Kenjige. Richie Berrington joined MacLeod and they continued to knock the spinners around, but the required run rate was now approaching 7.5. The pair again took it deep, knowing that the firepower of their lower order could be enough to win out in a T20-esque late over scrap. Berrington consistently found release boundaries but eventually departed trying one too many, missing a straight one from Ian Holland for 34.
This brought George Munsey to the crease, and Scotland were banking on his T20 skills to bring them home from there. But Munsey could only manage one maximum and a total of 16 before he skied a slog off Holland to the keeper. Dylan Budge entered at number 7 and serviceably found the boundary alongside MacLeod, but with the required run rate ever increasing, he departed trying to hit a good line into the off side, deflecting Cameron Stevenson back onto his stumps.
From there, MacLeod was Scotland’s only hope. He had made his way to a commendable 86, but his cautious start meant there was much ground to be gained. And as Scotland themselves learned by the flurry of wickets from the American tail, the pitch didn’t play too well for over-aggression, and MacLeod departed by sending one into orbit and down not very far from where it started, again off Stevenson, who finished with commendable figures of 3/43.
The result now puts the USA two matches clear at the top of the standings on 10 points, with Scotland now slipping below Namibia into third place on net run rate.