Mark Watt set to continue with 24-yard delivery against Australia

Scotland spinner was controversially dead-balled when deploying variation against Oman

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Mark Watt celebrates the wicket of Zeeshan Maqsood, Scotland vs Oman, T20 World Cup, Antigua, June 9, 2024

Mark Watt dismissed Zeeshan Maqsood but was denied that of Khalid Kail against Oman  •  ICC/Getty Images

Mark Watt, the Scotland left-arm spinner, will continue to bowl his trademark variation from 24 yards in their must-win fixture against Australia on Saturday night, despite controversially being dead-balled when doing so against Oman last week.
Watt regularly bowls from behind the bowling crease to throw batters off: "It's just trying to rush [the batters]," he has explained. "By the time I've let it go, the batsman looks up and the ball's halfway down the wicket." It has brought him plenty of success, most notably accounting for all three of his wickets in a win over West Indies at the 2022 T20 World Cup.
But during Scotland's seven-wicket win against Oman on Sunday, umpire Chris Brown twice called "dead ball" when Watt bowled his 24-yarder, with batter Khalid Kail backing away on both occasions. The second of those two balls hit the top of middle stump, with Watt and captain Richie Berrington both asking umpire Brown for clarification.
Watt suggested that Kail had been "a bit sneaky" in backing away, a view shared by Tom Moody on the ICC's commentary. "The batter's looking up. He's ready. To me, that is a legitimate ball," Moody said. "The ball is live. As soon as the batter has placed his bat down and faces up, looks up to the bowler, he's ready to go."
There was some confusion in the Scotland camp as to why Watt had been dead-balled. "He does it a lot, and he's taken a lot of wickets with it," Michael Leask, the allrounder, said on Friday. "I think they might have given the batter one warning, but they perceived that he wasn't looking, [when] the video showed that he clearly was looking."
There has been some conjecture about whether it should be legal for Watt to bowl from behind where the bowler's end umpire is standing, with the ICC and MCC's interpretations understood to differ slightly. In any case, both balls that were called dead against Oman were delivered from in front of umpire Brown.
Leask said that Watt would not be deterred by the decision to dead-ball him: "He will be doing it again. I can guarantee he will bowl more than one against Australia. It's almost the element of surprise… It's also how good he is at holding his length. It still spins, it's just that fraction longer. Man, it's horrible to face, even for us in the nets. You know it's coming, every two minutes."
Australia have never faced Scotland in a T20 international but are alert to Watt's variations, with vice-captain Matthew Wade revealing he had seen footage of it while scrolling on Instagram Reels. "It's clever bowling," Wade said. "A lot of players are looking to get a little bit of an advantage and to sneak up and bowl a ball from near behind the umpire is clever. I've just got to make sure I don't pull away when he does it this time."
Wade was reprimanded after Australia's win over England following an argument with umpire Nitin Menon over a similar incident, when Wade felt a ball should have been called dead after he backed away. "I mean, I've played international cricket for 15 years and I'm learning the rules as we go," he said.
"I don't actually even know the rule: once you take stance and face up, are you saying that you're ready [for the bowler] to bowl? I actually have no idea of the rule. I think it's just got to be common sense at some stages. I'm sure he [Watt] will pull it out tomorrow at some stage and we'll see who's on strike; hopefully, it's not me."
Where previously Full-Members teams could be caught unaware by quirks of opposition players, it is now standard for analysts to send pre-match packs highlighting anything unusual, like Watt's 24-yarder. "You've got to do a little bit of research before the game to see what you're getting," Wade said. "We'll do that tomorrow.
"Individually, we'll go through their bowlers: whether it's England or South Africa, we don't really sit down as a batting unit and go through bowlers individually as a collective. We get little packs that get sent out tonight and go through their bowlers individually. I'll have a look at them over the next 24 hours. I haven't seen heaps and heaps of them."
England's thumping win over Oman has put an end to speculation that Australia could collude with Scotland to win by a small enough margin to send England home on net run-rate, and Wade said that the identity of the second qualifier from Group B was "not taking up any oxygen" in team discussions: "We're just going to go out and play the game of cricket and see what happens."
Leask suggested that Scotland are expecting England to beat Namibia on Saturday afternoon, saying: "It's a must-win game - always has been. We knew coming into this game that it would be. We expected England to play well in the group and that's exactly what they've done… It's a hell of an opportunity for us to go and play really good cricket and take on one of the best [teams] in the world."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98