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18th August 2008

Coetzer to represent Scotland against England

Kyle Coetzer of Durham and Warwickshire’s Navdeep Poonia have made themselves available for the seminal one-day international, while 19-year-old Calum MacLeod, another on the Edgbaston books, retains his place after carrying the drinks against Kenya on Tuesday.

The two players left out of the side in Ayr on Tuesday, MacLeod and Ross Lyons, would add attacking spice to the home bowling attack and their credentials will test the selectors’ courage.

Craig Wright will certainly play, barring the kind of late fitness scare that has denied him several such opportunities in the past, and new-ball pair John Blain and Dewald Nel are automatic picks. But five right-arm seamers would be one too many, you feel, and while the honest Gordon Drummond and Richie Berrington have passed various tests this summer, and Berrington is a special fielder, there are question marks about their ability to trouble elite batsmen.

MacLeod’s extra pace, and/or the cocky guile of left-arm spinner Lyons, would bring variety to Ryan Watson’s arsenal and if the captain and head coach Pete Steindl ignore Scotland’s strong spin heritage in such a game it would be a cause for great regret. It is heretical enough to reject Majid Haq, who accounted for players such as Matthew Hayden and Graeme Smith at last year’s World Cup and then half of the West Indies team in Dublin. Watson’s own off spin is too inconsistent in which to invest singular hope.

“Our aim is, quite simply, to be competitive,” said Steindl yesterday. “Being sport we do, of course, harbour fond hopes of creating an upset. But we must be competitive.”

If Scotland are to cause a stir at Citylets Grange, they will need match-winners and when they have looked like causing upsets in the past, spin bowling has been a major component of the threat. The selectors will, as always, take a good look at conditions on Monday but they must also consider the uniqueness of this occasion, and identify who is most capable of raising his game.

If Warwickshire are correct and MacLeod’s star is on a meteoric path, then when better to pick him than now, just as a teenage Blain was thrown in with the lions at the 1999 World Cup? Watson was born in Harare and Steindl in Bundaberg, but after all these years in Scotland they must have become acquainted with the word gallus.

The county pair did, of course, live up to their reputations with some assertive batting at the recent World Twenty20 Qualifier. “They add that bit of class and quality and take a little bit of pressure off the top order,” said Watson, who will open the batting with Gavin Hamilton, one of British cricket’s great survivors, before the yuppies precede Colin Smith and Neil McCallum in the middle order.

Watts and Haq, who opened the batting at the World Cup, have failed to cement a place elsewhere in the order and now miss out entirely.

Scotland (from): R Watson (c), J Blain, R Berrington, K Coetzer, G Drummond, G Hamilton, R Lyons, C MacLeod, N McCallum, D Nel, N Poonia, C Smith, C Wright.

England (from): K Pietersen (c), J Anderson, I Bell, R Bopara, S Broad, A Cook, A Flintoff, S Patel, M Prior, O Shah, R Sidebottom, G Swann, C Tremlett, L Wright.