|Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier, UAE 2012|
Scotland in last chance saloon
William Dick (CricketMedia Scotland)
SCOTLAND’s World Twenty20 qualification hopes were hanging by a thread last night after they fell to defeat against Ireland at the Dubai International Stadium.
The Saltires were unable to press home their advantage, allowing their Celtic cousins to reach 159-5 after reducing them to 8-2.
Despite the best efforts of stand-in skipper Kyle Coetzer and Fraser Watts, they then found themselves with too much to do following the loss of three early wickets.
In the end a 17-run defeat leaves the Scots facing a must-win match today against an Italian side who are level on points but who enjoy a superior run-rate.
Pete Steindl, the coach, admitted: “Our discipline with ball in hand wasn’t what it should have been.
“For the majority of the game we were okay but we keep emphasising the small margins of T20 and we released the pressure too much.
“We gave Ireland too many big overs where they were able to score heavily and hurt us.
“We then got behind the run-rate early on and it’s very difficult to chase from longer out when you are playing catch-up.”
Chasing a formidable total, the Saltires were looking for the usual solid start from Richie Berrington and Calum MacLeod.
Instead, Berrington was bowled by Trent Johnston with just one run on the board while MacLeod was trapped in front by his former Warwickshire colleague Boyd Rankin.
With Johnston also removing Preston Mommsen, Scotland were in deep trouble on 22-3.
Coetzer and Watts steadied the ship during a few necessarily cautious overs before opening out in a flurry of boundaries, the pair adding 79 to briefly rekindle hopes.
Watts contributed a 29-ball 33 while Coetzer went on to record his highest international T20 score with 62.
His 52-ball effort included four expansive sixes but both players fell to the medium-pace of Kevin O’Brien whose 3-35 put the Irish back in charge as the required run-rate increased to improbable levels.
The Saltires had received a double setback before play began when Gordon Goudie was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament with a rib injury.
Skipper Gordon Drummond also failed to shake off a side strain in time to lead the side.
However, Scotland made an ideal start with a wicket in each of the first two overs.
Matty Parker, restored to full fitness following a lengthy lay-off, struck with his third ball when he had Paul Stirling caught by Mommsen for a duck.
Even better followed when a fast delivery from Safy Sharif bowled Irish skipper Will Porterfield for 2.
At 8-2 Scotland had their rivals exactly where they wanted them but the pressure was soon eased when Alex Cusack and Ed Joyce helped themselves to seventeen runs from the third over.
And the onslaught intensified when Berrington’s first over was taken for fourteen.
Majid Haq pulled things back when he tempted Cusack out of his crease and Craig Wallace completed a good stumping to remove the Australian-born batsman for a 13-ball 22.
Mommsen got in on the act when he bowled the dangerous O’Brien for 16 and spin provided the Saltires with a third wicket when Gary Wilson, frustrated by Haq’s nagging line and length, holed out to Coetzer.
However, his 26 had helped Joyce put the Irish in a position of strength and the latter continued to guide his side to the end.
The former England Test player timed his innings to perfection, hitting he last two balls for successive sixes to ruin Sharif’s figures.
Joyce’s 78no came from just 58 deliveries and included one other maximum as well as six fours.
Haq was again Scotland’s top performer with the ball, claiming 2-18 from his four overs.
Victory against the Italians will put the Scots back on course for a top three finish in Group B and progress to a tense play-off phase.
They finish the group stage against USA tomorrow (Tue) and Steindl admitted: “They are both must-win games and it’s up to the guys to show the character required to come through.
“We are down to twelve fit players but that presents others with opportunities to take responsibility.
“That’s what they have to do.”