Scotland edge England in high-scoring thriller


EDINBURGH: After their heartbreak at the Cricket World Cup Qualifier, Scotland attained some sort of redemption against England at The Grange, as they won one of the greatest ODIs in history by six runs.

Having racked up their highest-ever ODI total of 371/5, the Saltires were seemingly powerless to prevent their opponents gunning down the third highest chase in ODI history before a late burst of wickets saw them seal a stunning victory, Safyaan Sharif pinning Mark Wood LBW to spark scenes of delirium.

At the half-way stage, Scotland were in dreamland, having used a flat pitch and short boundaries to smash through all precedents and jolt ICC MRF Tyres No.1 ranked England. Opening batsmen Matthew Cross and Kyle Coetzer got their side off to the perfect start, putting on 103 in quick time, matching each other shot for shot.

Both departed either side of fifty, captain Coetzer the first to go for 58, and Cross following him soon after for 48. The former’s dismissal brought Calum MacLeod to the crease, and his was the innings that put Scotland into the ascendancy.

The type of player to make it count once he gets in, coming into this game MacLeod had converted six of his 12 half-centuries into centuries, and three of those six centuries into 150-plus scores. He had to settle for an unbeaten 140 today, but could take comfort in the knowledge that, coming as it did against the almighty England, this might well rank as his best and most important.

He put on an even 200 for the third and fourth wickets combined in the company of Richie Berrington and the impressive George Munsey, who struck a 51-ball 55. MacLeod took his departure as cue to launch, contributing all but 11 of the 53-run fifth wicket stand. Scotland kept coming throughout, epitomised by Michael Leask striking his first ball for six in the final over as the Saltires reached a national record 371/5.

Still, when Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow plundered 107 from the first two overs, it seemed it might be nowhere near enough. It takes something special to reduce Roy to a supporting role, and something special is what Bairstow came up with as he blasted his way to a 54-ball century. It was the opener’s third ton in succession, after he’d hit hundreds in the last two games of England’s 3-2 series win over New Zealand, but this was a different beast altogether. The Yorkshireman was liberated rather than encumbered by the enormous asking rate, and at one stage a double century looked a distinct possibility.

His dismissal, well caught on the rope by Munsey under enormous pressure, was one of several turning points, although as Joe Root walked in at No.4 and stroked his first ball to the boundary England seemed set to march on. As usual he batted exquisitely and without fuss, and he and Alex Hales, batting at No.3 instead of the opening spot to which he is more accustomed, added fifty to lead England to 220/2.

However, having brought up the half-century mark of their association with a vicious slog-sweep, England’s Test skipper departed next ball, Hales calling him through for a needless and suicidal single. Root was duly run out and the game turned again, Scotland striking twice more soon after, removing captain Eoin Morgan and Hales in successive balls. Not long after, Sam Billings, playing in place of the rested Jos Buttler, slapped a full toss to midwicket and David Willey, promoted to No.8 after a century for Yorkshire in England’s domestic 50-over comp, top-edged to the keeper.

England were seven down and still 96 runs from their target and Scotland were scenting an upset, but as Moeen Ali and Liam Plunkett added 70 for the eighth wicket, another heartbreak looked on the way. Combining classical grace with uncomplicated thwacking, Moeen and Plunkett drove England onwards, and when the pair took 18 off the 45th to reduce the target to under a run a ball the game seemed up.

But as they did all day, and did throughout that qualifier campaign, Scotland refused to admit they were beaten. Off-spinner Mark Watt, who recovered from being taken for 20 in his first two overs to return superlative figures of 3/55, returned to claim the huge scalp of Moeen, another who fell into the nerveless hands of Munsey on the boundary rope.

Adil Rashid and Plunkett added a heart-stopping 14 for the ninth wicket before the former was run out coming back for a second, Michael Leask’s bullet arm catching him short, and four balls later Safyaan Sharif went full and straight, Mark Wood missed, and the ground erupted. Pitch invasions are rare in the world of cricket these days, but then again, so are matches like this. If ever a game deserved one, it was this.