Patchy but encouraging. It is inherently difficult to judge the true form of the Associate nations due to the lack of cricket they play, especially meaningful games against high class opposition. Their most recent assignments were a tri-series in Abu Dhabi against Afghanistan and Ireland, in which they won one and lost two to finish last, but as Calum Macleod said when he spoke to The Student, they “really should have won.” They ended that tournament with a convincing win over Afghanistan, proof that the gap between themselves and the top two Associates is not as big as some might expect, a fact further cemented by a resounding 179 run win in a warm up game with Ireland. During a tour of Australia and New Zealand before Christmas, Scotland pushed a very strong New Zealand XI, containing six of their likely World Cup starters, very close and won two games against Antipodean state sides.
Batting. A top four containing Durham man Macleod, Northamptonshire’s Kyle Coetzer and Sussex’s Matt Machan has the potential to pile on a large amount of runs and a fast rate. Boasting ten List A hundreds between them, and strong recent form for Scotland, the Saltires can rely on them to provide the base of big scores. They are backed up by a dependable middle and lower order, which includes Associate Player of the Year Preston Mommsen. Mommsen, who took over the captaincy duties at the end of 2014, regularly contributes with half-centuries and has the experience and steel to ensure Scotland rarely collapse.
Scotland can also be expected to be one of the best fielding units on display, perhaps inspired by their assistant coach Paul Collingwood.
In a World Cup that will be so dominated by seam bowlers, Scotland’s reserves seem a bit light. True, the likes of Ali Evans, Iain Wardlaw, Robert Taylor and Josh Davey have performed well in bowling out Afghanistan for 63 and Ireland for 117 but they lack the class, speed or consistency to trouble truly world-class batsmen. Majid Haq is a dependable spinner, but unless the batsmen can out big scores on the board, the bowlers as a group lack penetration.
As for all Associates, the simple step up in class, intensity and scrutiny is also something Scotland will need to adjust to. There is a strong chance that the Saltires will become overawed by the occasion in their big clashes with England and both host nations.
Kyle Coetzer – The 30 year-old Aberdonian opening batsman has accrued 84 First Class and 117 List A appearances for Durham and Northants to go with 20 ODIs for Scotland. This experience at the top of the order is invaluable for the stability of a young team. He will look to bat for the majority of the innings and let the more expressive hitters play around him. He also sets the standard for the side in the field, as shown by an extraordinary catch he took at The Oval in the 2009 World T20. Youtube it.
Matt Machan – The hard hitting top order batsman, who also chips in with overs of off-spin, displayed his extraordinary talent with a sublime century in the warm-up game against Ireland. Signed to Sussex, for whom he made his First Class debut in 2011, he has two four day hundreds and was awarded their Young Player of the Year in 2013. His power and consistency will be sure to catch the eye and is crucial for this Scottish batting unit.
Game to Watch
England vs Scotland – February 23rd. A clash of The Auld Enemy on the biggest stage in limited overs cricket. What more needs to be said? Christchurch will be rocking, even more so if the Saltires manage a famous upset.
They will not progress. As much as I’d love them to they just won’t. They should beat Afghanistan, and will fancy themselves against Bangladesh, but England, Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka should be too strong. One victory over a test-playing nation would be enough for Scotsmen everywhere. That could happen.