Scotland’s win over England at the Grange was not just their first ever over the “Auld Enemy”. It was also the first time an Associate country had ever beaten a No. 1-ranked side, and predictably it has reignited a debate which continues to lurk around such encounters: whether or not more teams, specifically Associates, deserve to be included in the World Cup.
For a country like Scotland, the question has a double-edged sword. Yes, they want to keep hammering home the point with performances like that on Sunday to prove they belong. But the continued ignorance of global cricket administrators that results in the question constantly being asked can be exhausting.
It was a hot topic after Scotland’s win, but rather than dwell on their absence from next summer’s showpiece event, Scotland coach Grant Bradburn indicated that such victories aren’t introducing much into the debate that hasn’t already been said, considering his side has also beaten Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan in the last 13 months.
“It sends a message and now maybe confirms that there’s not only ten teams in the world that are reasonable cricket teams, but I think the world knew that looking at the way these guys played and the other Associate nations played in Zimbabwe [at the World Cup Qualifier],” Bradburn told ESPNcricinfo after Scotland’s six-run win. “There’s some fantastic Associate teams out there and hopefully today, if it helps the Associate cause then that’s fantastic.
“I don’t think it’ll be any surprise to a lot of teams that we’ve competed well enough to stay in the game long enough and we’ve actually found a way to win the game. I don’t think it will come as any surprise because those who watched [the qualifier] have seen this team progress and personally I feel that the team were just bubbling away for a performance like that for quite some time. We got the conditions today and all of our batsmen appreciate conditions like that.”
In past matches in which Associates have caused great upsets over Full Members, a constant theme has been that the underdog seized upon a good toss, bowler friendly conditions to skittle an unsuspecting opposition. Not so for Scotland. Their wins over Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in particular came on similarly flat batting tracks, where bowlers had to work hard for wickets while a stream of runs flowed.
Against England, just as impressive as Scotland’s record-breaking total of 371, the highest ever by an Associate country, was the way their bowlers defended it. After Jonny Bairstow’s 54-ball ton got England off to a rip-roaring start, Mark Watt and Alasdair Evans built the pressure that eventually sparked a collapse for England to fall from 220 for 2 in the 27th over to 365 all out.
“[Our batsmen] are all free-flowing shot-makers and they have the encouragement from us and they know their skills,” Bradburn said. “You put them on a good surface like that, it doesn’t really matter who is bowling and it happened to be the No. 1 team in the world. They’re a good team and it actually makes it sweeter that they played so well too.
“You mentioned Jonny Bairstow, but there’s a number of players in their order that played magnificent contributions. Moeen Ali, I didn’t think the game was in our pocket until that wicket. It was a key wicket for me. I think our guys have been brewing for awhile.”
Since the match, captain Kyle Coetzer has been inundated with messages from other players and captains across the Associate world, a typical example of the bond shared by players across emerging nations. Coetzer is mindful of the fact that when they perform the way they did Sunday, they are scoring a victory not just for themselves but enhancing the reputation of all other Associates by extension.
“Prior to the game various other Associate players were messaging their messages of support and good luck and then afterwards they came flooding in even more after the game,” Coetzer said during the pre-series press conference ahead of the two T20Is against Pakistan starting on Tuesday. “I think that just shows how supportive every Associate member is of each other. In actual fact there’s been plenty of members of the English team messaging well done and good luck for the future and that will show the development of the game.
“The messages of support and what’s come around from everyone, I think it’s been exceptional. We always want to support the Associate game but most importantly promote cricket as a special sport.
“Whatever we do is great for Cricket Scotland but it’s great for the Associate world and there’s another two opportunities to make more statements. We’ve had messages flooding in from all around the world. Yeah it’s going to do wonders for the game in Scotland but it’s going to do wonders for the Associate game. It’s going to do wonders for the world game.”
As for Calum MacLeod, Sunday’s Man of the Match after becoming the first Scotsman to score an ODI century against England, the win will go down as “one of the great days for Scottish cricket”. But he wants to make sure it’s not the end of the story.
“Hopefully we use it as a springboard to kick Scottish cricket on,” MacLeod said. “Hopefully it’s a clear message to everyone watching that Associate cricket is strong and Scottish cricket is strong.
“You just don’t know how it’s going to pan out. We’ve been crying out for more cricket and hopefully you always got the sense before that teams might add this game on. Now I hope it can be a catalyst that teams want to come and play us when they’re over in the UK and we can have more weeks and series like we do this week.”