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T20 World Cup – Scotland eager to create history as Super 12s spot beckons

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Scotland are on the cusp of the Super 12s, but qualification is by no means guaranteed despite two wins in as many matches. A final game, that could potentially be a knockout, could make a few sides nervous, but Scotland are quietly confident of progressing. A win over hosts Oman on Thursday will take them there.

“The magnitude of the game is massive in terms of bigger picture, not just of Scottish cricket but Associate cricket,” Scotland coach Shane Burger said. “There have been many Associates that have shown in this World Cup that they’re closing the gap. The brand of cricket they’ve played is an exciting one for the world to see. In terms of us, we know what’s on the line, all players know what’s on the line. We’ve prepared for it, spoken about it.

“If there’s any team that understands this is a must win game, it’s probably Scotland, who often go into competitions knowing every game is must-win game. We spoke of topping the group, that was a certainly a goal, something we wanted to achieve before we arrived here. We spoke about it, planned for it, it won’t surprise me if we do that.

“The mindset and the belief is there among the group. So it’s huge for Scottish cricket. Also, it has the ability to inspire the nation and to be the first Scottish team to create history, and do something we’ve never done before. It’s on the back of every player and the support staff’s mind. So to leave the legacy of being the first Scottish team to do that is certainly a motivation of ours, and to inspire all those young cricketers, not only in Scotland but around the world, to take up the game and play a brand of cricket that Scotland plays is ultimate the goal we want to be achieving.”

The pandemic break affected preparations, like it did for most teams and players around the world. But Scotland, Burger said, have been conscious of not allowing that to be used as an excuse for not turning up. Instead, they’ve tried to make the best use of every available opportunity to train and play, like arriving in Oman in the first week of September to acclimatise themselves before the WCL games and friendlies, in the build-up to this tournament. All this has contributed to the belief in the camp that they can beat any team on their day.

“There was a belief that we could beat Full Members nations,” he said. “It’s happened previously; the team has beaten the likes of England, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. You obviously need opportunities to do that, platform to deliver those performances which we have on this stage. In terms of preparation, it wasn’t just the last six months but probably the last 18-24 months that we’ve been speaking about and planning.

“What the pandemic gave us as a unit was the opportunity to go away and work on various skills, tactics that we knew was required in this World Cup. Previously it was in India, so you start thinking about what the conditions might be in India, and then when it shifts over to the UAE, you have an opportunity to be confident because these are conditions we’ve faced in recent times and been very successful, so that did add to the motivation and thinking.

“In terms of preparation, the lads have worked non-stop, whether it’s sitting at home and waiting for the pandemic to go pass or focusing on things they can control, working on the mentality of getting into big tournaments and having to win every single game – we’ve had great preparation. Probably there was frustration that there was no cricket for a long period of time, so when cricket does come, you must respect it, appreciate it, and go out and once again send a message to the rest of the world that we’ve got some really good players within this group, a unit that can do special things. It’s something we truly believe we can achieve in this tournament.”

Burger hopes one of the things they can achieve as a group at the World Cup apart from winning is develop a stronger culture of cricket in the country, especially at the grassroots, so that it has a ripple effect on the domestic structure, opening up pathways for players, like a few have experienced currently. Brad Wheal, for example, has a county contract with Hampshire. Josh Davey has a contact at Somerset.

“We have a few players that play in the county set up,” he said. “We have a few of our younger players who are also involved. We value the time the players get to spend with their counties, and it does mean they get to play a lot of cricket which is important. One of the things we are striving for in Scotland is to be able to give players more quality cricket, keep building our domestic structures and youth pathways, and make sure that they are as competitive and challenging as they can be so that the next crop of Scottish cricketers can not only compete on the world stage but also perform at their best. That’s the ultimate plan. Would we like more? Absolutely. Would we like to develop our own domestic structure so that we don’t have to rely on the counties? Absolutely. But I think there’s a fine balance when it comes to that.”

Along with winning, Scotland are also championing the cause of fellow Associate teams, who Burger believes put in as much effort and time to get better and are equally passionate about growing the game in their countries. The underlying message from his side is: if we can achieve this goal, it could inspire all the other Associates to do so.

“I get quite a few messages from coaches from Associate nations, and we’re a very tight knit unit, the Associates,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s us versus them, it’s very much a network of teams that are looking to progress the game within their own countries. We’re very supportive of all those teams. But when we come up against one another, they’re huge battles and often, they go down to the last over, last ball, that’s just the nature of the battle and the competitiveness.

“Is it a level-playing field? It certainly isn’t. You have to work on shoe-string budgets, resources are limited, facilities are challenging at times, but my job as coach is to make sure we go over and beyond, reach targets we may have never been able to reach previously, targets players thought they wouldn’t reach. We’re fortunate to be in a position to be in a competition like this, experience the pressure and the rugged nature of competition sport.”

The biggest surprise for Burger and the rest of the Scotland team has been the kind of support they’ve received from back home. And this, he hopes, will inspire the team to go out win on Thursday. He also insists they’d rather be in this position than not looking forward to being in a high-pressure environment in competition sport.

