Scotland v England – ODI Preview

Scotland get a rare opportunity to face up to the auld enemy on Sunday, when Eoin Morgan’s England side venture north of Hadrian’s wall for a one-off ODI at the historic Grange ground in Edinburgh.

Above: the picturesque pavilion at Edinburgh’s Grange Cricket Club.

Despite being close neighbours, encounters between the two are as rare as a wild haggis sighting. England have visited Scotland on three occasions only since the sides first played against each other in 2008, with two wins for England and a rain-affected no result the outcomes. Their last encounter was in the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2015, where defeating the Scots was one of England’s few bright spots in an otherwise disastrous tournament

It is a shame that England have not treated their fellow UK countrymen with more respect by playing them with more frequency,  but it is a situation that is unlikely to improve, with Scotland having missed out on participating in the inaugural 13-team ODI Championship, and with the ICC’s disgraceful decision to limit the World Cup to only ten teams, opportunities for Scotland against the top sides are going to be difficult to come by.

That is unfortunate as it comes at a time when the game north of the border is going from strength to strength. It is a little over twelve months ago since Scotland recorded their first win over a Full member side, beating Zimbabwe, and they followed that up with a win over Afghanistan and a tie with Zimbabwe in the 2019 Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament earlier this year. Scotland only narrowly missed out on qualification having fallen at the last hurdle against Ireland and West Indies – thanks in no small part to two appalling LBW decisions by Australian umpire Paul “Blocker” Wilson. Scotland will be happy to learn that Wilson is nowhere near Edinburgh this week, with local umpire Alan Haggo and South Africa’s Marais Erasmus taking charge.

Despite Scotland’s recent form, England will still be strong favourites – they are the number one ranked ODI side in the world, and are coming off series wins over New Zealand, Australia and West Indies in the last year since losing to eventual champions Pakistan in the semi final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. England will use the game as a warm-up for the visit of Australia for a five game ODI series that starts later this week, but have still sent a strong squad north of the border. All rounders Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes are injured, and regular keeper Jos Buttler is rested ahead of the Australia encounters -but other than that England look formidable opponents for the Saltires.

So with Scotland chasing a first ever win over England, there are also a couple of personal milestones to keep a watch for:

Kyle Coetzer (Scotland)

The Saltires’ skipper is already his country’s leading ODI run scorer, with 1911 runs to his name. An opening batsman, he will play his 50th ODI on Sunday and needs just 89 runs on a pitch renowned for being bat-friendly to become the first Scot to notch up 2,000 runs.

Eoin Morgan (England)

For his part, England’s skipper needs 130 runs to overtake Ian Bell as England’s all time leading ODI run scorer.

2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier

The Road to Lord’s in 2019 swings through southern Africa this week, when the 2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament gets underway in Zimbabwe on Sunday morning. Ten countries, four Test nations and six Associates, will do battle for the right to participate in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.

For many cricket fans, the tournament is a bittersweet one.  A festival of cricket such as this should fill the heart with joy, being that a bounty of 50-over cricket is coming our way over the next three weeks. Yet, it is tainted by controversy, and not a little sadness, from the outset due to the machinations of the sport’s “governing” body, the ICC.

Whilst every other sport in the world is looking to expand and develop interest in more markets, the ICC have infamously decided to head in the opposite direction, driven by greed and TV ratings rather than any genuine love of the sport. Instead of expanding the game’s showcase global event to include more Associate nations, the ICC has decided to all but deny them entry to it at all.

The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup has been slashed to feature just ten teams, down from 14 in the 2011 & 2015 tournaments, and 16 in the 2007 edition. Eight teams have already been guaranteed a place in England next year, leaving the four lowest ranked Full Members and the Associates to scrap for just two remaining qualifying berths. So, for the first time at least two Full Members will not be participating in the World Cup, and it is entirely feasible that no Associate nation will make it all.

That is a crying shame, for the Associates have long been starved of quality opposition against the stronger nations, and the CWC has for many years been the one event where they were afforded that opportunity. That it is taken from them at a time when Associate level cricket is going from strength to strength makes the decision all the more baffling and shameful.

The ICC has granted the two leading Associates of recent years, Ireland and Afghanistan, Full Member status this year, the game is hugely popular in Nepal, whilst Scotland and the Netherlands to name just two have been putting some solid results together on the field and making significant strides to develop infrastructure off it. The time was ripe to really drive growth in these countries, yet all of them could well be looking on from the outside come next year while the bigger teams play a ludicrous 48 games between them over six weeks!

