Scotland v West Indies Preview
Colin Croft - 27 April 1999
For the West Indies, this "easy" game could not have come at a better time in this 1999 Cricket World Cup. They have just literally bitten the bullet, under tremendous pressure, and beaten the steadily improving and even cocky New Zealand.
Frankly, the West Indies have shown great composure at not panicking at the prospect of perhaps being eliminated. Instead, they continued to believe in themselves and the confidence showed well last Monday against New Zealand.
A quick assessment of that game is in order.
One of the very strange situations which have developed lately is that whenever the West Indies wins the toss, especially when Brian Lara is captain, then almost invariably, the West Indies wins the game, especially one-day games. Since Lara won the toss at Southampton, the New Zealanders were almost as good as sunk.
I doubt that Curtly Ambrose have bowled any quicker and better over the last twelve months than at Southampton. The pitch was surely giving some help, and the overhead cloudy conditions were also helpful to bowlers. That only accentuated the efforts of Ambrose and the incomparable Walsh. New Zealand did not have any answer.
By the time the West Indies had finished with New Zealand, the Kiwis had managed to get to 156 in 48.1 overs, thanks to Brian Lara's biggest problem to date, another 23 wides and no-balls collectively. The final total should have been very much less. Percentage-wise, that compares with the collective 25 wides and no-balls in the Pakistani total of 229 and the collective 30 wides and no-balls in the Bangladeshi total of 182. That "extra" thing certainly needs improving from the bowlers, but their efforts against the New Zealanders and that of the entire West Indies team in the field was certainly a great improvement. They are going places, perhaps all the way to the final.
The West Indies batting too seemed to be making great strides. In the game against Pakistan, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams and Ridley Jacobs all shaped well in a losing cause. In the game against Bangladesh, Sherwin Campbell, Jacobs (again), Adams (again) and even Lara looked somewhat set before exhausting their luck. In the game against New Zealand, Jacobs did the job almost single-handedly. Not only did he take five catches, but he made a determined 80 not out. Lara, with 36, seemed just about ready to pounce.
I am very sure that some team will feel Lara's bat's wrath before long. It could well be Scotland. After all, the West Indies also need to bring up their "net run rate", an aspect which can become a very important feature later at the week-end when the West Indies play Australia.
Scotland, on the other hand, have got some diligent tryers in the talented Gavin Hamilton, Alex Davies, John Blain and Asim Butt. These are all pretty good players at their level. Against Pakistan, the West Indies and New Zealand, they may be out of their depth.
Scotland are the real minnows of this Group B now, since they lost to Bangladesh. However, that loss in itself might just galvanise them into doing the almost impossible and to try to embarrass the West Indies. It has happened before.
Please do not forget Kenya's win over the West Indies in the last Cricket World Cup. If no other team remembers, the West Indies must, to save themselves from being complacent.
This game against Scotland is an exact opportunity for Brian Lara, especially, to get his strokes, his confidence and every other facet of his batting into top gear before the Australian encounter. Ditto for the rest of the West Indies batting.
The West Indies, overall, should win this game rather easily, but they must doing so in a sufficiently convincing manner so that the rest of the fancied teams in the competition should take immediate notice. The West Indies must be brutal and clinical. The winning of the 1999 Cricket World Cup might just rest on this attitude.