Scotland catch winning habit against Netherlands

Mon, Aug 6, 2007 6:25 PM

Scotland showed its best and worst sides while carving out an innings victory over the Netherlands inside three days in the ICC Intercontinental Cup that puts it in second place in the points table behind Canada.

Scotland’s pace duo of John Blain and Paul Hoffmann claimed 13 of the 20 Netherlands wickets as the visitors were bowled out for 255 and 138 runs after Neil McCallum and Ryan Watson’s centuries helped the home team score 452.

But Scotland’s eventual victory margin of an innings and 59 runs could have been bigger had the home side not floored more than a dozen catches in the match, including 10 in the first innings.

However Blain, who had match figures of 8-118, felt that despite sloppy fielding Scotland was too good for the Netherlands. "I think we played reasonably well and it all started after we won a good toss on a damp morning.

"We bowled well enough to pick 20 wickets in three days while Ryan (Watson) and Neil (McCallum) laid the foundation of an easy victory after featuring in a crucial partnership (record 240 for the fourth wicket)," said Blain.

"After a frustrating washout in the first game (against the UAE), we desperately wanted a win and we have achieved that by a comprehensive margin," he said.

After winning that toss, captain Watson had little hesitation in opting to field and Blain justified the decision by grabbing 5-84 as the Netherlands was bowled out for 255. The only resistance from came from opener Tom de Grooth who missed his maiden first-class century by two runs when he was caught at the wicket off Blain.

"I am extremely happy with the way I have bowled this season. I didn’t try to put in extra and concentrated on swinging the ball away from the batsmen from the corridor of uncertainty," said Blain.

Scotland replied strongly when it recovered from 55-3 to reach 452 and take a 197-run lead with Watson registering his second career century in scoring 154 while McCallum’s career-best 181 was the second time in six innings he has reached three figures.

28-year-old Blain, who has played county cricket in the UK for Northamptonshire and Yorkshire, and Hoffmann claimed three wickets each as the Netherlands was skittled out for 138 in its second innings.

Blain believes he has formed a good combination with Hoffmann. "We have been bowling together for the last 5-6 years now and have done it with reasonable success. It’s right to say that we like to hunt in pairs," said Blain, who now has 111 first-class wickets.

The Netherlands went into the match without the services of its captain Jeroen Smits, Bas Zuiderent, Ryan ten Doeschate, Edgar Schiferli, Mark Jonkman, Eric Szwarzcynski and Adeel Raja.

To rub salt to wound, stand-in captain Peter Borren had an individual and collective disappointment. The man who pulled the Netherlands from the jaws of defeat against Canada by scoring a fine 105, could score only 13 and 12 in the match.

Blain sympathised with the Netherlands but emphasised that the absence of established players gave an opportunity for youngsters to taste first-class cricket. "It was good to see young faces in their side and they looked good and promising but obviously lacking in experience. The more exposure they will get, the better they will become," he said.

The victory gave Scotland 20 points and second place in the points table with 23 after two matches. Scotland had three points from its rain-ruined opening match against the United Arab Emirates in Ayr in June.

It is still the early stages of the competition and four of the eight teams (Bermuda, Namibia, Kenya and defending champion Ireland) have yet to get their campaigns underway. But for the time being Canada, the beaten finalist from 2004 and 2006, is top of the table with 26 points while the Netherlands is third with 14 and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) fourth with three points.

Scotland now travels to Belfast where it takes on arch-rivals and defending champions Ireland at the Civil Service Cricket Club, Stormont from 9 August while the Netherlands meets Bermuda at the VRA ground, Amstelveen from 13 August.

The ICC Intercontinental Cup has quickly grown in stature and profile since its inception three years ago and now ICC's premier first-class tournament is an integral part of the Associate Members’ cricket schedule.

Having previously been designed around a two-group, three-day format, the event has evolved into an eight-team, round-robin and truly global tournament featuring four-day cricket which gives those teams which do not play Test cricket the chance to experience the longer form of the game.

Scotland won the first ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004, beating Canada in the final, while Ireland has been victorious in both events since then, beating Kenya in the 2005 decider and Canada earlier this year in the 2006-07 event.

The final of the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2007-08 will take place in November 2008 at a venue yet to be decided.

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