The ICC has also baffling decided not to grant ODI status to two of the teams participating in this month’s tournament, Nepal and the Netherlands, so games featuring those two nations will carry less weight statistically for the teams and their players. Why not simply grant the same ODI status to all games in the tournament, what harm would have ensued? Couple with the again strange decision to not televise or even stream the vast majority of the games, and you start to get the distinct impression that the ICC would prefer that the whole thing wasn’t happening at all!

Ignoring all of that (and I’ll leave my ranting there!) the tournament promises to be an exciting one, with every game counting, some big names of the sport appearing, and the small matter of the ultimate prizes of ICC Cricket World Cup qualification and ODI status at the end.

The format of the tournament is short and sweet compared to the main event it precedes, taking place over just three weeks with as many as four games taking place simultaneously on some days.

The ten teams are divided into two groups of five, each playing the other teams in their group once. The top three sides from each group qualify for the second stage, known as the Super Six. Here, teams’ results against their fellow qualifiers from their group are carried forward from the first round, and the teams play the qualifiers from the other group once each. At the end of this second group, the top two sides qualify for the final and, more importantly, for the 2019 World Cup.

The bottom two sides from each of the two initial groups face play-offs against each other to determine who finishes in seventh to tenth places – these games being of vital importance as the ICC is due to grant ODI status to the top three finishing Associates (plus the Netherlands) for the next four years after the tournament finishes.

So each nation is guaranteed a minimum of six games each, rising to seven for those that qualify for the Super Six, and eight for the finalists.

I preview each group below, as well as marking your cards for some upcoming personal milestones that may be reached as the tournament progresses!

Group A

Group A matches are to be played in the capital Harare, at the Harare Sports Club and the Old Hararians club.

 

West Indies

The Windies arrive at the tournament as one of the joint favourites, being as they are a Full member and with the best pedigree of all ten participating nations. That a twice-World Cup winning side (and current T20 world champion) finds itself needing to qualify at all is a result of some terrible ODI form in the last few years and an impasse with key players that has seen some of the Caribbean’s best cricketers overlooked or self-exiled from selection. They failed to qualify for last year’s Champions Trophy in England, and will be desperate not to miss out in the same country again next year.

They are buoyed for this tournament by the return of several big names to the fold, including self-styled “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and quick bowler Kemar Roach.

Some personal milestones to look out for the Windies:

Kemar Roach – Fast bowler Roach needs just one wicket to bring up 100 in ODIs

Jason Holder – the skipper needs nine more wickets to bring up his century in the format.

Marlon Samuels – if the West indies progress all the way to the final, and Samuels plays all eight games along the way, he will move on to 200 ODI appearances.

Ireland

As a then Associate nation, Ireland qualified for the last three World Cups going back to 2007, famously inflicting some of the biggest upsets the tournament has ever seen in the process – beating Pakistan in 2007 and England in 2011. Now a newly-installed Full Member, and with a first Test match taking place in May, the men in green will be highly driven to keep their fine record going and qualify for the big show in neighbouring England.

Recent results have not been as strong, and with an ageing (although highly experienced) squad, one senses qualification may be a battle, but they certainly will not give up on that coveted spot without a fight.

A few key personal marks to watch out for:

Kevin O’Brien – the hero of that famous win against England in 2011 needs just 88 runs to bring up 3,000 in ODIS for Ireland

Niall O’Brien – Kevin’s brother Niall will notch up 100 appearances in ODIs if Ireland qualify for the Super Six, he plays in all games, and Nepal don’t qualify for the Super Six from Group B (because Netherlands and Nepal don’t have ODI status.)

The Netherlands

By virtue of winning the World Cricket League Championship in 2017, the Netherlands have been granted ODI status, commencing after this tournament, and will also participate in the inaugural ICC ODI league alongside the 12 Full members when it kicks off in 2020, guaranteeing them regular games against higher ranked sides.

So exciting times lie ahead for the Dutch, regardless of what happens in Zimbabwe, but nonetheless they will be keen to qualify for the World Cup for the fifth time and first since 2011.

Their squad has been bolstered by the return of several plays playing top-class cricket overseas such as captain Peter Borren, Essex’s County Championship winning captain Ryan ten Doeschate and Roloef van der Merwe.

Papua New Guinea

The Barramundis will be looking to qualify for their first major tournament. A more realistic target might be to hold on to their ODI status by finishing as one of the top 3 associate nations. Form against fellow associates has not been strong of late finishing fourth in the WCL in 2017, being on the wrong side of a bilateral series defeat to Scotland, as well as losing both warm ups in Zimbabwe over the last week, so they will look to improve in the next three weeks.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE secured their spot in the Qualifier by winning the recent WCL Division 2 tournament in Namibia, beating fellow qualifier Nepal in the final. Their main aim in this tournament will be to keep hold of their current ODI status for another four years.

