Mitchell Rao helped to spur Prestwick to CSL Grand Final glory – then outlined his quest to command a regular place in the Scotland set-up.
The 20-year-old had already played a big part in the Ayrshire club’s re-emergence as a force in cricket north of the border. And they officially earned the tag as the country’s best team by pulling off the most unlikely victory over Eastern Premiership winners Heriot’s in what he described as “a crazy match” at Paisley.
Left-arm spinner Rao said: “It has been an absolutely fantastic season for us. I’m so pleased for everyone in the team and all the supporters.”
There was doom and gloom in the Prestwick changing room after they had been shot out for only 97 by the Goldenacre brigade. But they turned the tide in spectacular fashion to claim a tense five-run win.
Rao went on: “It was just a crazy game. It certainly didn’t go as we planned, but I learned early in my career that things don’t always go to plan in big matches.
“It was tremendous the way we adapted to the situation and fought all the way. The bowlers came out all fired up, believing that if we managed to capture a few early wickets then we would have a chance.”
Rao paid tribute to the influence of coach Andy Tennant, formerly a prominent part of the Scotland backroom set-up, adding: “Andy is a great role model to me as a former spin bowler himself. He’s helped me for many years now. He’s a very knowledgeable guy, experienced and a very calm head to have around and I have definitely benefitted from his coaching.
“Not only has he had a big impact on my game, but he has brought a professional attitude to the way we train and the way we prepare for games. It’s been a great year.”
On his Scotland hopes, Rao said: “I’ve been working so hard on my game since the Under-19 World Cup last year. I’m determined as ever to keep improving and earn further representative honours.”
Rao’s spin partner Sachin Chaudhury was the destroyer in chief on Saturday afternoon, snapping up four Heriot’s scalps for only 20.
But it was Rao who made the most crucial first breakthrough, trapping star batsman Hayes van der Berg lbw for 21.
Heriot’s skipper Keith Morton threatened to carry the Edinburgh outfit over the line, but after he perished, also for 21, the stage was left clear for Prestwick to finish the job.
“It was never going to be an easy chase,” admitted Morton. “The wicket was tricky and they had some good spin options. Our decision making against them could have been better. However, this doesn’t take away the fact that we’ve had an excellent season.”
Meanwhile, on a big weekend for the slow-bowling fraternity, Majid Haq inspired RH Corstorphine to promotion to the Eastern Premiership as they demolished Stoneywood-Dyce.
Scotland’s most-capped player grabbed six for 13 at Falkland to send the Aberdonians hurtling to 28 all out.
“It was tremendous to finish off the season in such a manner,” said Haq following the eight-wicket success
“We achieved the club’s ambition and there is definitely a lot more to come from this group of guys.”