Jake Perry, Cricket Scotland
Scotland followed up yesterday's victory against Papua New Guinea with an emphatic win over Oman in the fourth match of ICC Cricket World Cup League Two at Mannofield. Half-centuries from Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross and Craig Wallace and a five-wicket display from Hamza Tahir carried their side home by 85 runs as Oman suffered their first defeat of the competition.
In a tournament in which batting has proved tricky thus far, Scotland recalled Tom Sole to their line-up as one of the four spinners who joined Safyaan Sharif and Richie Berrington in the home eleven. Oman, playing their first match since their comfortable eight-wicket win over the hosts on Thursday, brought in Bilal Khan as well as slow left-armer Ajay Lalcheta, one of five spinners available to captain Zeeshan Maqsood in a team full of bowling options.
Maqsood's decision to put his opponents into bat was immediately rewarded with the prized wicket of Coetzer (0), caught behind off the final ball of the first over. Bilal Khan's celebrations showed just how important the breakthrough was, and with Lalcheta keeping a tight line and length at the other end, the innings had already reached a crucial moment.
As both teams looked for advantage, a fascinating duel developed between Bilal and new batsman Calum MacLeod. The Scot got off the mark with a languid drive through the covers for four before Bilal hit back, beating the bat with a ball that moved in to pass just over the top of off-stump. Bowling over the wicket with a nagging line, the left-armer constantly asked questions, and at the end of the seventh he finally got his man as MacLeod (8) edged to wicket-keeper Suraj Kumar. Scotland, at 17 for 2, were wobbling.
MacLeod's innings had featured his 2000th ODI run, and Matthew Cross soon reached a landmark of his own as a well-timed sweep for four brought him his 1000th. The wicketkeeper-batsman looked in determined mood as he alternated patience with aggression, playing out a maiden from Bilal before running hard for three off Aqib Ilyas in the next over. George Munsey (13) was unable to capitalise on his promising start, but the arrival of Richie Berrington gave Scotland the middle order partnership it needed as, from 38 for 3, the two began to rebuild the innings.
Rotating the strike as they looked to pick off the stray ball, Cross and Berrington used all their experience to bring their side back into the match. Having brought up the fifty in the 18th over, Berrington latched on to extra width from Khawar to crash the ball to the backward square boundary, while an even bigger hit saw the ball sail out of the ground to bring up Scotland's hundred. Cross, meanwhile, who again showed his cool temperament as well as his class, quietly continued to accumulate his runs, and a nudge for one brought up his fourth ODI half-century in the 29th over. Off 87 balls, with two boundaries, its value to Scotland was priceless.
Oman was searching for a breakthrough, and with the score on 127 for 3 in the 36th, it came twice over by way of Lalcheta. The thirty-five-year-old's excellent control had already proved troublesome, and after conceding two to Cross (59) off the first ball of his sixth over, he bowled him with one that kept low off the second. Michael Leask (0) immediately followed, but Craig Wallace both survived and settled as he joined Berrington to take the total past 150.
Berrington's influence has long been a cornerstone of Scotland's batting line-up, and the Clydesdale all-rounder brought up a fine half-century – his twelfth in ODIs - in the 39th before launching Lalcheta over the rope for his second six of the innings. Although he then perished to a catch by Fayyaz Butt at long-on, Wallace (53*) picked up the mantle in terrific style, clearing the square leg boundary to reach his own fifty in the final over. From 127 for 5 in the 36th over, Scotland's third half-centurion of the innings had steered his team to a highly competitive total.
Oman's win on Thursday had demonstrated their ability to manage a chase, however, and despite the early loss of Khawar Ali (5), trapped in front by Safyaan Sharif, Jatinder Singh and Aqib Ilyas showed little concern as they began to whittle away at the deficit. Ilyas found the boundary with a cut through backward point then a lofted drive over cover, and although Jatinder narrowly avoided being stumped off Hamza Tahir, with fifty up and the target falling steadily, Oman looked to be in control of the match once again. Scotland, though, had other ideas.
With the score on 65 for 1, Tahir found the edge of Jatinder's bat while Mark Watt (1 for 13) induced a nick to slip off Zeeshan Maqsood. With Lalcheta (6) popping up a return catch to Tom Sole (1 for 22), Ilyas (45) caught by Leask and Suraj Kumar (1) offering a third catch in the slips to Calum MacLeod, Oman had suddenly lost five for 18.
Tahir claimed his fourth wicket in the 31st as Aamir Kaleem (13) edged into the hands of MacLeod once more. Khurram Nawaz (9) and Sandeep Goud offered resistance, but two in two balls from Sharif (3 for 23) re-imposed Scotland's control. Goud (32) indulged in some late hitting, but in holing out to Tom Sole, Tahir claimed his fifth wicket of the innings as Oman was dismissed for 138.
With 5 for 38 to add to his 4 for 37 against Papua New Guinea, it has been a memorable introduction to ODI cricket for the twenty-three-year-old Tahir. Scotland's second win has ensured an equally striking start to the ICC's new competition, too, as two of the teams likely to be jousting for ultimate victory in 2022 end their head-to-head all square after Round One.