A few weeks ago, Ireland almost outplayed Pakistan in its inaugural Test match in Dublin. And now, across the Irish sea in Edinburgh, Scotland, the 13th ranked One-Day International (ODI) team in the ICC rankings, claimed a historic maiden triumph over their English counterparts, who came into this fixture ranked No 1 in the 50-over format. Unfortunately, both Ireland and Scotland won’t be in action in next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup, which will be played in England and Wales, courtesy ICC’s decision of shrinking its World Cup to a broadcaster friendly 10-team event.
Such a pity!
Officially, the prime reason for ICC to shrink its World Cup was to increase the competitiveness of the tournament. They believe that giving the Associate members an opportunity to play a series of matches in the World Cup overall decreases the quality of the tournament.
Well, on Sunday (10 June) Scotland once again exposed the futility of the decision. Their victory shows that they do not just deserve to belong to the top table, on their day they can even outplay the best in the business.
Hope the ICC has taken a note of this. But wait, their ultimate aim behind chopping its flagship event is financial gain. By cutting down the number of teams, the chances of one of the big teams being knocked out early are reduced, which ensures maximum broadcast revenues.
So, these so-called upsets certainly make ICC uncomfortable. In fact, they are already under a lot of pressure as the competitiveness of the Associates and the lower-ranked teams is at an all-time high of late. The performances of Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) along with the Irish and Scots are a classic testament to this statement.
Nevertheless, for Scotland Cricket, it was undoubtedly the greatest day ever as they outclassed Eoin Morgan’s boys in an absolutely thrilling nail-biter in front of a sell-out crowd at the Grange. Led by Calum MacLeod's stunning 94-ball 140, Kyle Coetzer’s boys dominated the English attack to put up a mammoth 371 for 5, the highest score ever by an Associate team in an ODI. Later, their bowlers held their nerves at the death to clinch the win by six runs, much to the jubilation of the 4,600-odd spectators at the venue. This was their second victory ever against a Test nation. The first one was against Zimbabwe last year.
Following their heartbreaking exit (a five-run defeat against West Indies via D/L method) from this year’s World Cup Qualifiers, this triumph should work as a painkiller for Scotland, at least for the time being.
In the qualifiers, they played some outstanding cricket, beat a strong side like Afghanistan and drew against hosts Zimbabwe, but couldn’t achieve the ultimate glory due to a harsh umpiring decision at a crucial juncture of their last game against West Indies, which cost the team much-needed World Cup exposure.
In fact, in his pre-match press conference, skipper Coetzer openly admitted that he is yet to get over that defeat.
“To be honest, I don’t know if I am over it,” said the skipper. “Not reaching the World Cup saw Cricket Scotland miss out on around $700,000 [qualification fees] too, which would have been huge for the sport, especially the grassroots.”
Hence, Scotland came into this game to prove a point that they belong to the top table. For them, this was not just a game against England, they also contested against the apathy of the ICC towards Associate nations. For Morgan’s team, which did not have Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes in its ranks on Sunday, this fixture was just a mere warm-up before their back-to-back high-profile series against Australia and India. However, for their Scottish counterparts, this was a rare opportunity to prove their mettle against a strong team. And in the end, they came through with flying colours.
However, despite this heroic victory, as per the current schedule, Scotland will have six more days of international cricket left this season — two T20Is against Pakistan followed by an ODI tri-series against Ireland and Netherlands.
This is cricket outside the mainstream circle for you.