Sandy Strang: Scotland must aim to shine in the bright lights of T20
THE unrelenting monsoon continues. Just one of the last 16 scheduled matches in the CSL started – at Mannofield on 17 June – and that only lasted 17 overs.
And we’re not alone on these rain-swept isles. The Yorkshire leagues have been ravaged, Welsh club cricket wrecked and Ireland sadly took a big hit when Saturday’s showpiece ODI against Australia in Belfast was abandoned after just ten overs.
Watching the Ireland side warm up at Stormont, though, was salutary. On view were nine current English county players, excluding sidelined seamer Boyd Rankin. A fortnight ago, the Scots were listing just three. Kyle Coetzer, Josh Davey, and Ali Evans were our sole representatives, although Preston Mommsen has just earned a slot at Leicester, and this week Calum Macleod is at Northants on trial, which one hopes will lead to a second county chance, this time as a front-line batsman.
The disparity is simply too great. Ireland, and some individual Irishmen, as I alluded to two weeks ago, are clearly doing some things much better.
And one of these is T20. Take the intriguing case of Ireland’s batsman-keeper Gary Wilson. In County Championship and CB40 cricket this season, he’s made a mere nine runs, but in Surrey’s last three T20 contests this month he’s notched two 50s and a 30. He also played a pivotal role in his nation’s victorious T20 World Cup qualifying campaign in Dubai in March, averaging 39. Wilson is one of that burgeoning new breed of modern cricketer. The T20 ultra-specialist.
Take another remarkable case-study. Owais Shah was ditched by England in 2009, and cruelly, if amusingly, dubbed The Shah of I Ran, after a sequence of big-game run-out shambles. Undeterred, Shah has since hiked his considerable hitting talents around the globe, playing more than 150 games for ten different teams.
Crowds worldwide have been captivated by his exceptional bat speed and hand-eye co-ordination, enabling him to deposit length balls readily and regularly over long on. Who scored more runs than any other Englishman in the 2012 IPL? Owais Shah. He might even get a further sip from that poisoned chalice – an England recall. Shah is incontrovertibly a consummate practitioner on the world stage in this very specialised form of the game. A T20 uber-player.
We, too, in Scotland could be creating quality specialist T20 players. Scotland Lions skipper Richie Berrington, Calum Macleod, Preston Mommsen and Josh Davey all possess the explosive batting skills, the supremely athletic fielding and some bowling input too to thrive as T20 specialists, while Majid Haq continues to prove his worth in all forms of the game.
A further predisposing Scottish factor is that, at club level, we already have in place a firmly established series of T20 competitions – the Masterton Trophy, the West League Cup, the Border T20 and the Murgitroyd National T20 et al – to give our budding youngsters some good developmental exposure to the very special demands of this type of cricket.
In 2012, Ireland will comfortably play more T20s as an Associate Member than any of the Test-playing Full Members. They will contest six T20s against Bangladesh and South Africa A, leading up to their World T20 Finals opening tie against Australia in September.
Meanwhile, the Scots have a single, hastily arranged T20 against Bangladesh in late July – in The Netherlands – sitting alongside the final tranche of CB40 fixtures (seemingly going nowhere) another one-off ODI against England, next month’s Intercontinental Cup tie, and World Cricket League jousts with Canada, admittedly crucial to 2015 World Cup qualification.
It’s high time we wised up. T20 is the new big kid on the block. Here to stay. Crying out for us to embrace with fervour. The most abbreviated form of the game could well prove the best stage of all for our brightest stars to shine. Just ask Owais Shah and Gary Wilson.
Aitchison gains belated place in Hall of Fame
FITTINGLY, the Rev Jim Aitchison has finally been inducted into Scottish Cricket’s Hall of Fame. His widow Catherine was presented with a cap by Scottish Cricket historian Neil Leitch at a special ceremony in Glasgow’s Central Hotel. Kilmarnock’s Aitchison, who died in 1994, and Greenock’s John Kerr are the only two Scottish batsman ever to notch centuries against full Test-playing sides. Aitchison’s major tour de force was 100 out of 196 at Hamilton Crescent against an Australia including Neil Harvey, Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Richie Benaud, and Alan Davidson.Miller coming off second best in a “bumper” war.
The Rev Jim was a deliciously hard-nosed combatant on the field.
The delightful tale is told that, in a Western Union match against Ferguslie, the obdurate padre failed to walk after two palpable nicks in successive balls from fellow cap Fred Colledge and was given not out. With his next ball an apoplectic Colledge removed Aitch’s middle and leg poles, leaving just a solitary vertical leg stump. As he trudged up the Meikleriggs slope, the disconsolate Rev passed lugubrious Ferguslie veteran Larry Tracey.
“You’re not leaving us now, Jim, surely,” mused the mischievous Tracey. “There’s still one standing!”
Dumfries hosts players who never grew up
THE members of Dumfries CC are praying for fine weather tomorrow when Nunholm hosts a very special game – the JM Barrie Anniversary Match in honour of the creator of Peter Pan.
Barrie, who died 75 years ago this month, found inspiration for the character while playing as a child in the garden of Moat Brae in Dumfries. He was a renowned cricket aficionado with his own team, the Allakabarries.
Tomorrow’s 2012 Allakabarries variant includes several Peter Pan-esque cricketing stalwarts of perennial youth, including former Scotland coach and England ODI batsman Jim Love, and ex-Scotland stars Willie Morton and John Blain, alongside current Saltire Majid Haq. The 40 overs-a-side match against a Dumfries XI starts at 2pm, and spectators are very welcome.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east