Scotland had gone 20 matches in ICC global events - since the 1999 World Cup - without a win. The losing streak hung like Coleridge's albatross around their necks. They were desperate to shake it off. In their 21st match, against Hong Kong on an unexpectedly rainy night in Nagpur, they finally did it and exited the World T20 with an eight-wicket win, which was set up by a sharp bowling performance.
The portents were clear right from the third ball of the match. Left-arm spinner Mark Watt gave generous flight as the ball gripped the cracked pitch and tested Jamie Atkinson with slow turn. Some balls turned like that, some skidded on, while others stopped on the batsmen. The trio of Watt, Con de Lange, and Matt Machan
combined to send Hong Kong on a tail spin with figures of 12-0-66-4. Rain gave Hong Kong brief respite, and the contest was then reduced to a 10-over shootout, after which Scotland overhauled the revised target of 76 with ease.
George Munsey kick-started the chase with a flurry of fours. By the time he holed out, Scotland had knocked off more than one fourth of their target. And by the sixth over Scotland had dashed past 50, with several of their players lining up by the edge of the boundary to celebrate. The winning moment arrived, with 12 balls to spare, when Machan smote Nadeem Ahmed over midwicket for a six. Seconds later, he was embraced by veteran Kyle Coetzer, who hit 20 not out, while coach Grant Bradburn rushed towards captain Preston Mommsen and gave him an animated high-five.
The trend of spin doing the damage continued in Nagpur, after Hong Kong opted to bat, but the seamers did their bit as well, sucking pace off the ball and bowling cutters. Scotland, pretty and effective in pink, had lifted themselves in the field as well, diving and flinging themselves around, despite a couple of fumbled chances. Scotland's effort meant that Hong Kong were kept to 127 for 7.
The 44-year old Ryan Campbell, potentially featuring in his last match at an ICC global event, was the first to go, for a duck, when he carved a catch to third man off Gavin Main. Babar Hayat began with a flourish, piercing the off-side ring with punchy drives of varying degrees, before nicking Main behind. However, umpire Ian Gould did not spot it, handing the batsman a lifeline. Hayat, though, failed to cash in, undone by the slowness of the pitch, holing out to deep midwicket for 15. In the interim, Josh Davey fooled Atkinson with a cross-seamer and plucked a diving return catch in his follow through.
Scotland followed Hayat's wicket with 25 boundary-less balls before Mark Chapman found his mojo with a swept six over deep square leg. The spinners then fed Chapman with leg-stump balls as he mounted a recovery. Anshuman Rath kept him good company before a missed swipe restricted the fourth-wicket partnership to 49. Tanwir Afzal and Chapman, himself, soon followed as Hong Kong were weakened to 98 for 6.
Nizakat Khan, though, muscled back-to-back sixes to give Hong Kong a late boost. The last over was interrupted by a peculiar super-sopper delay to add to a rain delay, but there was no stopping Scotland as they savoured a long-awaited victory.