Cricket: Scotland's brave decision backfires

Scotland 68 West Indies 70-2 W Indies win by eight wickets
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IN A GAME reduced to 41 overs by the enormous gulf between the two teams, the West Indies gave Scotland's eager amateurs a tough lesson at Leicester yesterday.

George Salmond's decision to bat first seemed, given the way most World Cup mornings have gone so far, suicidal. Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh are very familiar with these conditions and, after Phil Simmons had taken the new ball, they teamed up in fine style. Between them, they bowled 17 overs and took 5 for 15.

It was all a bit too much for the Scots. Gavin Hamilton continued to audition purposefully for consideration south of the border, top scoring with a buoyant 24 not out. But only one other batsman reached double figures, and he was a bowler: Asim Butt earned the biggest cheer of the day when he dumped Henderson Bryan for an impressive six, but so far as Scotland's batting went that was it.

It would be mean to be too hard on Salmond, but batting first was a slightly party-pooping move. No one expected a tight match, but a cheerful and funny crowd was hoping at least to see the West Indies bat, in the event they were short changed: the match finished just after 2 o'clock. The West Indies were merciless - Scotland's No 11 Nick Dyer was greeted by a no-ball bouncer from Bryan. It was no surprise when he fended the following delivery to slip.

Afterwards, Salmond was dejected. "we've been shown up for what we are," he said. "It was like jumping up 10 leagues for us." The decision to bat he said was taken after two poor performances chasing big totals, he said, so perhaps it was worth a try. "It isn't easy going out to bat with a big score on the board," he said. "we thought that if we could get a few, then we could maybe put a bit of pressure on them."

Scotland did get a few, very few. At 29 for 7 it looked as though the game might not last until the drinks interval, and 68 was scarcely enough to take the game beyond lunch, especially since the West Indies had one eye on their run rate. Simmons and Stuart Williams went cheaply, but Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara cuffed the ball around with alarming relish. After five overs they were 25 for 1; five overs later it was done and dusted, Lara scything Hamilton for two fours and a six on his way to 25 from 16 balls. "My wrist is not 100 per cent," he said. "But I'm happy with my form. I feel good."

The West Indies are not one of the fancied sides in this World Cup, their recent form has been too patchy. But their bowlers are fierce in these conditions, and everyone knows that Lara can win games on his own when the force is with him. They enter their crunch game against Australia on Sunday in intriguingly good shape. "You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see how the bowlers are doing at 10.45 in the morning," said Lara. "Every game we play the team is getting better."

Australia might just be one lost toss away from oblivion.