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Match Report
Derek Scott

At last, a win on Scottish soil for the first time since the three-day match at Ayr in 1974. Scotland, with the last pair together, needed 19 runs in two overs. The first five balls of the second last over yielded 15 runs but the number 11 was run out on the last ball of this over. He was backing up too far when a ball was driven by the striker, who had just hit two sixes off the previous two balls. The three run margin of victory was only once narrower (two run win against MCC in 1954). By coincidence it was the same margin as that by which Scotland beat Ireland in Rathmines in 1912.

On a poor pitch, particularly at one end, Ireland did not bat well in either innings and left Scotland 135 to win in 39 overs. They really should have won but McCoubrey produced a great opening spell reducing Scotland to 34 for 4 and this became 116 for 9 with two overs to go. If Wright, the Scottish captain, batting with a broken finger, could have got a single off the last ball of the second last over, and thereby got the strike, the Scottish would surely have won. Previously Scotland and Holland had played a rain ruined draw in Holland. Ireland, now with 30 points to Holland's 5, will surely qualify for the final stages of the Intercontinental Cup in Namibia in October, regardless of the result v Holland at Stormont in eight days time.

Ireland selected a panel of 12 - Molins (Captain), Botha, Bray, Gillespie, Johnston, D Joyce; McCallan, McCoubrey, P Mooney; Morgan, Thompson and Wilson (W-K). Molins (injured); Thompson; Wilson and McCoubrey had not played in the ICC Trophy Final against Scotland, and E Joyce and White were now required by their counties. Cooke had been dropped. Then Johnston (work) and Morgan (required by Middlesex) cried off to be replaced by C Armstrong and R Whelan (who was uncapped). The latter was the one left out of the 12. Armstrong and Wilson made their first class debut. Scotland had two injuries - Lockhart and Stanger. They had Hoffmann, Watts, Watson, English, Smith, Maiden and Wright who had played in the ICC Trophy Final. They introduced Sean Weeraratna, an 18 year-old medium paced bowler for his first cap.

Ireland had present two of the victorious team at Ayr in 1974, JSL Mitchell, now President of the ICU and R Torrens, now the team manager. The latter had taken seven wickets in the first innings in 1974. The last Irish match in Aberdeen was a defeat in 1930.

The pitch was hard and dry but a little green. It quickly was shown that one end had a ridge and the bounce was inconsistent and, at times, dangerous. Rain during the night and morning prevented any play until 3.15 p.m. on the first day and it was decided to play until 7.30 p.m. The first innings of both sides was, by rule, restricted to 90 overs.

Scotland won the toss and sent Ireland in. Hoffmann's third ball accounted for Molins. There was no foot movement as the ball left him and he "hung out his bat to dry" to be caught at the wicket. 0-1-0. Wright bowled the second over. Bray took a single off the first ball and Botha was out to the second. He drove at it to be caught in the gully, low down, by Weeraratna. 1-2-0. The pitch was very difficult but Bray got a four in Wright's second over and Joyce's first score was a straight four in Hoffmann's third over. There were not many scoring shots after that. The first change brought on medium paced Nel for over 12 (in place of Wright) with the score at 26. Bray clipped Nel off his toes for a four to mid-wicket but scoring was slow. After 16 overs the score was 40 when Wright came back to replace Hoffmann (eight overs for 13).

Joyce hit a four in over 18, as did Bray in over 19. Then Wright took wickets with successive balls in over 20. Bray was lbw to a ball that cut back, but it might have missed leg stump as it hit his front pad. 48-3-29. Then, next ball, Gillespie lunged at a ball that moved away to be caught at the wicket. 48-4-0. Worse followed in Wright's next over. Armstrong seemed to check his stroke and was caught at wide mid-off. 52-5-0. Four of the first six had failed to score. McCallan stopped the collapse, but so very nearly did not. The youthful Weeraratna replaced Nel for over 26. His second ball saw Maiden drop McCallan at gully. McCallan was one and the score was 56. Both batsmen then hit good fours. Hoffmann bowled two overs before tea - both maidens. Tea came at 5.15, after two hours play, with the score at 68-5 in 31 overs.

The same pair bowled after tea and in his fifth over Weeraratna gained consolation for the dropped catch. He had Joyce caught low at first slip while attempting to drive. Joyce's 31 from 89 balls had held the innings together. 72-6-31. Mooney came in and played watchfully in a long stand with McCallan. In 18 overs they put on 46 much needed runs. Hoffman continued with a seven/two field, his only leg side fielders being at mid-wicket and long-leg. Fours came in four successive overs, two to each batsman. In over 42 McCallan gave Watts a hard chance at cover off Hoffmann. McCallan, two balls later, hit a lovely four to wide extra-cover to bring up 100. English and Wright were tried and then, in overs 48 and 49, the off spinners Watson and Maiden came on. In his third over Watson had McCallan caught at short-leg off a fairly innocent ball that McCallan just pushed at. 118-7-32. In Maiden's next over Mooney shouldered arms and was lbw. This was foolish as the ball was turning, if slowly. 122-8-20.

Thompson came next but lost Wilson, batting for Ireland for the first time, in Watson's sixth over. He pushed out and snicked to the only slip. 128-9-9. McCoubrey came in and defended while Thompson, rightly, launched an attack. He took 11 in Maiden's sixth over which brought Wright back. Thompson hit Wright off his toes for his third four and by close of play (63 overs) was 24 not out while McCoubrey had got a single off 17 balls. The score was 153 for 9 with the last pair adding 25 to date.

The last pair resumed at 10.30 on the second morning, which was still overcast. They lasted another eight overs and advanced the score by 19. McCoubrey got seven of these while Thompson got a further 11. In all this most invaluable stand added 44 in 78 balls and probably, in the ultimate, was the biggest factor in Ireland's win. Two chances went down, both offered by Thompson. The first was to long-leg off Nel at 161 and the second a caught and bowled chance to Wright at 170. After 25 minutes play Thompson was lbw to Hoffmann, the first ball of his fourth over of the day. Thompson's batting form was a revelation. In 2004 his two innings were both not out. Now he made 35 in 55 balls, by far the fastest scoring rate of the innings. He hit three fours and showed a wide range of shots. Scotland used no less than seven bowlers with seamers Hoffmann and Wright bowling 36 of the 70 overs bowled. Wright took 4 for 38 in 17 overs and the next best was off spinner Maiden's two for 11 in eight overs. Overall, and despite the pitch, it was a poor Irish display redeemed only by Thompson and McCoubrey, with the former the top scorer of the innings.

Scotland's reply went in fits and starts. A wicket fell at 12 but at one time the score was 116 for two, then 122 for five. For the sixth wicket there was a stand of 70 but Scotland did not use their 90 overs. They declared at 234 for 9 in 82.3 overs - a lead of 62. This was to allow an hour's bowling at Ireland before close of play.

Watts and Knox scored 12 in five overs from McCoubrey and Mooney, before Watts was caught at mid-on off Mooney. 12-1-8. Macrae joined Knox. Maidens were bowled as well as the usual McCoubrey No-Balls. Botha came on for over 13 and McCallan for over 16. Macrae hit both bowlers for fours and 50 was up in over 18. Thompson was given four overs before lunch by which point McCallan had bowled seven overs for 19 runs.

The lunch score was 83 for 1, Knox 38 and Macrae 30. McCoubrey replaced McCallan for the first over after lunch. The second ball was mispulled by Knox to mid-on. 84-2-38. Watson was number four and he and Macrae put on 32 runs in 11 overs and got quite a few fours through a vacant third man position. Botha and Thompson bowled most of these overs, McCoubrey only bowling two overs in this spell after lunch. 100 was up in over 35 but by over 40 it had only advanced to 116. With the last ball of this 40th over Thompson bowled Watson around his legs as he attempted to sweep. 116-3-15. By over 45 the score was only 122 but two more wickets had fallen. At 117 Botha appealed for lbw against Smith. The latter stood out of his ground awaiting a decision (it was "not out") and Gillespie at short-leg threw down the wicket. 117-4-0. English then joined Macrae. At 122 Botha did get an lbw decision. Macrae was out for 44.

English and his captain, Wright, then had a 70 run stand in 26 overs. Right through this part of the innings Scotland scored slowly, the ultimate innings rate being only 2.8 runs per over. From over 40 to 50 only 19 runs were scored, 33 from over 50 to 60, 22 from 60 to 70 and 32 from 70 to 80. Perhaps Scotland were guarding against being bowled out quickly after being 122 for 5 in half the overs allowed. During the English/Wright stand Ireland had initially Botha and Thompson (one for 38 in 16 overs) to bowl, then McCoubrey and McCallan (a spell at both ends) and finally Mooney who bowled the 63rd over, not having bowled since his seven overs at the start. Scotland took the lead in over 61 and went to tea (67 overs) at 183 for five, Wright 20, English 36.

