Writing for PakPassion, Talha Syed describes the Scotland vs England and Scotland vs Pakistan T20I series in vivid detail and explains what it means for an ordinary fan to witness such a fantastic set of games in Scotland.
By Talha Syed (15th June, 2018)
Saturday 9th of June to Wednesday 13th of June 2018 - what an experience!
What a memorable few days these were.
It was as if months of anticipation and hard work which had been put in by Cricket Scotland was being appreciated even by the usually merciless Scottish weather, as the clouds cleared way and the sun basked down on the glorious Grange cricket ground.....well at least for 99% of the five days.
I sensed a real buzz around the ground as I arrived. A real sense of anticipation building up. A small group of journalists had gathered to provide coverage of the Scotland & England training sessions, ahead of the historic ODI which was to be held the next day.
The friendliness of the cricket players surprised a few of the journalists who hadn't had the opportunity to cover many cricket matches over their otherwise storied careers. The ground staff moved around various parts of the ground putting final arrangements in place, as Scotland trained first.
Word spread quickly around everyone at the ground when the English arrived.
The Scottish & English captains - Eoin Morgan & Kyle Coetzer - completed press conferences prior to the England team getting their practice underway. Morgan spoke about how his team were not taking the Scots lightly, while Kyle spoke about how this was a lot bigger than met the eye, as Scotland felt like they could make a statement on behalf of 'associate' nations around the world.
Everyone at the ground could sense the anticipation of something special in store - however, no one could have guessed what we were about to witness over the next 24 hours.
Words cannot explain what the 5000 people at The Grange experienced on this day. I don't think pictures - or even a video for that matter - could do it justice.
The ICC's Number 1 ranked ODI team in the world vs an 'associate nation' who the ICC had deemed not be good enough for their World Cup - Surely the result is a foregone conclusion? Surely not.
The Scottish batsmen first set the ground alight - led by Callum MacLeod's thumping 140 as Scotland piled on 371 in their 50 overs. The batsmen had done their job and at the half way mark, their was a sense of hope around the ground. A hope that today we may witness something historic.
Everyone knew that England batted deep and that they were still very much in the game - so much so that you got the sense that many Scottish fans were playing down their chances just to avoid themselves disappointment, incase England were able to scale the mammoth mountain of the 2nd highest run chase in ODI history.
When Englands innings got underway, and Bairstow took to the field - at one stage looking like he could break the record of fastest century in English ODI history - the scepticism seem justified. However, then Scotland started to strike back.
The ebbs and flows of the game were unreal. Scotland would strike with a wicket or two, followed by an English recovery. Then Scotland would strike again - and once again the English would recover. However, with less than a run a ball required, when Moeen Ali was caught on the boundary, the belief was ignited in the Scottish fans.
Eventually as Safyaan Sharif prepared himself to bowl to England's No.11 - Mark Wood - with just 7 runs needed to win, there was near pin drop silence in the ground. As Safyaan got the perfect in-swinging yorker to strike Mark Wood on the tow and went up for the appeal, the crowd absolutely irrupted.
The umpires finger went up as euphoria broke out around the ground. Scotland had done it! Scotland had defeated the old rival in a cricket match for the first time ever! The fans couldn't believe it as the Scottish players took a lap of honour around the ground whilst celebrating with the fans, with "Flower of Scotland" blaring out the PA system.
These were truly unbelievable scenes and anyone there on this day is unlikely to forget them for a very very long time to come. The team which the ICC had banished from the World Cup, had just made a massive statement on behalf of associate cricketers everywhere, by beating the No.1 side in the ICC ODI rankings.
This was the day when everyone in Scotland was a cricket fan. As I walked into my office, people who had never seen a single cricket delivery being bowled in their life, had heard about what had taken place the day before. The front and back page of near enough every Scottish newspaper had a picture of the Scottish boys celebrating a hard earned victory.
As I arrived at the ground on the 3rd day, at an empty Grange cricket stadium, you could sense that nothing could dampen the Scottish spirits following the historic victory over the old rivals - not even the persistent typically Scottish drizzle, which all but washed out Pakistan's training session.
As Sarfraz and Fakhar squeezed in a quick nets session during the 20-30 mins between the rain stopping and the Scottish team arriving for their training session as well as press conference, you could still feel the buzz within the Scottish camp.
