Scotland are within touching distance of a coveted spot in the T20 World Cup Super 12s after two wins on the bounce in qualifying in Oman, but they are not yet there and it could all be ripped away if results go against them on Thursday in Muscat.
The Scots have defeated Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea in their first two matches and face co-hosts Oman on Thursday with their destiny and a possible trip over to the UAE in their own hands.
However, a win over Oman is easier said than done after they showed their class in a 10-wicket thumping of PNG before going down fighting to the mighty Bangladesh in Group B.
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Win and they are on their way, but lose and Scotland will need to look at run rates or hope PNG pull off a massive upset in the day’s other match against Bangladesh.
This is what is at the forefront of coach Shane Burger’s match going into the clash at 6pm, by which time they will know the result of the other concluding game in their group. He is well aware of what a victory would mean — not only for the Scots but for all budding Associate nations who are looking to hold their own against the Test-playing big boys in the UAE over the next month.
“The magnitude of the game is massive in terms of bigger picture, not just of Scottish cricket but Associate cricket,” Burger said. “There have been many Associates that have shown in this World Cup that they’re closing the gap. The brand of cricket they’ve played is an exciting one for the world to see. In terms of us, we know what’s on the line, all players know what’s on the line. We’ve prepared for it, spoken about it.
“If there’s any team that understands this is a must win game, it’s probably Scotland, who often go into competitions knowing every game is must-win game. We spoke of topping the group, that was a certainly a goal, something we wanted to achieve before we arrived here. We spoke about it, planned for it, it won’t surprise me if we do that.
“The mindset and the belief is there among the group. So it’s huge for Scottish cricket. Also, it has the ability to inspire the nation and to be the first Scottish team to create history, and do something we’ve never done before. It’s on the back of every player and the support staff’s mind. So to leave the legacy of being the first Scottish team to do that is certainly a motivation of ours, and to inspire all those young cricketers, not only in Scotland but around the world, to take up the game and play a brand of cricket that Scotland plays is ultimate the goal we want to be achieving.”
Despite COVID-19 lockdowns and the stresses of in-tournament bio-bubbles, Burger insists a strong work ethic has prevailed throughout the past 18 months and has helped strengthen the team’s unity and morale — knowing a victory over the likes of Bangladesh was more than just a dream, but rather a reality waiting to happen, and the World Cup moving from India to the UAE played right into Scotland’s hands.
“There was a belief that we could beat full-member nations,” he said. “It’s happened previously. We have beaten the likes of England, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. You obviously need opportunities to do that, platform to deliver those performances which we have on this stage. In terms of preparation, it wasn’t just the last six months but probably the last 18-24 months that we’ve been speaking about and planning.
“What the pandemic gave us as a unit was the opportunity to go away and work on various skills, tactics that we knew was required in this World Cup. Previously it was in India, so you start thinking about what the conditions might be in India, and then when it shifts over to the UAE, you have an opportunity to be confident because these are conditions we’ve faced in recent times and been very successful, so that did add to the motivation and thinking.
“In terms of preparation, the lads have worked non-stop, whether it’s sitting at home and waiting for the pandemic to go pass or focusing on things they can control, working on the mentality of getting into big tournaments and having to win every single game — we’ve had great preparation. Probably there was frustration that there was no cricket for a long period of time, so when cricket does come, you must respect it, appreciate it, and go out and once again send a message to the rest of the world that we’ve got some really good players within this group, a unit that can do special things. It’s something we truly believe we can achieve in this tournament.”