THERE might come a time very soon when the relevant authorities have to argue for this type of cricket to continue in Scotland.
It took years of lobbying and winning matches for the country to be granted one-day international status, which the stunted development of the national team now threatens to undo.
As much as comparisons with Ireland are short-sighted – it is only six years since Scotland were the team outside the Test scene to beat – they were inevitably drawn on a day when Scotland were shown up by the elite and, in contrast, their rivals made a convincing case for elevation to the top level.
On another gala day that glistened with potential, what a pity that Scotland should lose to Australia by 200 runs. For years the weather never seemed to play ball on the big days yet the players, under grey skies, wrought unexpected spectacles out of truncated contests.
Here, the weather was a joy for the patrons who made the game break even as an event.The match, though, was so unbearably one-sided that, painful though it is to admit, it became boring. The crowd’s main interaction with the players took the form of ironic cheers throughout Scotland’s notional pursuit of 363 to win.
It takes two to produce a non-contest and Australia were just as ruthless and professional as they had been when their team was stacked with household names. After Ricky Ponting and David Hussey helped themselves to centuries in previous meetings, Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh got in on the act yesterday with an opening partnership that consigned everything that followed it to irrelevance.
Finch (148) and Marsh (151) even removed the latter’s father from the Australian record books as their collaboration of 246 bypassed the 212 compiled by Geoff Marsh and David Boon against Kapil Dev’s India in Jaipur in 1986.
And yet, before the clock had struck 11, there was no sign of Australia scoring 300, let alone 362. Iain Wardlaw and Gordon Drummond produced such unerring accuracy on a wicket lacking in pace that they didn’t concede a boundary until the seventh over.
As much as Scotland’s athletic fielders were not to blame for the carnage that followed, the only potentially match-turning moment of the innings passed them by. Finch, a world-record holder as of last week, was on 24 when he danced down the wicket to Majid Haq’s second ball, and missed. Unfortunately, it was also too good for wicket-keeper David Murphy who missed the stumping chance.
Finch eased into the boundaries after that and, when Gordon Goudie’s suffering was ended, Calum MacLeod came on and immediately overstepped as a square drive brought Finch to his half-century off 53 balls. Soon the opener was blasting MacLeod in the direction of the tennis courts to bring Australia to three figures.
Marsh had struggled to adjust to the pace of the wicket but Haq dropped short a couple of times and the left-hander profited off the back foot, driving firmly. He made his way to 50 at a much more sedentary rate, taking 89 balls and with a liking for the medium pace of Richie Berrington. Having been so bogged down, Marsh’s transformation was astonishing. Opening his shoulders, the big left-hander moved from 50 to 150 in just 59 balls, an acceleration that would have flattered his predecessor Matthew Hayden.
Through the gate on Arboretum Avenue came Scott Johnson, the Australian in charge of Scotland’s rugby fortunes. He stood alone for a long time, standing and taking in Australia’s blood-letting until Gavin Hastings came along and engaged him in conversation.
It was that kind of day. People watched admiringly as the Australian players did their work, and then came up with other business to talk about. Nothing changed after Finch gave Haq a deserved wicket, caught at deep square leg, but the crowd were briefly roused when Wardlaw had Marsh and Shane Watson caught by Goudie in the deep off successive balls in the 48th over.
After defeats by 203 runs and 189 runs in the previous encounters, was it possible for the Scotland/Australia mismatch to be illustrated in any stronger terms? Well, nearly…
In an innings that couldn’t even be classified as exhibition cricket because it was so predictable, Matt Machan and Goudie were chiefly responsible for making sure Scotland were not beaten by a record margin.
Machan played very well for 39 after the loss of both openers, trapped lbw after failing to cope with high-class pace bowling and Goudie took the fight to various Australian bowlers with lusty hitting to give the spectators something to applaud.
Scotland’s involvement in the 2015 World Cup hinges on how they fare against Ireland this weekend, and against lesser opponents over the winter.
Australia will be back in 2017, if there is still a one-day international team here to accommodate them.