High-flying Scotland look to take another step towards Super 12s
PNG, meanwhile, are a loss away from an early exit, less than 48 hours after their maiden T20 World Cup outing against Oman
Scotland are on a high, and a win on Tuesday could take them a step closer to the Super 12s. Papua New Guinea are a loss away from an early exit, less than 48 hours after their maiden T20 World Cup outing against Oman. That realisation can be disconcerting, but it's the reality of the format; only two teams from the pool can qualify into the next round.
Both sides have been in Oman for over a month. There's a sense of familiarity now, with Scotland and PNG having played each other in two 50-over matches and a T20I in the last three weeks alone. Scotland won comfortably each time but are aware of the fickle nature of the format. All PNG need is to look to their opponents, who toppled in-form Bangladesh on Sunday, for inspiration.
Both sides need their batters to fire. In their opening game, PNG lost two wickets for no runs, while Scotland stuttered to 53 for 6. Where Scotland did remarkably well, though, was in trying to remain positive in good batting conditions, instead of being bogged down by the scorecard, with Chris Greaves and Mark Watt leading the turnaround.
PNG were in an excellent position to up the tempo courtesy a half-century stand between Assad Vala and Charles Amini, but couldn't find the finishing kick against Oman, hurtling to a 129 which they felt was at least 25 short. With the ball, they couldn't work up any rhythm and were let down by the fielders. Tuesday calls for a massive lift if they are to remain alive in the competition.
Players to watch
That PNG are here for their first World Cup is largely down to Norman Vanua's blistering half-century that brought them back from the brink of an exit in their penultimate game of the qualifying tournament in 2019. On Sunday, Vanua, an allrounder, fell for just 1 against Oman. Can he deliver in a must-win?
Fast bowler Safyaan Sharif
was tasked with closing out the game for Scotland against Bangladesh. Needing to defend 24 off the final over, he conceded 18. Barring the final delivery that was banged in short, he attempted a yorker for each of the five previous deliveries, missing his mark thrice. End result was figures of 3-0-26-0. He has been wicketless in each of Scotland's previous four T20Is. Tuesday may offer him another opportunity to change that in a game that could potentially put them into the Super 12s.
Scotland: WLWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Stats that matter Vanua, who didn't bowl a single over in PNG's opening loss to Oman, is the country's leading T20I wicket-taker with 35 scalps. George Munsey holds the record for the second-most sixes in a T20I innings after Aaron Finch. He struck 14 of them in his 56-ball 127 not out for Scotland against Netherlands in September 2019. His strike rate of 153 is also the highest for a Scotland batter who has made at least 500 runs. Richie Berrington's 63 consecutive appearances for Scotland is the most for any player in T20Is. Asghar Afghan comes a close second with 61.
"We're trying to keep our feet on the ground and not look too far ahead. If it [qualifying for the Super 12s] does happen, we believe it will, great. No team can be underestimated in T20 cricket, the beauty is, on any day someone can get big runs, take five wickets, do anything. Every member of this squad believes they can do it, that's what stands us in good stead now." - Scotland allrounder Michael Leask.
"I'd love them to play their flamboyant way. To express themselves, show their natural ability, so people sit back at home and say, 'Maybe we should take more notice of PNG. I'm going to watch these guys moving forward.'" Cricket PNG CEO Greg Campbell.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo