Defeats leave Scotland’s T20 hopes in the balance

Mohammad Shahzad scored 75 runs off 36 balls for Afghanistan including four sixes in one over against Scotland at The Grange. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Mohammad Shahzad scored 75 runs off 36 balls for Afghanistan including four sixes in one over against Scotland at The Grange. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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Scotland cricket coach Grant Bradburn admitted that his side were outplayed twice in the Capital over the weekend in the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers.

But he has backed his players to bounce back this week, starting tomorrow against Kenya.

Scotland lost to the Netherlands on Saturday and Afghanistan yesterday at The Grange in Stockbridge to leave them fourth in Group B behind those two sides and Kenya.

And Bradburn knows his troops now have to regroup quickly in this week’s matches against Kenya, Canada and Oman to make sure they secure a top four place in the group.

After yesterday’s loss against Afghanistan, Bradburn said: “It was a tough weekend for us, of that there is no doubt, but the boys cannot let their heads drop and we have to stay focused.

“Games of Twenty20 cricket can get away from you fast and we have been on the sharp end of that. Our fielding has not been as good as we would have liked and we will look at that, but I certainly still have faith in this group of players.”

Yesterday, Afghanistan won the toss and decided to bat, but lost a wicket early on. Scotland opened the bowling with a spinner, Michael Leask, and it paid off when he had Nawroz Mangal trapped LBW. However, Asghar Stanikzai and, in particular, Mohammad Shahzad, then took the game to the hosts. Shahzad was hitting the ball to all parts and he was brutal on young Heriot’s spinner Mark Watt, hitting him for four 6s in one over. The third boundary in that quartet had looked like a catch at one point, but despite Calum MacLeod’s best efforts in the deep the ball had just gone too far.

The Scots had no answer to Shahzad and he reached his 50 in the seventh over off just 25 balls having hit three 4s and five 6s. The duo looked in little trouble and they moved the total up to 107-1 after 10 overs before the Scots were given a lifeline in the 12th over.

Con de Lange, the spinner playing his first match of the tournament, got the key wicket of Shahzad – caught by Leask in the deep for 75 off 36 balls. He then had Stanikzai run out two balls later and Afghanistan were 113-3.

In the 15th over Carlton’s Ali Evans took a good catch in the deep to dismiss Samiullah Shenwari off the bowling of Leask, but the following over Watt dropped a high catch and Afghanistan continued on their merry way.

In the 18th over Mohammad Nabi hit two big 6s off De Lange – the second even sailing over the media tent – and in the end they posted 210-5. Scotland would have been looking for Mazars Grange’s George Munsey to get them on the way to a flying start in their reply, but he was out for six in the second over. Kyle Coetzer and then MacLeod fell before vice-captain Matt Cross steadied the ship alongside Richie Berrington.

They took the score to 98 in the 12th over before wicketkeeper Cross, who had made 37 from 22 balls including a couple of big 6s, was out caught and bowled by Nabi.

Soon after Berrington was out for 20 and at 111-5 Scotland were facing an uphill task.

In the 15th over skipper Preston Mommsen, of Carlton, hit 24 including three 6s off Dawlat Zadran to give Scotland hope.

Mommsen made a cracking 44 off 20 balls, but when he was out in the 17th over with his team 162-6 Afghanistan were in the driving seat.

In the end Scotland made 173 to lose by 37 runs.

In Saturday’s loss, Netherlands opener Wesley Barresi was in particularly good form, punishing the Scots’ bowlers for any bad balls and hitting 75 from 40 balls as they won by 32 runs.

Seamer Evans took the brilliant figure of 5-24 in defeat.

Elsewhere in Group B at the weekend, Kenya defeated Oman by seven runs at Myreside on Saturday and yesterday the Netherlands eased past the UAE at The Grange and Oman defeated Canada in Stirling.

Ireland topped Group A after the weekend’s action.