17 February 2015
New Zealand quells Scotland challenge in tricky chase
Co-host of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 ekes out hard-fought three-wicket win after restricting Scottish side to 142 all out
Scotland lost six wickets for 33 runs, going from 109 for 4 to 142 all out.
Scotland has approached the tournament in a spirit of quiet optimism, and not been without justification. Last month, Scotland routed Afghanistan by 150 runs, and its official warm-up matches brought a thumping win over Ireland, by 179 runs, and a three-run defeat to the West Indies. In 1999 and 2007, Scotland’s World Cup squad boasted only two professional cricketers, but every member of the squad today is a full-time cricketer. It is, as captain Preston Mommsen said, “The best prepared Scotland team that has left the shores.”
However, against a New Zealand side with depth in both batting and bowling, Scotland was put on the back foot early, with four wickets falling within 26 balls of the game after it had been asked to bat against Trent Boult and Tim Southee. The end result was a three-wicket win for New Zealand after Scotland had been bowled out for 142, but though the chase became a tad tricky, New Zealand will be happy at having achieved it in 24.5 overs, and giving its net run-rate a significant boost.
Bowling the second over of the day, Boult got Calum MacLeod, the scorer of four international centuries for Scotland in 2014, to a magical delivery that curved in from over the wicket. Hamish Gardiner suffered a near-identical fate. When Southee matched his new-ball partner in snaring wickets with consecutive deliveries, Scotland was 12 for 4 in 4.2 overs, with the Boult-Southee combination showing why it was the most lethal opening bowling pair in the world.
However, Scotland fought back admirably from that situation. Matt Machan had seemed serenely calm, batting as if inoculated from the wickets falling around him. A powerfully built left-hander, Machan cuts with venom and his running oozes intent. Hooking Southee for six was a statement that he was not to be overawed. Machan’s celebration when he reached 50 was distinctly low-key and unobtrusive: a man here not to compete, but to win. He found a willing ally in Richie Berrington, who used his feet dexterously and lifted Daniel Vettori for a straight six. Together the two added 97 and, with the pitch flattening, Scotland had justifiable ambitions of reaching a score in the region of 230.
However, a second collapse meant that never came to pass. Machan and Berrington had added 49 in the last 7.4 overs, and 97 in all, and Brendon McCullum turned to Corey Anderson and Grant Elliott. To Machan this was the signal to attack, but he misjudged a delivery from Anderson, attempting to pull when he lacked the room to do so. The relief on the New Zealand faces showed what a sterling impression Machan had made. In Anderson’s next over, Berrington repeated Machan’s mistake of falling to a short delivery. Daniel Vettori bowled with his customary craft, and on the other side of the substantial stand, Scotland lost six wickets for 33 runs, going from 109 for 4 to 142 all out.
Martin Guptill and McCullum came out brimming with intent, and New Zealand seemed set to coast to victory, but the Scottish bowlers ensured there was no easy chase.
However, Josh Davey and Iain Wardlaw bowled with tenacity and skill, moving the ball off the seam and refusing to be intimidated by New Zealand’s big names.
Kane Williamson’s 38 at No.3 was New Zealand’s highest score, while as many as five of the top seven fell before reaching 20. New Zealand was looking comfortable at 66 for 2 in the 11th over when Ross Taylor fell. Even then, at 106 for 3 in 17.5 overs, victory seemed a short distance away, but the Scotland bowlers struck four more times.
Wardlaw continually produced deliveries that nipped away from a great height, and Guptill, McCullum and Grant Elliott all nicked behind. Had Wardlaw himself not dropped a chance at fine leg off Anderson, New Zealand would have been 120 for 6. By the time Wardlaw caught Anderson off Davey in the same place, the home side was only 10 runs away from its target – still enough time for Luke Ronchi to perish attempting to heave the ball out the ground.
Scotland will feel that if its batting, which is the stronger suit, can come good, it will possess a puncher’s chance against England in Christchurch next week.
New Zealand, of course, has higher aspirations, and is hoping to go deep into the tournament. In this match, its eagerness to get the runs quickly, and so improve its net run-rate, contributed partly to the rush of wickets, but by the end of the match Scotland had earned respect.
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