Kyle Coetzer, Scotland’s captain, was their key batter then, as he is today. Calum MacLeod was their middle-order lynchpin then, as he is today. These two and Martin Guptill are the only players from their previous fixture who will line up on Wednesday for the Super 12s in Dubai.
This tells you two things. One: just how long it has been since these two sides have played. And two: how MacLeod and Coetzer have held Scotland’s batting line-up through the last 12 years, even as many others have come and gone, some in search of greener pastures because of the non-viability to carry on playing cricket professionally.
Scotland have had five days off to sit back and reflect on what they’ve achieved. The critics may argue they’ve run out of gas, after dashing to three wins in the first round, but it doesn’t take much to realise how they’ve beaten the odds – pandemic, fund crunch, player attrition among the reasons – to get to where they are.
In the Super 12s, they’ve now lost to Namibia and Afghanistan, two sides they would’ve fancied themselves against. Now, it’s time to look ahead to possibly three of their biggest clashes. It starts with New Zealand, followed by fixtures against India and Pakistan. And in trying to come up against three big teams, Scotland have an opportunity to garner eyeballs.
Imagine what Safyaan Sharif uprooting Williamson’s middle stump or Michael Leask bowling Virat Kohli through the gate has the potential to do? They could, if only for a moment, become household names with millions watching. Maybe they will inspire another kid to pick up the bat or ball back home. It’s more than just a game in many ways.
And while everyone’s been focusing on the Boults, Southees and Milne, their spinners have shown just why they could be in the same bracket as the Rashids or Mujeebs in these conditions. Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi may not be household T20 names, an embarrassment of riches across teams they’ve represented has given them fewer opportunities. Here, with the world watching, they’ve shown how good they are. And they will be mighty hard to get away. Scotland will need to buck up their spin game several fold to just sit up and compete.
New Zealand WLWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Devon Conway, a consistent top-order performer since his international debut in November last year, has now been handed the wicketkeeping duties too. And his new role opens multiple possibilities for New Zealand, not least the luxury of playing an extra spinner or allrounder, depending on conditions. Conway has made 27 and 2* in his two outings so far. He would be itching for a big knock in his maiden T20 World Cup.
In the 2009 T20 World Cup, Kyle Coetzer gave Scotland a realistic shot at an upset over New Zealand when he smashed an unbeaten 15-ball 33 that helped his team post 89 in a truncated seven-overs shootout. But a combination of rain, wet ball and a greasy outfield went against them. Twelve years later, Coetzer has a second chance.
Coetzer is set to return after missing the previous game due to bruising on his finger. Craig Wallace could make way.
Scotland (probable): 1 Kyle Coetzer (capt), 2 George Munsey, 3 Calum MacLeod, 4 Richie Berrington, 5 Matt Cross, 6 Michael Leask, 7 Chris Greaves, 8 Mark Watt, 9 Josh Davey, 10 Safyaan Sharif, 11 Brad Wheal
New Zealand, meanwhile, are likely to remain unchanged. But if there is scope to make a change, it’s possible they may want to give Kyle Jamieson a go.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Daryl Mitchell, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Devon Conway (wk), 5 Glenn Phillips, 6 Jimmy Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Adam Milne, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult/Kyle Jamieson, 11 Ish Sodhi
Pitch and conditions
The Dubai surfaces have slowed down considerably, having hosted non-stop cricket since the IPL in September, but the one big difference on Wednesday will be the absence of dew given this is a day game.
Stats that matter
- This is Scotland’s first game in Dubai this tournament. They have won four out of the eight T20Is here.
- New Zealand are second only to Afghanistan in the powerplay (in terms of strike rates) in 2021. They pick up a wicket every 17.4 deliveries and concede at only 6.6 an over.
- Among pacers, Tim Southee (101) is next best to Lasith Malinga (107) in terms of T20I wickets. His 14 wickets are the joint-most in 2021. Among pacers, only Josh Hazlewood (9) has taken more wickets than Southee (8) in the Powerplay this year.
- In T20Is since 2016, only three bowlers (Rashid Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal and Mustafizur Rahman) have taken more than Ish Sodhi’s 61.
- Scotland have lost the most wickets (13) in the powerplay this tournament.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo