After an absence of eight years, Scotland are back in the World Cup and will face favourites New Zealand in Dunedin on Tuesday.
New Zealand are a favourite to win the title this time and the co-host is high on form and confidence, and showed it means business with a strong, all-round show in its opener against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
New Zealand’s batting line-up runs deep and all of them are in terrific form. Its bowling attack is built around the pace trio of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Adam Milne, while the experienced Daniel Vettori continues to don the spinner’s role to perfection.
New Zealand has been playing continuously for the last two months and Brendon McCullum, the captain, has indicated that some players would be rested for the match against Scotland. That could mean a well-deserved break for one of the pacers, while there is also a chance that a top-order batsman could be rested.
Scotland, meanwhile, started its preparation with a thumping 179-run win over Ireland in a warm-up match, and nearly got the better of West Indies in the second practice game, before losing by three runs chasing 314. The team will also take confidence from its encounter with New Zealand XI in October last year, where it lost by just one run against a side that had eight members of New Zealand’s World Cup squad.
‘We watched a video this morning of that game and took a huge amount of confidence,’ said Preston Mommsen, Scotland’s captain.
‘We took them very close and we really should have won that game. A lot of the guys playing tomorrow played in that game, so we’ve got that to call upon, and hopefully we can produce a similar performance tomorrow and take the game deep.’
Scotland’s batting revolves around Kyle Coetzer, the opener and former captain who made 96 against West Indies, and Mommsen, who is the ICC Associate and Affiliate Cricketer of 2014. Richie Berrington also struck form with half-centuries in both the warm-up matches, while Matt Machan, who plays for Sussex, starred in the win over Ireland with 103 from 108 balls.
It is the inexperience of the bowling attack that will be a concern for Scotland. Alasdair Evans, the medium-pacer, who took seven wickets in the practice matches, is their brightest hope.
But McCullum was not taking any team lightly.
‘We’re not good enough to take any team for granted,’ he said.
‘We’ve got to make sure we’re on our game … because at this World Cup, the Associate teams have players who are capable of standing up and making things uncomfortable for you.’ – ICC