Scotland saved their most convincing performance for last in a 90-run rout of hosts UAE, as they achieved their ultimate goal of qualification in a tournament of disappointing performances. Coming a day after an even more damning loss to the Dutch, the UAE side finally felt the toll of tumultuous circumstances and bowed out of a home tournament that at one point were amongst the favourites for. The result also confirms the UAE’s exclusion from the tournament proper, their second consecutive miss after also failing to qualify for the 2016 edition.
Much talk before the tournament’s start focused on the attacking combination of George Munsey and Kyle Coetzer at the top of the order, and their consistent failures to build a partnership at the top is one of Scotland’s many shortcomings. But on a flat Dubai pitch, the pair put on 87 for the first wicket, with Munsey playing the aggressive role that he has become renowned for. After failing to connect with his reverse sweep early on, Munsey eventually began timing the shot, clearing the rope twice off Sultan Ahmed in a passage that contained five consecutive reverse shots against the spinner.
The UAE bowlers managed to stem the flow of runs by turning to their pacers, with Rohan Mustafa and Ahmed Raza briefly stemming the flow of boundaries. The squeeze eventually accounted for the wicket of Coetzer, who had slowed after a strong start to depart for 34 from 32. Scotland’s intent to make a strong total from the partnership was shown by sending renowned pinch hitter Michael Leask in at #3. Leask started his job brilliantly by swatting his first ball over the ropes but struggled to make a connection beyond that. The batsmen were finding the pacers harder to put away, but Munsey eventually found a way to reverse even them for six, flicking a Zahoor Khan full toss over backward point to register his fifth six.
Munsey’s fun was eventually brought to an end by an astonishing grab on the long-on boundary by Rameez Shahzad, one-handed and leaping, but the wicket would not do a lot to slow the flow of runs. Richie Berrington came in at second drop and immediately took to the bowling, racing to more than double Leask’s score in the space of three overs, including three huge sixes. He was dismissed just two short of a potential record fifty as he attempted an ambitious ramp and was bowled by Rohan Mustafa for 48 from 18, and Tom Sole departed three balls later in an identical fashion. Calum MacLeod showed why he can still be considered a T20 aggressor with a brief cameo coming in at number 5, hitting three fours from Mustafa’s final over to bring the Scotland total to 198/5.
With many of their star players missing, the total was a steep ask for a UAE team playing back-to-back games, and it seemed even more of a challenge when Safyaan Sharif had Chirag Suri caught behind with the third ball of the innings. Josh Davey then struck with his first ball, with Rohan Mustafa also caught by Cross, and the UAE found themselves 14/2 after three overs with just one boundary. Rameez Shahzad and Darius D’Silva began a rebuild, but the run-rate kept creeping up as D’Silva struggled to score at any pace.
But as in their game against Bermuda, Scotland was forced to find four overs from their all-rounders due to Tom Sole’s bowling ban. After the strong start, they turned to the part-time loopers of Calum MacLeod to steal an over, and despite bowling several freebies, the UAE batsmen could only manage 10 from it.
Once again, it was left armer Mark Watt who made the breakthrough. Bowling with plenty of flight and asking to be hit, he almost had Rameez Shahzad caught by Tom Sole on the boundary but he failed to relay successfully to Calum MacLeod. The very next ball, Shahzad went long against a similarly flighted ball only to slice it up to George Munsey at long-off.
And with that wicket went much of the UAE’s intent to win, as the required run rate soared to 13 and yet they seemed content to nudge MacLeod’s second over of floaters for just six. After being unable to hit him off the square, including being struck by the slowest of medium pace bouncers, Waheed Ahmed gave Richie Berrington a wicket by hitting him straight up, and from there they imploded.
The next over saw Mark Watt triple his returns, firstly with another test of a batsman’s ego as he floated one to Muhammad Usman who obliged by lofting it to Michael Leask in the deep before Sultan Ahmed played all around a straight one first ball. Calum Macleod was rewarded with a third over, and began with a champagne wicket, as Mohammad Boota lofted catching practice to George Munsey for MacLeod’s third wicket in 48 T20 internationals. Junaid Siddique raised the white flag by appearing with unstrapped pads and no helmet, and the tail went through the motions of the final overs to finish with a total of 108 all out, securing Scotland’s place in the World T20.