Cricket: Scotland run out of `cup final' luck

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The Independent Online
THE WORLD CUP has already thrown up a few surprises but none would have compared with Scotland being level on points in Group B with Australia after three matches. Sadly for those who value cricketing embarrassment Down Under, it is not the case.

Instead it is Bangladesh who have drawn level with the team who were second-favourites for the tournament after a 22-run victory in the wooden spoon match and suddenly their meeting with the Australians at Chester- le-Street on Thursday has taken on a significance no one imagined when the schedule was drawn up.

Scotland, made up mainly of part-time players, had pinpointed this match as their cup final, reasoning that they do not have an earthly against Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand or the West Indies. They finished runners- up, not as hapless as Newcastle United maybe, but in second place nevertheless.

They began well, reducing Bangladesh 26 for 5, but when their own innings had no foundations either their hopes rested with Gavin Hamilton. He did them proud, hitting 63 off 71 balls, but when luck deserted him, it left the Scots behind too.

Hamilton had reduced the asking rate to around five an over when his partner Alec Davis straight drove Manjural Islam. The bowler dived and got the faintest of touches before the ball crashed into the stumps. Hamilton, at the non-striking end, realised the danger too late and was inches short.

Bangladesh were hardly downplaying the event either as their captain, Aminul Islam, described it as "the most important match of my life" and with 1,500 fellow countrymen to support them, the delightful Grange Cricket Club sounded like a suburb of Dhaka rather than the Scottish capital.

Unfortunately the weather was unmistakably home-based and a wind that felt like it had last resided in the Cairngorms whipped across the pitch to make it uncomfortably cold when the sun was out and miserable as sin when it propelled the rain at 45 degrees.

Even the Scottish captain, George Salmond, whose home club is the Grange, could not make a firm prediction about how the wicket would perform, but he was canny enough to realise that cricket north of the border in May might not be a picnic for the side batting first.

He put Bangladesh in and the sound of the pipers of the First Battalion of the Argyll and Sunderland Highlanders had barely faded into the pavilion before half the visiting batting line-up had joined it.

The only complaint Bangladesh could have had - apart from the wicket and the weather that is - was Aminul's leg-before off John Blain, which looked suspiciously high and going to leg.

Minazul Abedin and Naimur Rahman steadied things with a stand of 69 and the former swished the tail to the extent the last five wickets added 159 runs.

Minazul was left out of the original World Cup squad despite making a century in the final trial game, a decision that caused such an uproar in Bangladesh the selectors had to have a hasty re-think. In normal circumstances his unbeaten 68 off 116 balls would have been criminally tardy, under these it was an innings saver.

The importance of Minazul's contribution became obvious as soon as the Scots batted. Hasibul Hussain trapped Bruce Patterson leg-before with his second ball and when Mike Smith left the edge of his bat jutting out as he tried to get out of the way of a short one from Hasibul and Iain Philip was leg-before to Manjural Islam they were 8 for 3.

While Hamilton survived Scotland had a chance but once he departed, eighth out at 136, the end was quick.

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