Scotland begin their eighth appearance at an U19 World Cup on Saturday, as their tournament opens with a match against Pakistan in the South African city of Potchefstroom. With Ireland missing out on direct qualification from the 2018 edition, there was only one European spot up for grabs in last year’s qualifier in the Netherlands, but the young team left the tournament unbeaten after some strong performances from their top order batsmen and spinners.
Opening the tournament with a close-fought win over their hosts, the young Scots gradually produced more assured performances as the tournament went on, picking up a comfortable win over Jersey before hammering France by a record 253 runs. This momentum carried on to the pivotal fixture of the tournament, as they defeated tournament favourites Ireland in The Hague by 47 runs, before locking in their place in the finals with another comfortable defense against Denmark.
They return with the same group of 14 that won them qualification, with the additions of Greenock’s Sean Fischer-Keogh and Falkland’s Lyle Robertson. Robertson was a late call-up for the injured Durness Mackay-Champion, who sustained a finger injury in the three-match warm up series in the UAE.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Tom Mackintosh produced the defining performance of the qualifiers as he starred with bat and gloves the upset over Ireland, scoring a fine hundred batting from #3 before claiming four dismissals – three of them stumped – as Scotland’s spinners restricted Ireland. His purple patch has continued beyond that and into the warm-up games, with two further centuries in his five innings since, including 166 against the UAE at the ICC Academy last week to successfully chase down 318.
Left-arm orthodox spinner Charlie Peet was behind one of Mackintosh’s three stumpings, and he had a tournament to remember in the Netherlands, bowling with control and guile to finish with 13 wickets at an average of 7.23 and an economy rate of 2.57. Half of his wickets came in the space of 14 balls with the cost of just one run, twice finding himself on a hat-trick as Jersey capitulated to spin, with the only wicket to not fall to a left arm orthodox being a run out. Peet finished with incredible figures of 7/12 from a full 10-over quota, as Jersey fell from 89/2 to be bowled out for 111 in pursuit of 234.
En route to South Africa, they played three warm-up matches against the UAE in Dubai. They stumbled in the first match to a tight 2-wicket loss, defending a subpar score of 207, before bouncing back to take the series on the back of Tom Mackintosh’s excellent 166 in the second and some tight bowling in the third match to defend 218.
The young Saltires begin with two warm-up matches against tournament debutants Japan and the West Indies, before the tournament proper starts on the 19th of January against Pakistan in Potchefstroom. Two other tough challenges of Bangladesh (21st) and Zimbabwe (25th) follow, also in Potchefstroom. No matter their placing in the group, they are guaranteed three further games as the tournament splits into an upper ‘super league’ and a lower ‘plate’ group, with playoffs for each individual spot in the 16. From the plate group, the top three placings guarantee a spot at the next U19 World Cup in the West Indies in 2022.
With an outside chance of making the super league stage, the players have an opportunity to push their cases for the senior team as an aging core is likely to require a makeover in the coming years. With a strong group of spinners, they may have a chance against teams less adept in facing it, but much relies on the prolific top order firing in order to give the tweakers something to defend.