New Zealand came here in search of two precious points and a hefty boost to their net run rate, and one out of two will have to do. Having sprinted through the first group stage with three wins out of three, three games into the Super 12s Scotland have a less impressive kind of 100% record, but it took an innings of great quality and immense bravery from Martin Guptill to take this game away from them as they eventually lost by 16 runs.
Scotland made several fine contributions, with both bat and ball. Mark Watt is having a wonderful tournament and his four overs brought just 13 runs and the wicket of Devon Conway, who gloved a catch to Matt Cross behind the stumps when attempting a reverse sweep. Safyaan Sharif’s first two overs cost two runs and brought two wickets, Daryl Mitchell and Kane Williamson dispatched in the space of four balls (his second two overs went for 26).
Later Kyle Coetzer, like Guptill a veteran of the meeting between these teams at the 2009 World T20, started Scotland’s innings with real intent; Cross hit Adam Milne for five successive fours (but those balls aside seven off 24); in the space of one Ish Sodhi over George Munsey twice heaved the ball over midwicket for six before clumping down the ground, where Tim Southee took an excellent low, running, one-handed catch; and Michael Leask hit three sixes and as many fours in an outstanding 20-ball 42.
But this was Guptill’s match, after an outstanding innings during which it gradually became apparent that he was suffering badly in Dubai’s intense heat. Over the course of the innings the sun dipped behind the west stand, eventually allowing Scotland to bat in full shade, but for most of New Zealand’s knock the square was in full sun, and in trousers, pads, gloves and helmet it must feel like playing in your own personal microsauna.
The first clue that something was amiss came when the 35-year-old started taking off his helmet and either squatting or bending double during breaks in play, and his running gradually turned into a grudging stumble. By the 19th over he spent the interval after Glenn Phillips’s dismissal with his trousers down around his knees to allow a bit of ventilation.
He was out next ball, as he tried to hit over long-on but with his strength fading could only guide the ball straight to Calum MacLeod. He had by then been dropped twice by Leask, one a regulation catch at deep midwicket, the other a pull scooped high into the air that looped into the sunshine before dropping to a fielder inches from the rope and thus forced to worry about his feet and his eyes as well as his hands, which turned out to be at least one thing too many.
Guptill had hit seven sixes, the most of any innings in this tournament, on his way to a 56-ball 93, and somehow those levers had kept swinging with sweet timing even while his torso was having to drag his unwilling legs around, lolloping from end to end as if wearing Wallace and Gromit’s Techno Trousers. In the circumstances it was impressive to see him take the field for the start of Scotland’s innings, and understandable that he was not still on it at the end. “I was,” he admitted afterwards with considerable understatement, “pretty cooked.”