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The Electronic Telegraph Scotland v West Indies, Group B
Martin Johnson - 27 May 1999

Not much of a laugh for Lara and company in long run

West Indies (70-2) bt Scotland (68) by 8 wkts

With their match against Australia at Old Trafford on Sunday shaping up as sudden death, the West Indies yesterday offered a timely reminder that they can hold their nerve with the best of them when the pressure is really on. With his team-mates on the balcony scarcely able to watch (either that, or they'd all nodded off), Shivnarine Chanderpaul made the winning hit with a mere 239 deliveries to spare.

The trouble with one-day cricket, or in this case half-day cricket, is that it really requires a tight finish. However, games like this one make you wonder whether a) Scotland would be better off sticking to rugby and caber-tossing, and b) video recordings should be made available to the NHS as a cheaper and safer alternative to hospital anaesthetists.

Lord knows what it cost NatWest to hoist a hot air balloon over Grace Road (a lot more than the England and Wales Cricket Board's opening ceremony budget, that's for sure) but with almost half an hour to go before the official luncheon interval, the only pictures being beamed to Sky were of the groundsman hosing down the pitch, a schoolboy exhibition of Kwik Cricket, and the rump of the tartan army heading for the exit.

A full house at Grace Road is one of sport's rarer phenomena, as was a crowd watching World Cup cricket in shirtsleeves rather than anoraks. In such circumstances, it was perhaps inevitable the law of sod would click into play and by the time the second innings was due to get under way, we were left with no cricket to watch and an atmosphere more redolent of Leicestershire versus Derbyshire.

Ironically, the magnitude of the West Indies' victory did them no favours in a group which may boil down to overall run rate, given that bowling out Scotland for 68 (a relative run orgy from a one-time 29 for seven) left them with precious little scope for improvement.

Brian Lara's plan had been to bat first and thrash as many as possible from 50 overs, but the Scots upset these calculations by winning the toss and, to general astonishment, batting first. Under the circumstances, it would have been better for the West Indies (as long as they won) to have conceded 300 runs, but if Lara had bowled 10 overs himself, and given another 10 to the wicketkeeper, it is doubtful whether Scotland would have cobbled together more than 100.

In fairness to the Scots, this was a desperately poor one-day surface and far better batting sides than them would have struggled against Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. The ball swung, seamed and bounced, and so many World Cup pitches have been substandard that the ECB's carnival of cricket has become a combination of the bowler's white ball and the batsman's white stick.

During the last World Cup the average score for the first 15 overs of fielding restrictions was in the eighties, while in this one it is in the fifties. Yesterday, at the precise moment Lara was officially able to spread his fielders (in practice, he merely operated with two slips instead of three), Scotland were 20 for two.

The Scots decided to replace both their openers for this match and a partnership of six was not too bad in the overall context. Ambrose, bowling his 10 overs right through, took two for eight, while Walsh was held back for the crisis which duly arrived when Scotland had hoisted their run-rate to a heady 1.3 per over. Walsh, who was going to take the match off until Mervyn Dillon cried off injured, instead took the man-of-the-match award for his spell of 7-1-7-3.

The first four wickets were all catches to the wicketkeeper, which does not happen very often, and it is pretty unusual also for the final two wickets in a one-day innings to be caught at slip. Scotland could count themselves lucky that Henderson Bryan sent down half a dozen insipid overs, otherwise Canada's 45 all out against England in 1979 would have been replaced as the lowest in a World Cup. The West Indies also contributed almost 20 per cent of the total via wides and no balls, though on the other hand the Scots had no assistance from that most consistent of scorers in one-day cricket, the leg-bye.

Gavin Hamilton, the Yorkshire all-rounder, made 24 not out, scoring all three of his team's fours in the process. Asif Butt also managed to loft Reon King for six, helping Scotland to make just enough runs for the crowd to receive the consolation of a brief innings from Lara. Coming in at 22 for two after Phil Simmons and Stuart Williams had perished in the quest for run-rate improvement, Lara made 25 not out off 17 balls, including one six in an over from Hamilton (his only one) costing 17.

It was a shame for the Scots, who have aroused enough interest at home for their natty blue tops to have sold out several times over. Either that, or they've been mistaken for Rangers shirts. But 68. It's the kind of figure Scots associate with Colin Montgomerie, not their cricket team.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk