In Dunedin on Tuesday, Brendon McCullum put Scotland in after winning the toss. His bowlers struck immediately and made it 12/4. But Matt Machen and Richie Berrington tried to make the score respectable. But once they got out, wickets began to fall yet again. What was started by Trent Boult and Tim Southee was polished off by Anderson and Vettori as Scotland were bowled out for 142. It all looked so amazingly easy, when New Zealand came out to chase 143. But what might have been perceived as a child’s play, turned into a needless and entirely avoidable struggle as Scottish bowlers put pressure and had the Kiwi batsmen eating out of their hands. They threw away their wickets and made the chase interesting from spectators’ angle. In the end, New Zealand managed to win with more than 25 overs remaining but the victory became a fodder for further thought for NZ cricket managers. After looking so promising in their recent matches against Sri Lanka, New Zealand’s performance against inexperienced Scotland raised plenty of questioning eyebrows. An immediate reason could be attributed to an obvious laid-back approach in the face of an awfully small target. This has happened earlier in the ODIs, test cricket and T20 games. But professional cricketers are instructed by their coaches to guard against such situations. The problem with small targets is more psychological than cricketing competence. In the 1983 World Cup final, when West Indies speedsters laid India’s batsmen low at Lords and the mighty West Indians had an easy 184-run target in 60 overs. But despite beginning the chase well, the batsmen were overcome by complacency and lost that historic match to Kapil Dev’s India by 40 runs. The whole thing starts with losing a few wickets and the situation affords enhanced confidence to the fielding side. Then the fear of losing plays havoc in the batsmen’s minds. The contagion slowly gets transferred to every successive batsman in stupidly getting out to incompetent shots. In sharp contrast, bowlers and fielders get inspired by the sudden possibility of pulling off an unplanned and shock victory. Whether such a thing happened or not on Tuesday, New Zealand lost seven wickets against Scotland and found themselves on the brink for once. By their sordid display, they stopped breathing in the stands but in the end New Zealand precluded the possibility of their game against Scotland from going into the folk memories.
At the University Oval in Dunedin, Brendon McCullum won the toss and asked the Scots to bat first. The New Zealand skipper couldn’t have been happier to see a score of 12/4 on the board in the innings’ 5th over with Trent Boult and Tim Southee equally sharing the spoils. Of the first two balls that he bowled, Boult got rid of Calum Macleod and Hamish Gardiner with his left-arm in-swingers. McCullum employed five slips and a gully for the hat-trick ball but Boult went too far wide on the off. In the remaining three deliveries Boult beat Machan’s edge three times in three balls with five slip fielders still in place. Southee too had a hat-trick chance in the fifth over but he lost it like Boult. Just when, NZ supporters began dreaming of an unprecedented ODI wash-out, Matt Machan and Richie Berrington offered an incredible resistance and produced a 97-run partnership. But once these two saviors departed, Scotland innings crumbled under a magical Daniel Vettori spell. Complementing the veteran bowler’s 3/24 in 8.2 overs, Corey Anderson also contributed in chopping the tail with figures of 3/18 in 5 overs. The innings produced a paltry 142 runs and it lasted just 36.2 overs.
When the home side openers came out, they had a motley 143-run chase in front of them. With plenty of time and space available, it was necessary to adjust to the demands of the situation rather than thinking of a blast straightaway. But Martin Guptill couldn’t curb his instincts as he tried to lift Iain Wardlaw over long-off in the 3rd over. The ball, however, found the edge of his bat and wicketkeeper did the rest. Scotland could have made it 22/2, when McCullum also got impatient three balls later. The skipper heaved at a ball from Rob Taylor but Gardiner dropped him at deep-square-leg boundary. McCullum finally departed in the 7th over, when he tried to run down the ball to the third man but ended up getting an edge to the keeper. 48/2 became 66/3, when Ross Taylor was caught by Rob Taylor off Majid Haq’s bowling. There was a new spring in the Scottish feet at Dunedin as they made a heavy dent to New Zealand’s confidence. The hosts lost Kane Williamson in 18th over, Grant Elliot in the 21st and Anderson & Ronchi in the 24th over. Except Elliot, every other batsman fell to rash strokes. Fortunately for New Zealand, they were close to the target and won the match by three wickets. However, the victory brought no joy for McCullum and the team management and they would certainly have gone into a huddle to examine the batting debacle in detail.