Scotland came into the 2015 Cricket World Cup still searching for their first victory on the grandest of stages. Four matches in, and they are still awaiting their first taste of success. In this sense, the tournament so far has been a failure for the Scots, but in reality, it has been more a case of missed opportunities.
Many advocates of a reduced World Cup would be quick to point in the direction of Scotland’s performance over the last few weeks and use it demonstrate their argument. However, to simply rite off Scotland’s campaign thus far as a series of four poor defeats would be doing them a disservice.
Scotland have been seriously deprived of top quality cricket for the last decade. Their nearest neighbours England only play them once every two years, let alone other full members. A number of forays into the English domestic game have thrown up mixed results and little evidence of any lesson learnt.
But during this tournament Scotland appear to have turned a corner. In truth, the corner was probably turned during the qualifying campaign where they put together a superb run of consecutive victories to secure their place at the World Cup. But this is the first time their improvements have been glimpsed on the largest stage.
Scotland have passed 300 for the first time in a World Cup match, and against a Test playing nation too. Kyle Coetzer’s magnificent 156 was not only the highest score by a Scot at the World Cup, but by any associate player. The manner in which he handled Bangladesh’s attack, is more clear evidence, that with additional matches and opportunities, associate sides could be more than whipping boys.
It is testament to Scotland’s increased improvement, that in their defeat to England, I believed that they missed an opportunity. Indeed, their defeat was primarily down to falling at the key moments in the match, not due to any major gulf in class between the sides. If the England match was an opportunity missed to send a message to the ICC and the naysayers, the Afghanistan match was gut wrenching for Scottish fans.
On paper the sides are very evenly matched, Scotland may have even held the edge. But willed on by a determination and dream that other nations can only begin to imagine, Afghanistan worked their way to a maiden World Cup win. Scotland were once again left ruing what might have been.
Looking forward, Scotland have two games left at this years edition, and with a quarter final place not unattainable, it is all about performance and pride. Matches against Sri Lanka and Australia do not represent the easiest chance to break their World Cup duck, but if the squad can continue to improve and assert more strong individual efforts, then victory is not in the realms of impossibility.
Alongside Kyle Coetzer’s innings, there have been many fine performances from the Scottish players. Richie Berrington has been steady with both bat and ball and almost helped his side to victory over Afghanistan, and Josh Davey and Ian Wardlaw have both picked up wickets at regular intervals.
This World Cup has not been as bleak as it may appear at first glance for Scotland. The stem of strong side is clear to see. What they require now, is more exposure to ODI’s, offers of bilateral series from full members and a little more self-belief. If they can achieve this, then I’m sure we’ll see them break their World Cup duck in 2019.