Once again the captains carried out press conferences - with Sarfraz's being one of the shortest he would have probably attended. Kyle however, got a lot more questions as the media were desperate to gauge how the team had reacted to the win over England and what their plans were going forward against Pakistan.
Sarfraz admitted that though they were never taking Scotland lightly, the game against England had shown what they were capable of. When questioned, Sarfraz declined to comment on the ICC's 10 team world cup policy, whilst sheepishly smiling at the Pakistani media manager.
Kyle emphasised how delighted he and the team were with the result against England, however, now is the time to focus and look to repeat a similar feat against the No.1 T20 side in the world.
And just like that - the stage was set.
The toss went up, the Brighto Paint trophy was revealed and on a baking hot day at The Grange Pakistan looked to bat first, in what looked like extremely batting friendly conditions.
The crowd was slightly smaller on this day, however, was still pretty sizeable. It could be argued that even though the crowd was smaller, the noise levels in the ground were probably louder than what had been experienced during the ODI earlier in the week.
Shoaib Malik scored a quick fire 53 off 27 balls with the bat, but it was Sarfraz's 89* off 49 balls which helped Pakistan to an intimidating total of 204 in their 20 overs. It looked those extra yards which Sarfraz had been putting in at the training nets the day before, had been paying off.
When Scotland looked to come out to bat, Munsey and Coetzer got off to a flying start, scoring 53 in the first 5 overs. It looked like Scotland were on track to claim the title of unofficial No.1 T20 side in the World, however, then Pakistan looked to turn to their spin bowlers.
As we have seen time and time again, the Pakistani bowlers strangled the opposition batting line up as Shadab cleaned up Berrington with his very first ball.
There was some late hitting by the Scottish lower order, however, nothing that could get them anywhere near the target as Pakistan cruised to a comfortable 48 run win
Looking to finish on a high. That seemed to be the theme of the day. Scotland wanted to finish their 2018 Home Season on a high, whilst Pakistan wanted to end their tour of Ireland/England/Scotland on a high.
On a very Scottish looking day with consistent on and off showers, Sarfraz once again called correctly and chose to bat. This time however, with overcast conditions and a bit of dampness in the air batting didn't seem to easy.
Scotland regularly picked up wickets as Scotland started to believe they could restrict Pakistan to under 150, at one stage having Pakistan 98-5 at the end of the end of the 14th over.
However, once again Malik came to Pakistan's rescue with another 5 sixes - to go with his 5 from the day before - and a quick fire 49 off 22 balls, as Pakistan scored a respectable 166.
Despite the late runs by Malik, there was still a sense of possible anticipation around the ground. Less that 24 hours prior to this, Scotland had managed to score 150+ on this very same ground against the same - if not a slightly weaker - bowling line up who were missing their leader in Mohammad Amir. Who is to say that they wouldn't be able to go that little bit further this time and draw the series 1-1?
However, right from the get go, this went slightly pear shaped in the Scottish innings. Off the 3rd ball of the innings Shinwari picked up Munsey for a duck, and before you knew it Scotland had slid to 24/3. This time it was the medium pacers - Usman Khan Shinwari and Fahim Ashraf - who were giving the Scottish batsmen a hard time, aided by overcast and wet conditions.
As Scotland imploded with 3 run outs in their innings, the Scottish summer season drew to an end, as the rain returned in the 9th over of their innings. The umpires persevered and saw the game through to the end, however, Scotland were unable to recover as they were bowled out for 82.
Even though the end was slightly anti-climatic - there is a lot to admire about what Scotland and Scottish cricket achieved over the last week. After having missed out of the 2019 World Cup in heart breaking fashion they bounced back emphatically against England. The fans turned out in numbers for all three games, and they sent a real message to the world regarding the talent they posses.
Players like Kyle Coetzer, Safyaan Sharif and Callum MacLoed stamped their mark - not just on Scottish cricket - but on World Cricket. Credit should also be given to the English and Pakistani teams who toured Scotland and gave the locals fans an absolute treat.
Here's hoping that the Scottish team can continue to grow from here and the fan base can continue to grow with them.
Finally I would just like to thank Cricket Scotland for allowing me to come along and provide coverage to this historic week from Scottish Cricket. It was a phenomenal experience, and one that I will certainly not forget for a long time to come inshAllah.