In a Scotland batting unit featuring the reigning ICC Associate Player of the Year, Calum MacLeod, and a captain who earlier in the month had became the fastest Associate cricketer to 2000 ODI runs, Kyle Coetzer (in 49 innings), the most menacing threat to opposition bowling attacks might actually sit a bit lower down the order. George Munsey's destructive batting has had him firmly entrenched in the opening slot in T20 cricket for Scotland, but in ODIs he slots in lower down as a finisher.
On Tuesday against Sri Lanka at the Grange, the scene was set for Munsey to showcase his rapidly growing reputation as a power-hitter. A flurry of sweeps and reverse sweeps had taken him to 23 off 24 balls before rain transformed Scotland's equation from 191 off 138 balls (8.30 per over), to 103 off 42 (14.71). Yet, Munsey says the situation was well within Scotland's grasp in a match that eventually ended in Sri Lanka winning by 35 runs.
"I was really positive actually," Munsey told ESPNcricinfo after the match, when asked about Scotland's chances as he walked out for the resumption of the chase. "I think with our firepower at the back end, these totals are not un-gettable.
"We've got quite a strong hitting line-up at the tail and the belief in the team was we really have a great chance of getting this, especially if we have a good start and really go hard from ball one. We almost did that. One more over early on with a good over would have really put us in a great place. We lost a few too many wickets in the end but we weren't far off chasing it down."
Scotland got that good over straight after the restart. Munsey struck Thisara Perera's first ball for six over the leg side before clipping two more boundaries in a 19-run 28th over to keep the equation in check. A six off Suranga Lakmal as part of an 18-run 31st over brought up a 37-ball half-century. Scotland needed 50 off 18 balls, gettable in 2019 as proven by the latter stages of T20 chases on flat wickets like the Grange.
But Nuwan Pradeep, bowling a match-winning spell of death bowling, yorked Munsey for 61 off 42 balls in the 32nd over. Even though he had passed his previous ODI best of 55, made last summer against England, Munsey was left despondent. More than 90 minutes after the final wicket had been taken by Sri Lanka, he still hadn't taken off his pads.
"I'm pretty gutted, to be honest," Munsey said. "I felt like it's one of my strengths, targeting bowlers. I started well and I felt like I could have seen the team over the line. So it was pretty gutting to be walking off knowing that I still had more to give out there and I felt like I could have steadied the ship home."
Munsey's wicket was the first in a sequence of three in five balls taken by Sri Lanka as Pradeep and Thisara submarined Scotland's chase. Munsey gave plaudits to Sri Lanka's bowlers for maintaining their death-bowling accuracy in spite of challenging conditions with a wet ball that needed to be replaced at one stage.
"When you lose a cluster of wickets, you're gonna struggle no matter what the situation is," Munsey said. "To be fair to the Sri Lankans, they bowled really well. They hit their wide yorkers, they hit the boot. They only bowled a few wides. That was real tough to put away. Any length they gave us, we put away. We didn't miss many length opportunities. But credit where credit is due, they smashed their yorkers."
Sent in to bat, Sri Lanka made a below-par 322 for 8, a total Munsey believes Scotland did well to hold them down to, given that they had been 203 for 1 after 33 overs. Scotland uncharacteristically dropped three chances, including one each off Dimuth Karunaratne on 13 and Avishka Fernando on 22; they went on to make 77 and 74 respectively. Munsey believes the missed chances cost Scotland in the end.
"We were a fair bit behind the rate as far as DL (Duckworth-Lewis) is concerned when we came off, but in the appearance of the game we were doing quite well," Munsey said. "So I think had the game gone the distance, I truly believe it would have been a different outcome. It's hard to play devil's advocate with DL because there's so many different aspects to it. We did a good job but we weren't quite on top of our game fielding and that's what cost us.
"We have a very good fielding team and that was slightly out of character for us today to drop so many catches in one game. From overs 0-20, we weren't that great as a unit in the field but then we turned it around and we stopped them getting a 350 score and brought them back closer to a 300-mark. That was down to the bowling and fielding, holding catches. We saw two different fairy-tales in one innings of fielding."