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Centurion Coetzer capitalises on slow start

Kyle Coetzer took 11 balls to move from 94 to his hundred, a sudden drop from his almost run-a-ball scoring rate, that too in the middle of the batting Powerplay, when Scotland were looking to press on. Five of those deliveries came from Shakib Al Hasan, easily Bangladesh's best bowler, but then he missed three balls from Rubel Hossain.

The partnership between Coetzer and Preston Mommsen had swelled to 82, but Coetzer's nearing landmark was affecting Scotland's tempo. Then, as he lofted Rubel fourth ball of the 38th over, it appeared he had succumbed to the pressure, toe-ending it. Or that's what Bangladesh's third man would have felt, as it's not easy to gauge the trajectory from behind the stumps, but the ball actually landed on the grass banks to the left of sight-screen, making Coetzer Scotland's first World Cup centurion.

He took the helmet off to soak in the applause from a crowd that had put a lot more voice behind them compared to the one in Dunedin. It revealed his balding head with short-crop sides, sign of a youth gone by and of the years spent playing cricket for his country and counties, Durham and Northamptonshire. In a young line-up, Coetzer is one of the seniors. He may not have played the most games for Scotland, but he has played the most cricket.

A lot of Scotland interest is focused on the new and exciting young batsmen. The small press pack wants to keep an eye on Calum McLeod. They want Matt Machan to not throw it away; he is too talented. Coetzer is seldom mentioned in the same breath. Yet, as his innings showed, he remains the guardian angel.

Asked to bat first, Scotland were understandably tentative as was visible in Coetzer's initial approach. He was keen to nudge the ball around, unlike McLeod and Hamish Gardiner, both of whom perished playing aggressive shots. He saw Machan come down the pitch and smash one for six, but he was not sucked into the flow. Happily staying away from strike, he let others play the big shots. It was only in the 13th over, when he spotted a long hop, that he swatted the ball away to the boundary.

By the first drinks session, he had made slow progress to 23 off 30. It was in the 20th over, bowled by Shakib, that he probably thought he was set enough for the big shots, as he nonchalantly swept the bowler over midwicket for a six and followed it up with another boundary in the same area two balls later.

Not so long ago, Coetzer was the captain of the Scotland side. Then a wrist injury sidelined him for a couple of games and by the time he came back, Preston Mommsen had established himself in the leadership role. Mommsen, Grant Bradburn, the Scotland coach, said, "thrived in the capacity" and was thus considered the leader going ahead. Bradburn wanted Coetzer to focus on his batting.

Although the lead up to the World Cup was not perfect for Coetzer, the batsman managing a high of 22 in the three innings he played in the UAE, he found some form in the World Cup warm-ups, hitting a 96 that laid the foundation of a strong chase against West Indies in Sydney. That match ended in a three-run loss, but the belief has been set that if Scotland were to score big runs, they had to start from the top. Coetzer hit a half-century against England in Christchurch to reiterate he was playing himself into some form.

In Nelson, it was only after he had crossed his half-century that he started playing freely, Bangladesh's bowlers serving him with enough shortish deliveries. It was his preferred length, as he frequently got up on his toes to play punchy drives through cover. Against Afghanistan, he had been caught in the crease to a fuller one; Bangladesh did not test him with that length, playing into his strengths.

The acceleration, though, came towards the end as Coetzer stole 18 runs off the 40th over. Two overs later, he smashed Mashrafe Mortaza for 15 more, the penultimate delivery landing in the crowd at long-on. It was the ball after, a searing yorker he calmly nudged away to the leg side, that showed how confident he had become. His dominating 156 set the tone of the innings, but it was not enough in the end as Bangladesh chased down the target clinically.

"I thought 330 would have been good, but I felt the batsmen at the other end were also scoring, so I felt I didn't have to do anything rash," Coetzer said, forced to defend his relatively slow start.

But Mommsen, who took more positives out of the loss this time, credited Coetzer for giving Scotland a good chance of putting pressure on Bangladesh. "It was a fantastic [innings], I was fortunate to spend a lot of time out there with him, especially through that period where he accelerated perfectly and timed his innings perfectly," Mommsen said. "So the guys will take a lot of confidence from his performance, will enjoy his performance. We're very proud of his performance, and hopefully the people back home are also very proud of that.

"You look back and you might think, 'Yeah, maybe we should have gone a little bit harder, a little bit earlier.' But, yeah, it's easy to say that in hindsight. I think 318 we are very happy with, and that gave us a chance to win the game."

In one of the sheds at the Saxton Oval is a bat, about four feet high, a good four kilos or more, that is used for drilling in the point to parents that it is what a normal bat feels like to a young kid. It is used to reiterate to parents that it takes time for the kids to be ready for the big boys. You could have handed that bat to Coetzer today and he would have still scored those runs. Coetzer's innings was yet another example that Scotland are growing up fast.