Scotland claimed victory honours in the opening match of the inaugural Desert T20 behind a record partnership by Calum MacLeod and Richie Berrington to romp past Hong Kong on a windy day at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Hong Kong were punished for a sloppy fielding display as captain Kyle Coetzer and George Munsey motored their way through a 61-run opening stand and Scotland faced few problems from Hong Kong's attack.
Offspinner Ehsan Khan produced a double-strike in the eighth over to remove the openers, but it was a minor speed bump as MacLeod and Berrington generated a record T20I stand for Scotland by adding 127 runs for the third wicket.
Hong Kong got off to a brisk start in the Powerplay but with only two men allowed outside the circle, both Nizakat Khan and Babar Hayat managed to pick out a man on the boundary to fall by the end of the sixth over. In stark contrast to Hong Kong's effort in the field, Scotland were catlike in pouncing on haphazard running between the wickets to produce a pair of run-outs, the second of which accounted for Anshuman Rath at the start of the 14th over to put the game out of reach.
Orthodox vs unorthodox
Berrington and MacLeod ended up scoring 60 runs apiece - Berrington unbeaten on 39 balls, MacLeod dismissed after facing 34 - but each took different paths. Berrington mainly pursued a classical approach with a bit of brawn mixed in. His first six was struck from the Pavilion End in the 16th over, muscling it through the wind over long-off. Two balls into the 19th over, he used the wind to hit towards the pavilion for another six over long-off to bring up his half-century off 35 balls.
Munsey had set the tone earlier in the match for MacLeod's knock with a series of reverse sweeps and once MacLeod arrived, he continued to frustrate Hong Kong's bowlers by unfurling more of the same in addition to some switch hits. His first reverse sweep had a bit of good fortune, going off the top edge over short third man for four. After bringing up his fifty with a heave over midwicket, he used the final over to practice more of those switch hits, sending consecutive fours over third man before he fell trying the shot a third time.
After the game, MacLeod reasoned in the press conference that the switch hit was actually a high percentage shot from the Pavilion End because the wind was blowing to an orthodox third man. Despite not trying it for "a few years" he made it look relatively easy.
By the time Man of the Match MacLeod fell with one ball left in the innings, he and Berrington had set a new mark in T20Is, for any Scotland wicket. The previous best was set by Matt Machan and Michael Leask on the same ground in November 2013 against Netherlands at the World T20 Qualifier. It's only the third time Scotland have had a century partnership in T20Is. However, Scotland's Twenty20 record stand was a 130-run effort by Coetzer and Fraser Watts against Uganda in Nairobi in 2010.
Beyond Scotland, the MacLeod-Berrington partnership was the joint second-best for any wicket by an Associate in T20Is, behind only a 131-run stand by Micky Swart and Ben Cooper for Netherlands against Nepal in 2015. It was also the joint sixth-best third-wicket stand in T20Is overall, with the highest coming from Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan at the 2014 World T20 against Sri Lanka, when they added 152 after coming together with the score 0 for 2.
When Coetzer flipped the coin at the toss, the wind was already so strong that it carried the coin over his head and landed three feet away from the pitch. Conditions were relatively calm on the eve of the tournament but teams may need to keep an eye on the breezy weather and factor it into their plans over the next three days.