MAJID Haq’s best bowling performance in one-day internationals and a brilliant century from Calum MacLeod carried Scotland to a revenge win over Ireland in Malahide yesterday.
The Scots went into the final match of the series on the back of two comprehensive defeats to their oldest cricketing rivals.
But this was a day when the breaks went the way of Grant Bradburn’s side who proved that there is not such a big gap between the teams.
Their best slice of luck was winning the toss – just as Ireland had done in the first two matches – and they took advantage, albeit that Ireland’s 241-9 was more than Scotland managed on either of the occasions that they batted first.
Visiting supporters may have feared the worst when Matty Cross was caught in the boundary rope in the second over but the Scottish top order had no intention of capitulating for a third time.
Instead MacLeod and Hamish Gardiner compiled a superb partnership of 179 to put their side firmly in charge.
Gardiner was originally the more belligerent and, indeed, the Carlton player looked likely to go on and reach three figures.
However, he had to be content with his highest score in Scotland colours, having made 89 with ten boundaries when he edged a delivery from part-time spinner Andy Balbirnie to the keeper.
It was left to MacLeod to guide the Scots to their victory, the Durham batsman gaining in confidence the longer his innings progressed.
He finished unbeaten on 116, having moved to his second ODI century with one of his fifteen boundaries, a deft reverse sweep off Balbirnie while Mommsen leant support with 31no as the Scots won by eight wickets with twenty-six balls to spare.
Earlier, Scotland’s bowlers took partial advantage after Mommsen had broken won his toss duck and elected to put Ireland in to bat in difficult conditions.
While Safy Sharif and, in particular Ali Evans, kept things tight they found the Irish openers in resolute mood.
Sharif did make the breakthrough when he trapped Balbirnie in front in the ninth over but it wasn’t until Haq joined the attack that Scotland claimed the initiative.
The Clydesdale spinner struck twice in quick succession to remove Stuart Thompson and John Anderson to put the Irish on the back foot at 50-3.
However, the hosts again demonstrated their resilience during an impressive re-building phase which featured partnerships of 45 between Kevin O’Brien and Andrew Poynter and one more between O’Brien and John Mooney.
Poynter became Haq’s third victim, trapped in front for 15, while Scottish tails were back up when Evans dismissed the dangerous O’Brien for 36 with the help of substitute fielder George Munsey’s catch.
Again, though, the Scots were frustrated especially by the big-hitting Mooney who went on to record his highest ODI score.
The veteran all-rounder offered no chances during his 77-ball 96 which featured twelve boundaries and two maximums and he looked set for a deserved century until holing out off Sharif with just two balls of the Irish innings remaining.
By then Haq had hoisted his tally to five with the wickets of Andrew White and Max Sorensen but Ireland’s total.
Haq’s haul took him to within one of the all-time Scotland record and offered the batsmen an opportunity to finish the job which they did in style.
After the match Scotland captain Preston Mommsen said: “We were honest enough to admit that we weren’t up to it with the bat in the first two games so to win this one the way we did means a lot and we’re very happy today.
“Everyone knows that Majid is a stalwart for us and he showed his value to the side with some really big wickets.
“Calum and Hamish then batted beautifully for us to set up the win. They controlled the game in these middle overs.
“You always know if Calum bats for any length of time he is going to score heavily and that’s what he did in this game.”
The Scots leave for a tour to New Zealand and Australia later this month as their preparations for next year’s World Cup intensify and Mommsen added: “There is going to be good competition for places and a few guys have put their hands up.”