Craig Wright, the interim Scotland coach, believes his players have matured over the course of the World Cup qualifiers after they booked a place at the 2015 finals in Australia and New Zealand with a nervy three-wicket win over Kenya which sealed a place in the top two of the Super Six.
He and Paul Collingwood, the former England all-rounder, assumed joint control of the team on an interim basis just more than a month ago after Peter Steindl paid the price for his failure to lead them to the ICC World Twenty20 finals.
Wright has been delighted with the players' response. "It has been a fantastic to see individuals in the team as a whole grow over the period of this trip," he said on the Cricket Scotland website. "We challenged the players to embrace pressure and be inspired by the fact there was a lot riding on this competition. They have passed the test with flying colours and should be proud of their efforts. We hope this is the beginning for this team in terms of their development and potential."
Loading article content
Needing 261 for victory, Scotland were struggling at 169 for six before the captain Preston Mommsen (78) and Rob Taylor (46 not out) pushed them towards victory. The pair put on 53 for the seventh wicket before Taylor, who scored his runs off 37 balls, pushed his side over the line once his captain had fallen, with the vital blow being a 6 he hit off the bowling of Nehemiah Odhiambo in the penultimate over.
Chasing Kenya's imposing 260 at the Hagley Oval, Christchurch, the Scots were up against it, especially when Mommsen fell for a top score of 78. At that stage 35 runs were still needed with just four overs remaining, and three wickets in hand. However, the Leicestershire all-rounder Taylor held his nerve to steer the Scots to glory with just three balls to spare with help from Safy Sharif (10 not out).
Defeat would have resulted in Scotland being denied qualification by Hong Kong and it was always a possibility as wickets fell at regular intervals throughout their innings. The in-form Calum MacLeod and Matt Machan both went cheaply but Matty Cross's half-century put them back on course. The Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper-batsman and Warwickshire's Freddie Coleman fell in quick succession, though, and it was left to Richie Berrington to help Mommsen add 49 with a battling 30.
When the captain became one of Thomas Odoyo's three victims - Mommsen stroked four boundaries and one 6 in his 97-ball knock - Scotland's prospects looked distinctly bleak. but Taylor went on to produce the late fireworks that ensured the target was achieved.
Taylor and Sharif had earlier taken three wickets but Scotland needed the help of three run-outs to restrict Kenya to 260 after Alex Obanda top-scored with 89. Scotland have won seven of their nine games in New Zealand this month, with the final of the tournament to come tomorrow night against the leading qualifiers United Arab Emirates.
Mommsen, who was deputising for the injured Kyle Coetzer, was delighted with the way his side handled the pressure to prevent a second consecutive World Cup without Scottish representation. "I'm absolutely ecstatic, it was an incredible team performance," Mommsen said. "We showed huge amounts of character and we are proud that we could deliver under that amount of pressure. It bodes well for the future.
"We've had a bit of an absence [Scotland last reached the World Cup in 2007], so to get back in there is unbelievable. The dressing room is very, very happy to say the least. The guys at the end were unbelievable; they held their nerve, there was still a lot of work to do, and it was a massive team effort in the team. Some good partnerships won us the game."
He added: "The final is a massive game for us. We want to leave this tournament as the No.1 team, so we will be going full on for that."