A disciplined bowling performance did most of the damage for Scotland. Alasdair Evans (3-17), Rob Taylor (3-17) and Safyaan Sharif (3-29), in particular, proved too hot for HK to handle on a wicket that offered the seamers a bit in the way of lateral movement early on.
Although Hong Kong dragged themselves back towards respectability, taking some late wickets, the result was never really in doubt and Scotland eventually reached its target with five wickets and more than seven overs to spare.
Afterwards, captain Preston Mommsen said: “We have always had a clear goal that we want to win this tournament. The first goal was to qualify in first place in our group and thankfully we did that, so the pressure was off and we came out here today and expressed ourselves against a very strong Hong Kong team.”
And those were not patronising words of false praise from Mommsen given the fact Hong Kong almost derailed Scotland’s Cricket World Cup 2015 qualification hopes in 2014 by famously beating them in Queenstown, New Zealand. Mommsen scored a wonderful 118 off 109 balls that day but the bitter sting of defeat lived longer than the pleasure of his own century.
“That was a tough day for us in the early part of 2014 in our Cricket World Cup qualifying campaign. It wasn’t a good start for us. But I think from that point this team has come a long way and it feels good to beat that Hong Kong team here,” said the 27-year-old.
“It’s awesome to be in a tournament final. To make the final is crucial but we still have a big job ahead of us because we want to be the best team in Associate cricket and tomorrow provides us with an opportunity to make a case for that.”
Meanwhile, a lacklustre batting display by Ireland in front of a vociferous home crowd of 2,500 at Malahide paved the way for the Netherlands to reach Sunday’s final. Ireland’s below-par batting was at least in part due to a quality bowling performance by the Dutch, especially their seamers Mudassar Bukhari (4-28), Timm van der Gugten (2-16) and the young Amsterdam pacer Paul van Meekeren (2-14).
Their ability to bowl dot balls throughout the innings (in total, there were 54 dots out of 119 balls bowled) was a crucial element in the game, as was their consistency (no wides or no-balls were conceded). It was an impressive, disciplined performance by the Netherlands’ attack on a surface that rewarded accuracy.
The Netherlands batsmen themselves struggled somewhat, losing five wickets on their way to victory, but one always felt they were in reasonable control of the run-chase and the ever-dependable Peter Borren (36 not out) played an important role in seeing his side home with 11 balls to spare.
Afterwards, a jubilant man of the match Bukhari said: “Ireland is a great team with a strong batting line-up but they have not put up any big totals recently. They have been struggling a bit with their batting in this tournament so that was why we decided to bowl first so we could put a lot of pressure on them.
“As a bowler in the powerplay you always know that there is a small margin of error and there’s always a risk that you will concede runs. You need to have a proper plan. Our plan was to hit just back of a length hard, even when we were changing the pace we wanted to hit the deck, not float it up. That was the plan and it worked.”
Looking ahead to the final, Bukhari added: “This whole tournament we came with the plan that we wanted not only to qualify but to win it. So we are happy to beat Ireland but we’re not done yet. We will enjoy this win but we will come back strong tomorrow. I think it’s definitely going to be a great game tomorrow. Both teams are playing good cricket. Scotland have played well in the last few games, and so have we so we are looking forward to a good game.”
In the fifth-place play-off in Clontarf, Najibullah Zadran (44) and Samiullah Shenwari (40 not out) were heroes of the hour as Afghanistan recovered from 7-3 to pass Oman’s meagre total of 127-9 with the loss of only two further wickets. The victory will be some consolation to the Afghans, who had expected to be involved in the semi-finals but were beaten in the play-offs by Hong Kong.
Tomorrow’s final at Malahide will be preceded by the third-place play-off between Hong Kong and Ireland with play in that game starting at 1000 local time. The final is then scheduled to get underway at 1415.
At Malahide: Hong Kong 116 all out, 19.4 overs (Aizaz Khan 31; Rob Taylor 3-17, Alasdair Evans 3-17, Safyaan Sharif 3-29)
Scotland 117-5, 12.2 overs (Matthew Cross 39, Kyle Coetzer 33; Irfan Ahmed 2-26)
Scotland won by five wickets
At Malahide: Ireland 128 all out, 19.5 overs (Kevin O’Brien 33, Andrew Balbirnie 31; Mudassar Bukhari 4-28, Paul van Meerkeren 2-14, Timm van der Gugten 2-16)
Netherlands 129-5, 18.1 overs (Ben Cooper 43, Peter Borren 36 not out; Kevin O’Brien 3-26)
Netherlands won by five wickets
At Castle Avenue: Oman 127-9, 20 overs (Dawlat Zadran 2-21, Aftab Alam 2-23, Mirwais Ashraf 2-32)
Afghanistan 130-5, 18.5 overs (Najibullah Zadran 44, Samiullah Shenwari 40 not out; Rajeshkumar Ranpura 2-17, Munis Ansari 2-38)
Afghanistan won by five wickets
Sun, 26 July – Third place play-off, Hong Kong v Ireland, Malahide, Dublin (1000-1310); Final, Netherlands v Scotland, Malahide, Dublin (1415-1725)