As at lunch the interval took a wicket. McCallan was in a long stint but it was Mooney, in his 12th over, who took the wicket. Wright was caught at the wicket attempting to cut. 192-6-24. With Maiden in 200 was up in over 75 with a flicked four to long leg by English which brought him to 50 in 106 balls and a very high percentage of eight fours. The first ball of the next over Maiden was lbw to McCallan on the front foot. 203-7-1. Hoffmann, a dangerous hitter as had been seen in the ICC Trophy Final, was next. In over 78, when 6, at 212, Hoffmann was dropped at deep mid-wicket by Thompson off McCallan - not an easy catch. In over 79 McCoubrey took the new ball accompanied by Botha. English took two fours off it and Hoffmann one, as both bowlers bowled without a slip. Then, in over 82, Botha knocked back English's off stump. 234-8-66. He faced 128 balls with 10 fours and was the mainstay of the Scottish innings. One more wicket fell before the declaration. Hoffmann hoisted a high catch to Mooney off McCoubrey. 234-9-12. Strangely Nel was allowed to come in for two Scottish balls before, at 5.50, Scotland declared at 234 for nine in 82.3 overs - a lead of 62. The five Irish bowlers all did well and none were expensive. Mooney, two for 26 in 15 overs, had the best figures. Next was Botha's two for 43 in 16 overs.

Ireland went in again at 6.00 with 18 overs to face and a deficit of 62. Wright, Scotland's captain, was off with a broken finger. Hoffmann and Nel bowled and again there was a bad start, both openers were out before the close for 46 runs. Bray was first out, to Nel in the sixth over. He played a poor shot with no foot movement and was caught by the substitute, Brand, at cover at the second attempt, having to turn and dive. 10-1-1. Botha came in and was quiet until after the ninth over, by which time the score was 17. Botha gave short leg a chance in over 12. He hit short leg who could not grasp the ball. Then Botha hit Nel for three fours in two overs and Molins hit Weeraratna (on for Hoffmann) for a four. Watson came on with his off spin and from the first ball of his third over (the last of the day) got Molins. He reached for a wide ball which he did not have to play and was caught at slip. 46-2-18. This ended play for the day with Botha on 21.

On the third morning Ireland were still 16 runs in arrears, with two out. Smith, Scotland's wicket-keeper, is a policeman and he had to attend court to give evidence. Maiden kept wicket for 10 overs until Smith returned. Joyce came in with Botha on a warmer day but rain was in the air. Joyce hit the third ball for four through mid-off to bring up 50. The fields were attacking ones but Botha took 10 off a Watson over and Joyce took eight off Watson in over 26.

Smith returned after 10 overs and Maiden took over bowling from Watson. It was Hoffmann who took the third wicket in over 31. Botha pushed to short-leg, Watts. It lobbed over him but he turned, dived and took the catch two handed. 96-3-46. Botha faced 75 balls and hit six fours and looked as it he was about to play a long innings. With Gillespie in rain came on four overs after Botha's dismissal with the score at 106. 135 minutes were lost and the overs to be bowled were reduced to 90 and lunch was taken in the break.

Joyce and Gillespie resumed quietly to Wright (who had resumed) and Watson until Joyce took 10 off a Wright over (the 43rd). Next over Gillespie was out to a shot of poor judgment. He pulled a Watson long hop straight to deep square leg who did not have to move to take it. 131-4-16. Armstrong came next. He saw Joyce go to 50 in over 49 off what was a possible caught and bowled chance to Weeraratna. Joyce was now 51 out of 147 off 115 balls. Armstrong, after four scoring shorts from 14 balls, tried to turn a straight ball from Watson to leg and was lbw. 159-5-12. Seven runs later Joyce's very fine innings came to an end. He, too, was lbw in Nel's second over, he having replaced Weeraratna. 167-6-61. Joyce hit six fours in his 129 ball innings. He had played very well and it was his 10th fifty in 52 innings.

Ireland were now only 105 runs ahead with six out and needed somebody to stay. It did not happen. The last four wickets fell for 29 runs. Nel took the first of these when McCallan lunged at him and was caught at second slip. 174-7-10. The last three wickets fell to Maiden. Mooney was caught at leg slip at 182. Wilson hit Maiden for a six over mid-wicket and was caught at short-leg pushing at the next ball. 189-9-9. Six over later Thompson tried to sweep and became the third lbw victim of the innings. Scotland's two off spinners took six for 88 between them in 30 overs of 75 bowled.

