Scotland vs Pakistan: Scotland Cricket has been seeing exciting times lately, strong promising shows in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, their recent induction into the ODI ranking ladder and then a David-beating-Goliath win against England to record the first instance of the bottom-most ranked team vanquishing the top-ranked side in any format.
They now play a two-match T20I series against Pakistan, who are coming off their second drawn Test series in England in as many efforts in the last three years. After a shock Champions Trophy title win last year, Pakistan’s white ball form has been inconsistent, but they have been especially dominant in T20Is. In the last one year, they have won 13 out of their 16 fixtures in the format, winning five series on the trot. Both sides flaunt an exciting bunch of cricketers at their disposal, and with unprecedented glory at stake for Scotland and reputation to carry on for Pakistan, the two teams will have a lot to play for.
On the occasion of this exciting match-up, let us look back to the first and only time the two sides faced off each other in a T20I.
Back in 2007, when not only the viewers but the players as well were still trying to understand the dynamics of Twenty20 cricket, Scotland and Pakistan faced off in the third match of Group D in the inaugural ICC World T20, at Durban on September 12. Scotland, though only in nascent stages of their journey in international cricket, were a side that comprised mainly semi-professionals, and approached their match-ups with the heavyweights with a nothing-to-lose attitude.
Pakistani cricket was in all sorts of disarray, after a callous group stage exit from the World Cup in the same year, courtesy an upset caused by the same opponents and following controversies surrounding the squad selection for the World T20 with Shoaib Akhtar left out for disciplinary issues, an inexperienced bloke named Misbah-ul-Haq picked at the expense of Mohammad Yousuf and leadership handed to Shoaib Malik.
Giving his side the best chance of winning by chasing, as do most underdogs, Scotland captain Ryan Watson sent in Pakistan to bat first and his bowlers started off impressively with a maiden over in the powerplay. Persistently tight lines meant that Pakistan were looking dwindling in the contest at 50 for 3 in 7.4 overs, a lackluster start by all measures. The pace duo of John Blain and Dewald Nel were the best performers for their side with their combined figures being 8-1-48-4.
A steady, yet swift hand of 41(29) from Younus Khan exuded his usual brilliance and set up a platform for a late finish by Pakistan’s talisman Shahid Afridi, who eventful five-minute and seven-balls worth of stay at the crease yielded 22 runs and powered Pakistan to a competitive 171/9, including useful contributions from Kamran Akmal and Misbah at the back end of the innings.
In an age where batsmen were not too sure about how to approach targets of middling figures, Scotland’s inexperience surfaced. Apart from a lone hand by opener Fraser Watts who made an enterprising 46 off 35, nobody else from the top and middle order showed signs of a fight. Excluding Watts, no batsman in the top six reached double figures and no one in the whole line-up crossed 14. They were guilty of not giving themselves ample time at the crease before launching into the bigger strokes.
It was not just Scotland’s incorrect approach, but a mighty effort on the behalf of Pakistani bowlers as well. Umar Gul’s raw pace and Afridi’s cunning leg-spin accounted for four wickets each and they gave just 44 runs between them. This was the start of what would become a much-feared bowling line-up for the rest of the tournament. In the end, 171 runs proved 51 runs too many for Scotland as Pakistan registered their first win of the tournament and began their run of victories leading them into the finals.
More than a decade from then, things have changed drastically for the sides as well as the manner of operations in this format of the sport. While Shoaib Malik is the sole survivor from the eleven-year-old face-off, Pakistan have gone on to become one of the most consistent sides in a format where teams have generally struggled to have a hold of momentum for longer periods.
Also, on Tuesday, Scotland will be fielding a side that will not consist of eleven debutants. So, watch out for what will be an exciting contest.