Know Your Associates February 18, 2016

Looking to rock the boat

The current Scotland side are better equipped to cause big upsets than their predecessors

Scotland don't have shock-and-awe players and will rely on their "attack first" mantra to gain an advantage over stronger sides © Getty Images

A little over a decade ago in 2005, Scotland finished first in the World Cup Qualifier held in Ireland for the 2007 World Cup. They were a side that took to its task with bat and ball in methodical style: be ruthlessly efficient against middling teams, restrict better opponents to modest totals, and chase targets in metronomic fashion. It was a disciplined approach well suited to Associate competition, but the lack of versatility left them struggling against higher-class Full Member opponents by the time of the World Cup.

With the exception of former England representatives Gavin Hamilton and Dougie Brown, as well as key stalwarts like Ryan Watson and Craig Wright, the team had more grinders than high-skill players. They were not endowed with a wild card capable of a shock-and-awe assault, such as Canada's John Davison, who could force an opponent to scramble game plans. In essence, they were exceptional at being slightly above average but were never able to touch temporary greatness.

Fast forward to 2015 and once again the team finished first in a World Cup qualifier held in Ireland, and co-hosted by Scotland, finishing as joint champions with Netherlands. While the 2005 group went undefeated, the class of 2015 suffered defeats in two of their first three games before scrambling to top Group B. Despite the blemishes on their record that indicate some vulnerability, the current Scotland team is more geared towards causing a major upset than their predecessors, thanks to a change in attitude and mindset.

The philosophical shift in approach to "attack first, defend second" is something captain Preston Mommsen credits to coach Grant Bradburn, the former New Zealand international who has been in charge of Scotland since April 2014. The impact was evident from the first match of their World Cup journey in 2015, when they refused to back down after being 12 for 4 against New Zealand before succumbing by three wickets, and in a six-wicket loss to Bangladesh, where Kyle Coetzer lashed 156 off 134 balls.

Scotland were joint winners with Netherlands at the World T20 Qualifier last year © ICC/Sportsfile

This is Scotland's third trip to the World T20, and their first since back-to-back appearances in the first two editions. The nearest they came to a win was in a rain-reduced seven-over affair against New Zealand at The Oval in 2009, when a Jesse Ryder blitz saw Scotland's 89 overhauled with six balls to spare. Paired with Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Afghanistan in Group B in Nagpur, Scotland may never have a better chance of ending their winless record at flagship ICC world tournaments.

Road to the World T20
Scotland opened up their qualifying campaign with a strong win over UAE before twin setbacks against Afghanistan and Netherlands. Wins over Kenya, Canada and Oman gave them a surge in the net-run-rate tiebreaker to put them atop Group B. They then defeated Hong Kong handily in the semi-final, ahead of the washed-out title match against Netherlands.

Since then, they have had hit-or-miss results, going 2-2 in four T20Is. They suffered a nine-wicket loss to Hong Kong in a rain-reduced ten-over affair last month, before bouncing back a day later to score a comfortable 37-run win. On the way back home they fell to UAE by nine runs after a freakish performance from Amjad Javed did them in, but Mark Watt's 5 for 27 took them past Netherlands in another 37-run win the following day.

At the helm
Mommsen is a stick of dynamite in the heart of the order and ensures the foot rarely comes off the accelerator in the middle overs. He was only meant to be a stand-in captain after Coetzer was injured at the 2014 World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand, but success with the bat in pressure situations led to a title-winning triumph, and a permanent appointment. Mommsen has a soft-spoken but confident demeanour that spreads to his team-mates, and he is a solid fielder both in the slips and when it comes to stopping runs in the inner ring.

Key stat
26.11 The side's average age, which makes them the second youngest Associate team and fourth youngest team overall at the tournament. It's also three years less than their average age at the 2009 World T20.

Wicketkeeper Matthew Cross is excellent with the gloves and getting better with the bat © AFP

Leading men

Kyle Coetzer
The opener is the catalyst, looking to set the tone at the top of the order. He is one of just two players remaining who played for Scotland the last time they were in the World T20, in 2009, where he top-scored in both matches. He was Scotland's leading scorer at the 2015 World T20 Qualifier, with 206 runs at 34.33.

Matt Machan
The left-hander was the leading scorer at the 2013 World T20 Qualifier in the UAE, but skipped the 2015 event when it clashed with his county cricket commitments. He's not as explosive as Coetzer but provides needed stability in the middle order, allowing the likes of Coetzer and Mommsen the freedom to tee off.

Matthew Cross
Perhaps Scotland's most exciting young talent, the 23-year-old from Aberdeen showed himself to be arguably the best keeper at the 2015 World Cup, though he had some catching up to do with the bat. Promoted to No. 3 in the T20 line-up for a series against Ireland last June, he responded with 60 off 34 balls and has continued to flourish in the role.

Burning question: How will their bowling attack adjust to conditions?

Scotland succeeded with a seam-heavy attack in the British Isles to qualify, but teenage left-arm spinner Watt, who recently took his maiden five-for against Netherlands in Dubai, will shoulder a much bigger load in India, especially since offspinner Majid Haq remains in exile following the Twitter outburst that got him sent home from the 2015 World Cup.

In their own words: Preston Mommsen
"Post 2015 World Cup, we wanted to make sure we keep qualifying for these major events and make sure we made the most of the exposure we gained from the previous World Cup. We've done that in qualifying and now we have another opportunity to show the world what we're about. We've got a good group and have a realistic potential of making it through to the next round. We need some things to go our way but we're certainly playing for a place in the next round.

"I think there's quite a difference between making the main draw and just going to the pre-qualifying tournament. You become exposed to a substantial amount of fixtures, some pretty cool venues. Being at the World Cup in India will do huge amounts for the game in Scotland, as did being at the 2015 World Cup. So for us to get through the first round would be pretty monumental and a huge win for the Cricket Scotland organisation. As players, we know that and we want to deliver for the nation."

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna

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