The overs were recalculated (there had been an error) and Scotland's target, when they went in at 4.20, was 135 in 39 overs or a finishing time of 7.45, whichever was the later. Watts and Knox faced one over before tea (a strange arrangement). Botha bowled it. Knox square drove a four and next ball skied a hook just out of reach of short-leg running back. So five for no wicket at tea. At this point, Ireland having batted poorly twice, it did look like another Scottish win in a "crunch" match. Adrian Birrell, Ireland's coach, took a different view and predicted an Irish win, led by the fast bowlers on a difficult pitch.

McCoubrey replaced Botha and in seven overs took four wickets for 15 and blew away the top of the Scottish batting order. Knox and English then had a stand which ended at 69. The only other alarm for Ireland, and the only time Birrell doubted his prediction, was when Wright hit McCallan for two sixes in the second last over, with nine wickets down, and thereby reduced a margin of 19 (with two overs to go) to four with seven balls to go.

Watts was the first to go in McCoubrey's second over. He hooked high to Mooney running in from long leg. 11-1-2. In his next over McCoubrey removed Macrae's middle stump. 15-2-0. Watson departed in McCoubrey's fifth over. He, too, hooked very high but only to McCallan at short square-leg. 28-3-7. McCoubrey's last wicket was Smith in his seventh over. He was caught at the wicket by Wilson. 34-4-3. Smith had previously been given out caught at the wicket but after consultation between the Umpires the decision was reversed.

English now joined Knox in the 15th over. In over 18 Knox was nearly run out, trying to regain his ground as the striker. McCoubrey went off with figures 8-2-17-4 and Botha replaced him. Mooney bowled 10 overs for 20 and McCallan came on at 53 for the 22nd over. English pulled his first ball for four. Another four followed in over 23 by Knox off Botha. The last hour started (minimum 15 overs) after 24 overs at 63 for 4. In over 27 Botha took the fifth and sixth wickets in successive balls. Knox was caught by Molins at first slip and the dangerous Hoffmann was caught high at mid-off by McCoubrey. 69 for 6.

Maiden snicked the hat trick ball high to third man for two. Three overs later the seventh wicket fell. English pulled McCallan to deep mid wicket where Thompson brought off a good catch. 78-7-22. Wright, with his broken finger, now came in at number nine to join Maiden. 57 runs were needed in 56 balls. Nine came from the 32nd over (McCallan). Over 34 was dramatic. Wright hit McCallan's second ball to square leg for two. An attempt at a run out converted this into six from a boundary overthrow to the bowler's end. This brought up 101. However, two balls later Maiden tried to cut a ball on his stumps from McCallan and was bowled. 102-8-17. Weeraratna joined his captain with 33 needed in 32 balls. Two came from Botha's next over.

The question was should McCallan be left on or should McCoubrey or Mooney return. McCallan continued and the 36th over gave up eight. Three overs left, 22 needed. Weeraratna got three off the first five balls of Botha's next over and was run out as the non-striker off the last ball. Weeraratna ran on a ball just wide of the wicket keeper. He was sent back, rightly, by his captain but could not beat Wilson's throw to Botha. Number 11 was Nel who had to face the first ball of the second last over with 19 required. McCallan still bowled.

The first two balls were "dots". Then Nel square drove a three, leaving Wright to face. The next two balls went over long-on for six each. All seemed lost for Ireland and even Birrell was now worried. Obviously if Wright could get a single off the last ball of this over and get the strike with only three needed, Scotland would probably win. McCallan's last ball proved to be the last ball of the match. He bowled a yorker to Wright who could only hit it straight back. Nel took off too soon and McCallan had only to turn round to run him out. Wright, broken finger and all, was left 31 not out off 19 balls.

McCoubrey's first burst won the match but Botha's two for 38 in 11 overs was good bowling, as was Mooney's none for 20 in 10 overs to keep the runs down. The risk with McCallan paid off (just!). He had two for 54 in nine overs.

Ireland had won a "crunch" match for the first time since the win in the European Cup Final in Denmark in 1996. Scotland, the holders, are now out of the Intercontinental Cup. Qualification from the European section rested between Ireland (who have 30 points) and Holland (5 points). When they meet, starting on August 23rd at Stormont, Ireland will need very few points to be sure of a semi-final place in Namibia in October.

Photographs