Scotland are in Group B of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, targeting a fourth appearance at the tournament proper.
Four years ago, Scotland won this tournament. In doing so, they didn’t just qualify for the 2015 Cricket World Cup, they also retained their ODI status. And though they went six games without victory in the main event, they did come within three wickets of beating New Zealand, and agonisingly close to seeing off Afghanistan.
Four years on, they have to do it all over again. The fact they finished as high as second in the ICC World Cricket League Championship, behind the Netherlands, bodes well for them, but they didn’t really have a great time in the United Arab Emirates thereafter, losing three of their four matches against Ireland and the home side in January.
Given that there are only two ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 places up for grabs, Scotland will need to ensure their strengths come together in tandem.
23 January – lost to UAE by four wickets in Dubai
21 January – beat UAE by 31 runs in Dubai
18 January – lost to Ireland by 24 runs in Dubai
ICC CWCQ Group B
4 March – Afghanistan, Bulawayo Athletic Club, Bulawayo
6 March – Hong Kong, Bulawayo Athletic Club, Bulawayo
8 March – Nepal, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
12 March – Zimbabwe, Bulawayo Athletic Club, Bulawayo
Squad: Kyle Coetzer (capt), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Alasdair Evans, Michael Jones, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, George Munsey, Safyaan Sharif, Chris Sole, Tom Sole, Craig Wallace (wk), Mark Watt, Brad Wheal, Stuart Whittingham
Scotland’s squad includes many of the players that won the Qualifier in 2014. Captain Kyle Coetzer, Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Alasdair Evans, Michael Leask and Calum MacLeod will look to repeat the feat. They were all also part of the group that went on to play in Australia and New Zealand at the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
Coetzer heads into the tournament in great form after scoring 574 runs at just over 52 in the WCL Championship. MacLeod wasn’t too far behind with 440 runs at 55. With the ball, Evans was once again their main wicket-taker, claiming 24 in the tournament, ahead of Safyaan Sharif by five wickets.
The squad also contains a few promising youngsters, chief among them being Tom Sole, the 21-year-old off-spinner, who picked up 12 wickets in the WCL Championship, and was the team’s third-highest wicket-taker. The likes of Matthew Cross, who recently scored his maiden ODI century, against UAE, and Michael Jones have started to make a name for themselves as well.
Cricket World Cup history
Scotland have, so far, been a part of three Cricket World Cups. Their first appearance came in the 1999 edition co-hosted by England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Netherlands. They were also part of the 2007 tournament in the Caribbean and the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand. However, in 14 World Cup matches so far, Scotland are yet to win a single encounter.
What needs to go right for Scotland to qualify?
Scotland won’t have it easy. In Afghanistan, they face formidable opponents who are now Full Members, along with a pedigreed home side in Zimbabwe. Nepal came through to the tournament in dramatic circumstances, and can yet cause an upset.
The Scots pack a punch, though, as their opponents in the WCL Championship will testify. They need to ensure their spirit – a fair bit of which was on display in Australia and New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup – is replicated. They also need to win the games they are expected to – Nepal and Hong Kong. Do that, and perhaps upset one of Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, and Scotland have a strong chance of making it through to the Super Sixes. There on, it’s anybody’s game.
Grant Bradburn, Scotland's head coach, is confident of his team’s chances. “The challenge to qualify for the World Cup is tough for all teams, but we have selected an outstanding group who are confident and ready to take on that mission,” he said. “The squad have had an excellent preparation phase over the winter months in Dubai, including quality game and planning time leading into Zimbabwe. The team are now very familiar with the style of cricket that suits our individuals, which is also a style we believe will win the World Cup qualifiers.”