Cricket: Scots claim lion's share of credit; Scotland fans enjoy yesterday's occasion Reuters

Scotland 181-7 Australia 182-4 Australia win by 6 wickets
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The Independent Online
NATURALLY, AUSTRALIA won comfortably, never once threatening to step on the kind of banana skin slipped under their unsuspecting feet by Zimbabwe in their opening game 16 years ago, when the World Cup was last played in England. Such embarrassments as they did suffer were self- inflicted, in the shape of three dropped catches and some 30 runs - not to mention the equivalent of five extra overs - given away in wides and no-balls. By the standards expected of Australian cricketers and their demanding public, it was a fairly shabby performance.

How many of Scotland's supporters were aware of their opponents' generosity was a matter for conjecture. Those sporting kilts and painted faces and wild red hair under their tartan berets for the most part appeared not to care, encouraged as they were by seemingly self-refilling glasses. From the moment Bruce Patterson pinged Damien Fleming's opening delivery through the covers for four, Scotland's every high spot almost took the New Road roof off.

By 4.50pm, when the dimunitive off-spinner Nick Dyer leaped into the air to celebrate Darren Lehmann chopping the ball on to his own stumps for a duck, "Georgie Salmond's Barmy Army" were in full voice, accompanied by this time by two trumpets, a trombone and a saxophone. Carnival cricket, with a Caledonian spin.

Not everyone appreciated their tone. Shane Warne, already with a suspended ban hanging over him after his uncomplimentary comments about Arjuna Ranatunga, responded to one taunt with something that looked suspiciously like what the tabloids call "a gesture". Luckily for Australia's vice-captain, the match referee Ranjan Madugalle did not spot it.

Salmond can look back with a pride not misplaced on the biggest game in their cricketing history, their first in a World Cup, as 500-1 outsiders against the tournament's joint-favourites. As the captain rightly emphasised, theirs was a gallant effort all right, although they could not help but look back on the first part of their innings and wish that, when the Australians did manage to bowl straight, they had put bat on ball just a little more often. It took them 35 overs to reach 100 - and extras was top scorer. Stagefright undoubtedly played a part, although a team of only two professionals faced with an attack containing Warne and Glenn McGrath could be forgiven for that.

The Duke ball swung and seamed as Steve Waugh had anticipated when he won the toss, and although the inspirational Salmond eventually brought his experience to bear it was not until Gavin Hamilton, whose form with Yorkshire almost won him an England place, had the support of James Brinkley, once a Worcestershire player, in adding 61 in nine overs for the sixth wicket that the total began to grow in something akin to the required manner.

Australia had a scare or two, notably when Adam Gilchrist was brilliantly caught by 41-year-old taxi driver Iain Philip in the sixth over, but the Waugh brothers ultimately saw them home with 31 balls to spare, Steve hitting seven fours in an unbeaten 49 after brother Mark (67 off 113 balls) had done the groundwork in an 84-run partnership for the second wicket.

Waugh was full of good words for the Scots, who he declared to be as good as Kenya and Bangladesh. "The experience they gained today will be worth a year of the cricket they are used to playing," he said. "As for ourselves, we have to improve in all areas. We will not be able to afford three dropped catches against the top sides."