Eleven players took to the field for England’s first ever North Western Hemisphere Test Championship match against Scotland at The Oval. Such was the state of the pitch that we bravely (Naively?) chose to omit our main spin threat of Moeen Ali. That left the part-time efforts of captain Joe Root as the only spin bowling option available to… captain Joe Root. On his home ground it was felt essential to select the effervescent Sam Curran. The left-arm seamer provides our attack with a crucial point of difference.
Having won the toss we chose to bat first and local boy Rory Burns (26) alongside Haseeb Hameed (23) laid a solid foundation in reaching 37 without loss before Burns was caught when attempting a pull. Ben Duckett soon followed for just 1 and the rest of our wickets continued to fall with alarming regularity. This was despite 98 minutes of stoicism from Lacnashire’s Hameed. We also benefited from skipper Joe Root (9) having earned a reprieve when dropped in the slips on just 2 but he added only a further seven runs before being dismissed. 37-0 became an embarrassing 121 all out before lunch on the first day at The Oval.
A reverse-sweep filled counter-attacking innings of 34 from only thirty deliveries courtesy of Jos Buttler was pivotal to us even reaching three figures. Buttler struck 18 (44244.) from left-arm spinner Mark Watt’s first over before Watt struck back to claim figures of 3-26. Fellow twirler Martin Law bettered that with analysis of 4-19. Having ourselves omitted our number one spinner, seven of the wickets to fall on the first morning fell to spin! A word too for Scottish gloveman Mahdi Clay who claimed six dismissals in the innings.
Following that and having reached 39 without loss, the visitors looked well placed to gain a substantial first innings lead. Opener Kyle Coetzer’s 49 from 55 balls led the way but enter Stuart Broad. Broad thought he had Clay trapped LBW on 13 but the decision was correctly overturned.
It mattered little though as without another run added Broad sent Clay’s stumps shattering in all directions. Promisingly placed at 63-1, Scotland subsided to 166 all out. A few batsmen got starts but none could kick on. Chris Woakes (5-42) led the way, striking in his first over and claiming three key wickets in his premier spell before returning to finish the job later in the innings. Broad would finish with figures of 3-47. Jonny Bairstow went some way to redeeming himself after being dismissed for a golden duck in England’s first innings, the result of appalling shot selection in the circumstances, by claiming four sharp catches. A lead of 45 runs was healthy for Scotland but not necessarily game defining.
We commenced our second innings late on day one and lost Hameed for 12 before the close but the standard had been set for a more disciplined batting effort second time around. Hameed’s exit meant that the small matter of 21 wickets had fallen on the first day. Such statistics will no doubt have caught the eye of the NWHTC Pitch Inspection Squad or PIS.
Burns (44) and Duckett (46), who was dropped at slip in the first over of the day, compiled 92 before the latter fell courtesy of a top edge when reverse sweeping. Duckett was just starting to open up and we’ve selected him to play his own game but it was a disappointing end to an innings that could’ve cemented his place in the team long term. As it was both Burns and Duckett performed well enough to secure their place in the side for the next match but not sufficiently to confirm that they’re the answer to our long-standing top order conundrum. Duckett’s departure opened the floodgates as 118-1 became 185-6 at sandwiches.
Captain Joe Root perished soon after for 63 before Sam Curran (63), in front of his home fans and Chris Woakes (68), not content with a five-wicket haul, seemed to take the game away from the visitors. The pair put on 117 for the eighth wicket however Woakes was out to the first ball after tea. Just when Scotland thought they’d done enough to stay in the match they could only watch in horror as our last wicket pair of Stuart Broad (39 not out) and James Anderson (50) compiled 90 runs for the final wicket. The latter registering only his second Test half-century though he promptly fell to the very next delivery. Scots’ spinner Mark Watt added figures of 4-121 to his first innings triplicate to complete the match with bowling analysis of 7-147. Stumper Mahdi Clay snaffled another five victims taking his match total to eleven. All that equated to Scotland requiring the small matter of 401 runs for victory. Surely that would be out of reach?!
As was the case the night prior, the batting side lost one wicket before the close of play. Sam Curran, promoted to opening the bowling, cleaned up first innings top scorer Coetzer with an unplayable inswinger for just 6. Mahdi Clay and Caden McCarthy looked in good rhythm during the rest of the evening session however and Scotland progressed serenely to 54-1 at the close of the second day’s play.
Despite our best efforts the following morning, the visitors picked up where they had left off and batted throughout the session without losing a wicket. McCarthy (105) and Clay (113) went onto record maiden Test hundreds. Their partnership was worth 191 and set Scotland well on their way to a headline making victory. Roman Bruce (108 not out) also passed three figures and was there at the end as the Celtic side claimed a seismic and historic Test match win. Though we claimed a few wickets we were never really in the hunt as Scotland achieved the fourth highest run chase in Test history, although they did have to come back on day four to knock off the remaining nine runs required, finishing on an astonishing 402-4! If the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship needed something special in its first round of fixtures to get people excited… boy did it get it!
A special mention for the administrators at The Oval who welcomed spectators through the gates free of charge on the fourth morning.
Extremely late in the piece, Jonny Bairstow couldn’t maintain his first innings standards and what would’ve been a first over maiden international wicket for Haseeb Hameed went begging!
England 121 (Buttler 34, Burns 26, Hameed 23/Law 4-19, Watt 3-26, Egan 2-22)
Scotland 166 (Coetzer 49, Bruce 24, Burke 19/Woakes 5-42, Broad 3-47, Curran.S 1-14)
England 445 (Woakes 68, Root 63, Curran.S 63/Watt 4-121, Law 2-31, Scott 2-70)
Scotland 402-4 (Clay 113, Bruce 108*, McCarthy 105/Curran.S 2-82, Broad 1-78, Woakes 1-82)
Scotland won by six wickets
Maybe in part because it was hard to choose between three centurions, though wicketkeeper Mahdi Clay scored his as opener as well as claiming eleven dismissals in the match, spin bowler Mark Watt’s match figures of 7-147 saw him awarded the Player of the Match award.
Match bowling figures of 1-104 for James Anderson and 0-77 for Ben Stokes, who also contributed only five runs with the bat, mean that their places in the team for the next match may have to be reviewed. Spinner Moeen Ali among others waits in the wings.
Congratulations to Scotland on an epic victory. Like us they applied themselves much better with the bat second time around but we now know that we must do even better both with willow in hand and with the ball in order to be successful in this new competition.
In the other matches in Round One, Canada brushed aside neighbours USA by 86 runs. This was despite being bowled out for only 48 in their second innings however they then bundled the States themselves out for a paltry 44. Subhan Breen’s second innings figures of 6-10 may take some beating in the competition.
Ireland thrashed the Netherlands by an innings and 191 runs with the Dutch crumbling for 69 in their second dig. There were contributions from throughout Ireland’s XI though Stuart Poynter’s undefeated 95 led the way.
Next up for us it’s a long and arduous trip to Canada. Though the Mapleleafs defeated the Stars and Stripes, surely we can get our first victory near the Arctic. Playing conditions will be alien to us though and as such we’ll need to get the composition of our playing XI spot on. We’ve sent a pitch scout across the Atlantic already and the feedback is that though the surface is hard it’s also dry with some cracks. Our travelling squad for the trip will be announced shortly.
Thank you for your support and apologies for our opening result. It was not for the want of trying!
Paul Morris, Selection Architect, England Men’s Cricket Team
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