Having come agonisingly close to making the 2019 Men's Cricket World Cup, Scotland are back on the big stage at this year's ICC Men's T20 World Cup. They don't have to look any further than their journey there for motivation.
In 2018, Scottish cricketing hearts were broken.
Just two years earlier, Scotland had enjoyed their first ever victory at an ICC World Cup, beating Hong Kong in their final match of T20 World Cup 2016.
It had taken them six World Cup appearances to earn that first victory but it was hoped it was the start of better things. After all, they had just competed in their first T20 World Cup since 2009, and it came off the back of their participation in the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
As things turned out, that win against Hong Kong would be their last World Cup appearance for five years – an absence that will end on 17 October when they face Bangladesh in the First Round of the T20 World Cup.
It’s a rendezvous they came so close to missing, scraping through the qualification tournament by the skin of their teeth.
“We spoke about this leading up to it, we achieved what we wanted to achieve,” captain Kyle Coetzer said in the dressing rooms in October 2019.
“You must be very proud of what we have done,” he continued, memories of that 2018 heartbreak still fresh to the mind.
“We’ve been on the wrong end of the stick before. We know how it feels. We deserve this, every little part of this, we deserve it. So a real big pat on the back to everyone one of you,” he concluded before the squad broke into a stirring rendition of Flower of Scotland.
That heartbreak we’re referring to came at the qualifying event for the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Having breezed through the first stage with three wins and a loss, Scotland finished fourth in the Super Sixes, missing out on the tournament final and with it the Cricket World Cup proper.
Fourth doesn’t truly paint a picture of just how close they had come. Only one point separated Scotland from second-placed Afghanistan. The thrilling stage one tie they had played out against Zimbabwe had come back to bite both teams.
What's more, in their final match of the Super Six stage they lost to the West Indies by five runs via the DLS method with the late dismissal of Richie Berrington taking them from above the par score to below it. A victory there would have been enough to take them to the final and the Cricket World Cup.
Fast forward one year, and Scotland looked set to miss out on another World Cup by the barest of margins, coming within one game of being knocked out at the group stage of the 2019 T20 World Cup qualifying event.
The favourites in Group A, Scotland were stunned by Singapore in their opening match, losing by two runs in Dubai. They bounced back in a 31-run win against Kenya before a nervier four-run victory over Papua New Guinea. However, losses against Namibia and Netherlands on either side of a victory over Bermuda saw them finish fourth in their group, just two points ahead of Kenya and Singapore.
That fourth-placed group position saw them relegated to the fifth-place play-off semi-finals – a match they needed to win to secure their place in the next T20 World Cup, which at that stage was to be the 2020 edition in Australia. It was here that Scotland clicked into gear, dealing a 90-run defeat to the United Arab Emirates to qualify for the showpiece event as well as the fifth-place play-off, which they would win against Oman.
Coetzer is in no doubt over how valuable that qualification was.
“The importance of the T20 World Cup, there is huge exposure there for cricket in Scotland,” Coetzer said in August when the T20 World Cup fixtures were released. “Qualifying for the World Cup was massive in itself but getting to play on the world stage is a huge opportunity for us all and for the country.”
Cricket has been growing steadily in Scotland for a while now but a deep run at this year’s tournament would be a welcome accelerant.
In 1999, Scotland played at an ICC World Cup for the first time, securing their spot in the showpiece event by coming third at the 1997 ICC Trophy.
Six World Cup appearances – three 50-over and three Twenty20 – and 22 years on from that tournament debut, and Scotland’s tally of match wins sits at just one.
However, as previously mentioned, that victory came in Scotland’s most recent match in a World Cup, against Hong Kong at the T20 World Cup 2016.
It’s been five long years since then but there is a confidence surrounding this Scotland team as they head into Group B of the First Round alongside Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, and Oman. Having had to fight hard to secure their spot at this year’s tournament, they know they belong on the biggest stage.
“We have skills throughout with bat, ball and in the field but I think our biggest strength is our belief,” Coetzer said. “As a team, as a country, we really believe now that we are capable of playing on the world stage and in World Cups, so our main strength as team is belief.”
And make no mistake, belief is a big thing. Successful campaigns have been built on less.
Yet to make his international debut when Scotland featured at the first T20 World Cup in July, Koetzer got his first taste of an ICC World Cup at the 2009 edition. Drawn in a tough group alongside South Africa and New Zealand, the Scots lost both matches but the future captain had a tournament to remember, making 42 off 32 against the Proteas and a 15-ball 33 against the Black Caps.
The wait for their first win at an ICC World Cup continued in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, where they suffered a nail-biting one-wicket last over defeat to Afghanistan and came within three wickets of beating the Black Caps. Once again Koetzer impressed, averaging 42.16 for the tournament and notching the first century by a Scot in World Cup history – a 134-ball 156 against Bangladesh.
One year later, in a rain-affected match in Nagpur, Scotland finally got the win they had been chasing for so long, beating Hong Kong by eight wickets. It was a victory that came after back-to-back defeats against Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, costing them a spot in the Super 10 stage, but a victory nevertheless.
Now, they have the chance to take the next step as they attempt to make it past the first round of a World Cup for the first time.
Kyle Coetzer (captain), Richard Berrington, Dylan Budge, Matthew Cross (wk), Josh Davey, Ally Evans, Chris Greaves, Michael Leask, Calum Macleod, George Munsey, Safyaan Sharif, Hamza Tahir, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt, Brad Wheal.
Travelling Reserves: Michael Jones, Chris Sole.
17 Oct - v Bangladesh
19 Oct - v Papua New Guinea
21 Oct - v Oman
Playing at the T20 World Cup for the fourth time, Scotland will be hoping to get past the first stage for the first time this year.
Their lone victory at a T20 World Cup came in 2016 when they beat Hong Kong by eight wickets at Nagpur.
Look out for
Spin could be king in the UAE and Oman and teams will be banking on their tweakers being both dangerous and reliable.
That’s just what Mark Watt was for Scotland during the 2019 qualifier, taking 12 wickets at an average of 13.66 with an economy of 5.85. With a career average of 20 and an economy of 7.15, expect Watt to play a major role in the T20 World Cup.
The left-arm finger-spinner has been around since 2015 but is still only 25 years old and goes into the tournament with plenty of experience behind him having played 72 white ball matches for Scotland.
Alongside that star showing in the qualifier, he has shown a penchant for stepping up on the big stage, starring in Scotland’s first ever ODI win over England in 2018 when he took 3/55.
One of the veterans of the side with 72 ODI and 53 T20I caps to his name, Calum MacLeod will be a key cog in Scotland’s batting order.
That would be the case wherever the T20 World Cup was but is particularly true in Asian conditions given his ability against the turning ball thanks largely to a sweep shot he is so comfortable playing thanks to his time playing hockey as a teenager.
That ability against high quality spin was on show in a Cricket World Cup qualifying match in 2018 when he amassed 157 against Afghanistan, impressively countering the dangerous Rashid Khan. That same year he notched a 140 not out to help Scotland to their first ever ODI win over England.
Scotland will be hoping he can produce innings of similar note at the T20 World Cup.
Oman - 21 October
There will be no easy games for Scotland in a tight group in the first stage. With Bangladesh considered the favourites to progress and having enjoyed a strong year in T20I cricket, Scotland may find themselves duking it out with Papua New Guinea and Oman for the second spot through.
Scotland beat both teams in the qualifying tournament but neither victory was comfortable.
Given how even a group it is, it could all come down to the last match of the group which pits Scotland against Oman with the latter playing at home.