Recent Match Report – New Zealand vs Scotland 1st T20I 2022

New Zealand 225 for 5 (Allen 101, Guptill 40) beat Scotland 157 for 8 (MacLeod 33, Greaves 31, Sodhi 4-28) by 68 runs

The Grange, nestled in leafy Stockbridge, Edinburgh, is a place of beauty. It is everything cricket should be. Intimate, homely and welcoming.

But on this Wednesday in late July, it felt like a place holding much darkness. Scottish cricket has reached, it hopes, its annus horribilis.

On the field Scotland took a thumping from New Zealand, who started the two-match series with a 68-run victory. That was largely thanks to a sublime Finn Allen hundred, his first professionally in this format.

Now Allen is a special talent, who will light up both international and franchise stages for years to come.

But former Scotland skipper Kyle Coetzer – speaking pre-match on the ICC’s live stream having recently retired from T20 cricket – came up with what was really the day’s only salient point: “Nobody should face racism in this sport, or any sport for that matter,” he said.

Except they have. For this was not just Scotland’s first T20I since last year’s World Cup; it was also their first outing since Monday’s publication of a damning independent report that highlighted institutional racism – 448 instances of it – and recommended Cricket Scotland be placed under special measures until at least October 2023.

Qasim Sheikh and Majid Haq both represented their country with distinction before being unceremoniously dropped for suggesting race was a factor in selection. The former when aged just 25, the latter during the 2015 World Cup, from which he was sent home.

Both spoke out about their experiences bravely, initiating and driving the review forward. Both were present at The Grange, willingly engaging with all who spoke to them in the hope of the one thing they really want; to make things better for those who come next.

“There was a bit of shock to see the outcome of the report,” Scotland head coach Shane Burger admitted afterwards. “I would like to see it investigated properly and to make sure things are in place to make sure it never happens again. Many other sports can not only learn from us, but can learn from what has happened in cricket within the last 12-months. We are really hoping that we can lead the way.

“I’m not here to judge what’s right or wrong or what has happened. I haven’t been privy to conversations that have happened in the past. All I know is we all need to get better, we all need to improve and we would like to do this together.”

Having heard Sheikh would be attending, Burger picked up the phone to extend a welcome. It was a call that Sheikh appreciated. “I just wanted to say thank you for coming to support us,” Burger explained. “Because that’s the only way we get better and heal from this. We want more fans to support the badge. I want to wear this badge with pride and I’m sure all the players do.”

Despite everything, both Sheikh and Haq willed Scotland on to victory. They witnessed skipper Richie Berrington inviting the opposition to set the target. And they almost witnessed his side set the tone: Allen might have fallen without scoring had Hamza Tahir held on to a sharp return chance in the opening over. It was, in fairness, very sharp.

And then Chris Sole’s first delivery should have seen off Martin Guptill in the second over. An overstep gave Guptill a reprieve. Two down for not many; what might have been.

For Allen and Sole, the remainder of the innings could not have been more contrasting. Allen was a force of measured brutality. He got up on his toes off Sole, punching him through cover, before clipping off those same toes wide of long on. With the powerplay done, Allen shuffled and hit Tahir into the hedges next to the sightscreen. Two balls later, he cleared them.

Now back to poor Sole. That no-ball cost 16 from the over and 40 all told, those runs made breezily by Guptill. He fell to Berrington with the score on 85.

Allen would then smash a further illegitimate delivery for a one-handed six. Again Allen’s hand and handle were parted, but Mark Watt was still driven straight. Three figures came in just 54 balls. “I’ve been working on my tempo a little bit for the last few months,” he said afterwards. “For it to come off was nice. It was good to put a performance on the board for New Zealand.”

Late cameos from Daryl Mitchell (23* from 13) and Jimmy Neesham, who crunched 30 off just 9 balls, took New Zealand to a daunting 225.

Sole finished with 1 for 72 from his allocation, bearing the brunt of the six hitting (and there were 14 all in). Safyaan Sharif, whom Mitchell tucked into at the death, also went at steady 12s. Spinners Watt and Chris Greaves on the other hand, conceded just 63 off their eight overs.

Scotland started serenely enough, if a little slow-paced. That meant that, despite reaching 62 without loss after eight, the required run rate was at 13.66. Even on a ground with such small dimensions, that would take some going.

Acceleration was required but implosion came; four wickets in 13 balls and victory chances snuffed. George Munsey went first, reverse sweeping Ish Sodhi to Michael Bracewell at deep point. That same over, Ollie Hairs took six off Sodhi before mistiming a slog sweep that spent so long in the air, local distilleries produced new Single Malts. Sodhi took the catch.

Calum Macleod quickly offered Mitchell Santner a caught and bowled, before Sodhi – who eventually matched the 4 for 28 he took against Australia in 2021 – bowled Berrington. Scotland had slipped to 73 for 4.

Although Greaves made a spirited 31 at a decent lick, the home crowd’s biggest late afternoon cheer came when Neesham misfielded in front of the Portaloos.

Otherwise, it was virtually silent. Perhaps some time for reflection. Much of that is needed.

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