A glorious rainbow over Mannofield yesterday but there was to be no pot of gold for Scotland’s cricketers as they were squeezed to defeat by England in Aberdeen, despite the wonderful best efforts of Stoneywood-Dyce’s Michael Leask and the rain.
The 23-year-old, playing only his third one-day international, bludgeoned his way to an impressive 42 from just 16 deliveries as Scotland tried to chase 173 from 20 overs in a rain- ravaged game, but Leask eventually picked out James Anderson on the boundary’s edge off the bowling of the previously heavily-punished James Tredwell and was taken at the second attempt.
With him went the game as Scotland’s innings had got off to a stuttering start and Anderson showed why he remains one of the world’s best, bowling with pace and finding movement as the home side’s top order struggled.
Sussex’s Matt Machan provided the glue with a patient innings but this was a time for crash and bang and Scotland’s batsmen could only find slap and tickle.
Crucially, Calum MacLeod and Kyle Coetzer fell for single-figure scores and with them went momentum although, for a glorious half-hour, Leask, lean and tall but with power and no fear, had offered hope of a sensational victory.
It ended with a whimper and a succession of tame dismissals and an overwhelming sense of what might have been, a few late lusty blows failing to mask the damage of a 39-run defeat which, in a 20-over per side contest, is significant.
England had seized the initiative with a bullish opening partnership between captain Alastair Cook and Ian Bell but, at only 23 overs per side and with the significant advantage of bowling first, Scotland were well in the mix for a first one-day international victory against the visitors.
England nerves were fraught after the miseries of the winter and this was Scotland’s chance to add to the visitors’ dismay. But constant rain throughout the morning had meant a lengthy delay and it is some achievement any cricket was played.
Even getting started was a tremendous achievement by groundsman Ken McCurdie and his staff, although he ended the day with his arm in a sling after taking a tumble. But their work earned its reward with the covers coming off shortly after 2pm to huge cheers, with a 3.15pm start.
Scotland captain Coetzer won a hugely-important toss and bowled first, with the captain joined by fellow Aberdonians Matty Cross, Josh Davey and Leask in the team. No time for pleasantries and England openers Cook and Bell were quickly into their stride, capitalising when the bowlers dropped short.
Warwickshire right-hander Bell was the more precise, cutting and driving in style but unafraid to power the ball over the infield when the opportunity presented itself. After reaching a fluent 50 from just 33 deliveries, he attempted to ramp scoop the medium pace of Rob Taylor but missed a straight delivery and had his stumps smeared.
Bell had scored four 4s and two 6s and England’s supporters were singing in the rain with captain Cook, who had been the less effective of the openers, joined by Middlesex’s talented Irishman Eoin Morgan. Scant time to make an impression, though. As the rain increased in tempo sending spectators scurrying for cover, the umpires decided enough was enough and took the players from the field.
The game soon resumed, although a reduction to 20 overs a side increased the pressure on the English batsmen. Scotland kept ringing the changes in the bowling attack in their attempt to limit the scoring rate and, although Cross missed a sharp chance to stump Morgan off the bowling of Majid Haq, Scotland broke through when Calum MacLeod produced a stunning boundary catch off the bowling of Taylor to dismiss Cook – an incredible effort and already one of the catches of the season.
Jos Buttler was snared on the boundary by Taylor with another superb effort from the bowling of Davey as the wickets started to tumble.
Davey took two wickets in as many balls but the innings ended with intent from Chris Jordan, who launched the only delivery he faced, the final ball of the innings, to ensure England closed on 167 for six which became a victory target of 173 when Duckworth-Lewis kicked in.