One personal milestone that may be realised comes in the form of Shaiman Anwar, who needs 182 runs to become the first UAE player to notch up 1,000 ODI runs.

Group B

Group B matches take place at in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo at the Queens Sports Club and the Bulawayo Athletic Club.

Zimbabwe

Being a Full member and with the benefit of home advantage, the Zimbabweans will be one of the teams favoured by some to take a coveted qualifying spot for England. Graeme Cremer’s men have had a mixed time of late – winning a bilateral series in Sri Lanka in 2017 but losing against Afghanistan and failing to make it to the final of the Bangladesh tri-series also featuring Sri Lanka.

Their ranks have been bolstered this year by the return from Kolpak stints in England of star keeper-batsman Brendan Taylor and quick bowler Kyle Jarvis, and they will hope that experience and the improved form of Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza will be enough to get them to the final.

A few personal marks that are in play in the tournament:

Sean Williams – recalled to the squad for the tournament, batting all rounder Williams needs just 53 runs to bring up 3,000 in ODIs

Craig Ervine – batsman Ervine needs just nine runs to notch up 2,000.

Hamilton Masakadza – the big opener needs just three ODI appearances to move from sixth place in his country’s appearance list to fourth, passing Alistair Campbell and coach Heath Streak in the process

Afghanistan

It is a sign of their remarkable progress over recent years that Afghanistan are likely favourites for the tournament, having also attained Full Member status in 2017 and looking forward to a maiden Test against India in June.

They have had mixed form in fairness, winning an ODI series against Zimbabwe and drawing in the West Indies in the last 12 months, alongside a series defeat to Ireland in the UAE in late 2017. But they are buoyed by the presence of a phalanx of young and hugely impressive spin bowlers that are more than a match for anyone on their day, especially in Zimbabwe’s likely spin-friendly conditions.

Keep a special eye on the mercurial Rashid Khan

Afghanistan’s vice-captain will, at just 19 years of age, likely become the youngest captain in international cricket history when he deputises for usual skipper Ashgar Stanizkai (out with appendicitis) in the opener against Scotland. Nothing should surprise anyone from Khan, who sits proudly atop the ICC’s ODI and T20I bowler rankings and is courted by franchises the world over, such has been his meteoric rise over the last two years.

Khan also needs just 14 wickets to bring up 100 in ODIs – few would bet against him getting them.

Mohammad Nabi and Dawlat Zadran – fellow bowlers Nabi and Dawlat need 5 and 10 wickets respectively to bring up their 100s too.

Scotland

In the last 12 months, Scotland notched up a bilateral ODI victory over a Full member for the first time, beating Group B rival Zimbabwe in Edinburgh in June 2017. That result and coming second in the WCL to the Netherlands will fill them with confidence that they can at least qualify for the Super Six stage of this tournament – but having appeared in three of the last five ICC world cups, they will be hoping for more.

Kyle Coetzer – already his country’s highest ever ODI-scoring batsman, skipper Coetzer will be looking to add the 277 runs he needs to bring up 2000 for Scotland in ODIs.

Hong Kong

Deprived of top players not available for this tournament, such as JJ Atkinson and Mark Chapman, the latter having opted to now play for New Zealand, Hong Kong’s chief aim will be to emerge with their ODI status intact so they can continue to progress at the highest associate level.

Nepal

One of the fastest upcoming nations in Associate cricket, Nepal secured their berth at this qualifier by finishing second in the WCL Division 2 tournament in Namibia earlier this year.  With huge support at home in the Himalayan nation, obtaining ODI status will be their main goal from this tournament, and with superstar Sandeep Lamichhane, recently awarded an IPL contract, in their ranks few would bet against them causing an upset or two.

Scotland v Zimbabwe – ODI Series Review

The biggest story to come from the recently completed One Day International series between Scotland and Zimbabwe was undoubtedly Scotland’s historic win in the first game – the first time they have beaten one of cricket’s Full Member nations in an official ODI.

Coming on the back of a recent hammering of a full-strength Sri Lanka in Kent in an unofficial ODI in May, the result represents a significant milestone for Scottish cricket, and points to a bright future for Kyle Coetzer’s men.

Scotland then lost the second game in the series heavily – as they had also done against Sri Lanka – with Graeme Cremer’s Zimbabweans bouncing back extremely well to level the series 1-1, and save some pride.

