Calum MacLeod’s masterclass will take the headlines, but on a day which saw 736 runs, Ben Jones argues it was the Scottish bowlers who won it.
Today saw Scotland beat England by six runs, in a historic occasion at Grange CC in Edinburgh. Scotland, ranked No.13 in the world, defeated England for the first time in their history. It was an upset which very few could have predicted – so how did they do it?
The batting will most likely take the headlines. Calum MacLeod’s superb 140* will be the performance which most will remember, and in many ways that’s rightly so. His innings was blistering, attacking as he did 59% of his balls (the match average well down at 40%), but he did it with precision and intelligence. He was immense against England’s quasi attack-leader, Adil Rashid, taking him at 10.2rpo and not playing-and-missing once. He was colossal.
However, more than even MacLeod’s incredible effort, Scotland won because of the way they adapted to the extremely tough bowling conditions.
After Jonny Bairstow came and blitzed the Scottish bowlers straight out of the traps, Coetzer’s men could easily have folded. Yet impressively, they kept their heads, and changed what was going wrong. In the first 10 overs, they’d bowled 37% short balls, trying to dig the ball hard into the surface in order to find some life – but that didn’t work. Through a combination of the true bounce on offer, and the relatively pedestrian pace of their seamers (131kph), England were able to dominate those deliveries, taking them for 9.69rpo.
However, in the next 10 overs, Scotland switched things up. They bowled just 17% short balls, half of what they’d sent down previously, and England’s run-rate dropped to “just” 7.62rpo – a significant amount better than before. England lost a portion of their momentum, and Scotland moved back into the match.
The most significant individual bowling performance of the day came from Mark Watt. 10 overs for 55 runs, taking three key wickets as well, is clearly a tremendous effort. It would be on most pitches. It was even more so on a Grange CC wicket which had so little in it for the bowlers, that many observers suggested it was the best club wicket they’d ever seen. Watt was attacked roughly the same amount as the other spinners in the match (the average was 38%, and he was attacked 37%) but he was by far the most economical of the slower bowlers on show.
He managed this largely by firing the ball through more quickly than any of the others, his average speed of 90.81kph the fastest of the four spinners. On a day when Moeen Ali went the other way, and bowled the slowest he has since the Champions Trophy (just 85.85kph), Watt illustrated remarkable maturity and nous, maximising the small amount which the conditions were offering.
The willingness to adapt, allied with the excellence of Watt, gave Scotland the luxury of not bowling to England’s finest finishers in the final 10 overs. The visitors were seven down as the final phase of the game began, Moeen and Liam Plunkett tasked with taking them over the line. Watt continued his excellence, bowling three overs for just 13 runs, but the seamers came into their own as the pressure mounted.
Two of Scotland’s three death bowling seamers arrived with a clear plan. Safyaan Sharif targeted the stumps relentlessly, a remarkable 35% of his deliveries aimed at the wicket, compared to a match average of 12% for seamers. This bore fruit most obviously when he trapped Mark Wood in-front for the final wicket, and was the clear method Sharif was sticking to. At the other end, Chris Sole point blank refused to put anything in the slot – just 7% of his deliveries were on a good length, instead opting to go full or short. He was dangerous when he went full, finding 1.4° of swing, the most of the death overs seamers on either side.
The only man who appeared not to have a plan was Richie Berrington. Four of his deliveries were full, two were short, but none had the appreciable swing or venom of Sole, his average pace more than 20kph slower. But even in this moment of fear, Scotland showed nous – Berrington was removed from the attack and didn’t bowl again in the innings. Coetzer was attuned to the moment. Scotland were superb, and earned their success through intelligence and control.