“We’d rather be where we are now than in any other place,” he said. “If we’re not looking forward to competition sport as we are right now, sitting in the position we’re in, I think we’re in the wrong position or wrong game. There is high pressure, expectation, there’s a nation’s hopes resting on the game, and we know what that all represents. We’ve already created history in this tournament by winning two games, that’s one more than any Scottish team has done previously, but we want to go one step further.

“All the goals that we’ve set have been over and beyond this group stage. Spoken a lot about getting into round two, and what we want to achieve within round two, but we know we’ve to take it one step at a time. Proud of the calm the unit has shown, ability to win big moments has been key. Actually, we’ve done that not really getting out of third gear yet. The players are aware, there’s real confidence that has brewed over the last month, been here for long, the sunshine is bringing confidence, looking forward to what tomorrow represents.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Eyes on David Warner, but Australia's biggest challenge will be when he's gone

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After being hit by injury last season questions have been asked about whether Warner can dominate Test cricket again



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Darren Gough set to be named as Yorkshire’s director of cricket

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Former Yorkshire fast bowler to be unveiled on Monday after answering call to help club

Darren Gough is set to be unveiled as Yorkshire’s new director of cricket, as the club embarks on a rebuilding process in the wake of last week’s sacking of the existing coaching and medical staff.

Gough, 51, is expected to announce the appointment on his talkSPORT radio show on Monday, as he prepares to put his media career on hold to help shore up the foundations of his former county, in the wake of Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of institutional racism and the extensive fall-out that has followed.

As one of the most popular players in Yorkshire’s history, Gough claimed 453 first-class wickets in 15 years with the club, during which time he also picked up 229 wickets in 58 Test appearances for England, before finishing his career at Essex, where he still lives.

He is seen by Lord Kamlesh Patel, the club’s new chairman, as the ideal man to help heal the deep divisions at Yorkshire, as he steps into the role vacated by Martyn Moxon on Friday – one of 16 members of the back-room staff axed in a dramatic statement of the club’s determination to put the racism scandal behind them.

That issue is unlikely to resolved without further revelations, however. The 16 players are expected to seek legal advice on Monday, after it transpired that several of their number had sent a joint letter to the Yorkshire Board in October, seen by ESPNcricinfo, outlining their deep unease at the club’s handling of the racism case, and its failure to rebut Rafiq’s extensive claims.

Gough has been involved in coaching on a consultancy basis since his retirement in 2008, including a stint with England’s Test squad in New Zealand in 2019-20, but his new role is expected to be focussed on strategy, planning, recruitment and development.



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Aus vs Eng, Men’s Ashes, 2021-22 – Alex Carey ready if Test debut comes

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A lean run in the Sheffield Shield has not dented the wicketkeeper’s confidence

Despite a relatively lean Sheffield Shield season Alex Carey feels he is well placed should he get the nod to be Australia’s wicketkeeper in the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba.
Thirty-year-old Carey, who plays for South Australia, is the frontrunner to fill Tim Paine’s position ahead of the highly-regarded Josh Inglis but insisted he has yet to be given the nudge from the selectors.

Inglis, along with fellow Western Australia team-mates Mitchell Marsh and Ashton Agar, flew back to Perth on Tuesday for a pre-planned few days back home and will rejoin the squad after a short break but it has been taken as an indication of the way the selectors will fall.

Carey has made just 153 runs in eight Sheffield Shield innings this season – with single-figure scores in his last five outings – but did crack a century in the Marsh Cup before heading to Brisbane. Due to his place in the T20 World Cup squad Inglis, who shot into contention after a superb 2020-21 domestic season, has only played one first-class match this summer.

“I’ve felt in a really good place,” Carey told RSN radio. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball well and although the runs didn’t come as I would have liked in the first part of the Sheffield Shield season I think consistently over the last couple of years I’ve been pretty solid.

“It wasn’t a case which end do I hold the bat, still felt like I knew what I was doing, and to get some runs in that one-day game is great. Nice to know what I was doing is still the right thing.

“I’ve done what I can so I’ll sit back and hope for the best.”

Carey is also encouraged by the philosophy of the current selection panel – headed by George Bailey – that they are not swayed by a small sample of recent results and look at a larger picture.

“Cricket’s a game where if you miss out in one game you are judged on that and you feel like everything is coming down on you but it takes one innings to turn that around and you are in great form again,” he said. “Justin [Langer] and George have played so many games and they know what it’s like and they’ve put a lot of trust and open communication with the players.”

Overall Carey averages 34.73 in first-class cricket with five centuries. He was due to be the reserve wicketkeeper on the postponed Test tour of South Africa earlier this year and last season took the gloves for Australia A.

Other selection calls Australia need to make ahead of the opening Test are between Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson – with Starc expected to retain his place – and which of Travis Head and Usman Khawaja bats at No. 5.

Australia’s intrasquad match which was due to start on Wednesday has been canceled due to the continued wet weather in Brisbane with players hoping to get some centre-wicket time if the rain clears over the next couple of days.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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