We previewed the series here – so let’s now take a look at some notable statistical milestones achieved:

Kyle Coetzer

Scotland’s captain is in tremendous form and racked up his fourth ODI century with his match-winning 109 in the first game. He scored 170 runs in the series overall – further extending his lead as Scotland’s highest ODI run scorer.

Con de Lange

Spinner de Lange took a mightily impressive 5 for 60 for the Scots in the opening game, destroying any chance Zimbabwe had of reaching their Duckworth Lewis reduced target. These are his best bowling figures for his country, and he becomes just the fifth Scottish bowler to take a five-for in an ODI.

Matt Cross

Scottish keeper-batsman Cross snaffled three catches in the series behind the stumps, taking him to a career tally of 50.

Graeme Cremer

Zimbabwe’s captain rallied his troops brilliantly for the second game, with his 5-for-29 leading his side to a series-equaling victory.

This was Cremer’s third five-for in ODIs for his country – he now has more Michelles than any other Zimbabwean bowler.

His six wickets in the series also took him to a career tally of 90. This has seen him move up two places in the all time wicket-takers list for his country, surpassing both Chris Mpofu’s 85 in seventh, and Guy Whittal’s 88 in sixth place. A pretty good day at the office all round for Mr Cremer!

Malcolm Waller

Waller’s belligerent 92 in the first game had the Scots quaking in their boots as he looked to lead an unlikely chase. He didn’t quite take the Zimbabweans to the win, but he did move past a career milestone of 1000 runs in the process, now sitting on 1056.

Scotland v Zimbabwe – ODI Series June 2017

The joy of following international cricket for me is not limited to the glare of publicity, TV & radio coverage, and endless column inches that are lavished on countless matches between the leading ICC full members. I love watching the associates do battle too and, always a fan of the underdog, where there is a chance for an associate to give a full member a bloody nose or two, my interest piques even more!

This week is one such chance as Scotland take on Zimbabwe in a two-game ODI series at The Grange in Edinburgh, with matches scheduled for both Thursday 15th June and Saturday 17th June. It is a rare bilateral series for the Scots against a Test-playing nation, and they’ll be looking to cause something of an upset.

Scotland enter the series with their form very much mixed. Just under a month ago they stunned a full-strength Sri Lanka by hammering them by seven wickets in a practice match at Beckenham in Kent. Unfortunately for the Scots, the match did not carry official ODI status as the ground was not deemed up to ICC standards, but that doesn’t take away from the magnitude of the achievement.

Sadly, they followed up that win with a nine-wicket loss to the Lankans in the second game of the series, and earlier this week suffered a shock home defeat to Namibia – a team that doesn’t currently have ODI status. Can they recapture the form of that first game in Kent? If they can, then Zimbabwe have every reason to be nervous.

For their part, the Africans have not played an ODI since February, when they played another associate nation, Afghanistan, in a five game series in Harare, losing 4-1. They are using this series as a warm up to their tour of Sri Lanka later in the year, and will definitely be keen to get back to winning ways.

So, much to play for, but also keep a look out for the following personal milestones that players from both sides will be aiming for:

Scotland

Preston Mommsen

The former captain recently came out of international retirement and was back in the team that lost to Namibia earlier this week. He currently has 1101 ODI runs for the Scots, enough to hold down third place in the all-time scorers’ list for his country. He’ll be looking for 131 more to surpass former England/Scotland dual international Gavin Hamilton in second spot. The man who replaced Mommsen as captain, Kyle Coetzer, is in first place.

Josh Davey

Somerset spinner Davey is only available for the second game in the series, but he’ll be aiming for 4 wickets in that game to take him to 50 in the 50-over format.

Matt Cross

Keeper and opening batsman (and MCC Young Cricketer) Matt Cross has taken 47 catches in ODIs for Scotland, so just three more will notch up a half-century of grabs.

 

Zimbabwe

Chris Mpofu

Quick bowler Mpofu currently has 85 ODI wickets in his 76 appearances for Zimbabwe, a tally which sees him sit in seventh place in his country’s wicket takers list. Three more will see him overtake all-rounder Guy Whittall who took 88 wickets in his 147 games as part of Zimbabwe’s succesfull team of the late 1990s.

Graeme Cremer

Hot on the heels of both Chris and Guy is current skipper, spin bowler Graeme Cremer, who has 84 wickets in ODIs.

Malcolm Waller

Batsman Waller needs 36 runs to bring up 1000 in ODIs