Sandy Strang: Bonus offers Cricket Scotland a chance to expand T20 schedule
IT’S uncanny. Just last week this column was championing T20 as potentially the best vehicle for our talented youngsters, citing the current Irish modus operandi.
Lo and behold, up stumps another Irishman, this one firmly in the Three Lions camp, to berate England’s present T20 infrastructure. Enter the wee wizard himself. Eoin Morgan. Courageously challenging the authorities, definitively demanding a new T20 broom.
Yes, the same Eoin Morgan who is currently England’s highest-ranked T20 batsman at number 2 in the ICC charts. The same revitalised Morgan whose scintillating unbeaten 89 from 63 balls led England to victory against Australia at Lord’s in Friday’s ODI. “I’ve been in Australia when the Big Bash has happened,” cites Morgan. “I’ve played the IPL. I’ve seen the impact they have had, and it’s on a totally different scale. The IPL is now in its fifth year, and the Big Bash its second. So it shouldn’t take much to catch up. But I certainly think it’s needed.”
Brave words. Words to be heeded. If a current performer as proven and respected as Morgan says this of England – who kickstarted the entire T20 circus exactly ten seasons ago and whose T20 team are currently ranked World No 1.
Scotland, meanwhile, have just one T20 fixture left in 2012, in Holland, against Bangladesh. However, this week Cricket Scotland has landed a massive financial windfall. Along with Ireland we’re the first of the Associate Nations to receive a US$500,000 funding bonus from the ICC’s Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme (TAPP). “We’re obviously delighted by this additional support,” pronounces CS CEO Roddy Smith. “It will enable us to enhance our national team programme over the next three years and support our young developing side.” Fine words. Words which urgently require to be followed by some joined-up action on a hugely expanded T20 Saltires schedule.
Not, though, to the exclusion of all else. This impassioned rallying cry to our authorities to embrace the T20 uprising or be forever left behind emanates from an old-school troglodyte who still fervently believes in the primacy of multi-day cricket in the scheme of things. Nothing can beat the subtle nuances, the fluctuating, pulsating drama of a Test Match gradually unfolding over five engrossing days. Take that recent, fabulously enervating encounter between West Indies and Australia at the Kensington Oval, Barbados. It ebbed and flowed continuously before entering the final hour with all three results feasible, only for those two unlikely batters Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus to sneak it for Oz with just minutes to spare. No other form of the game could deliver that.
But – and it’s a major but – what grabbed the most headlines, and crucially, captivated the imagination of the young, was Trent Bridge last week and Alex Hales. 99 off just 68 brutalised balls. Ironically overtaking Morgan’s explosive 85 at Johannesburg last year as England’s best score in this format, Hales’ record-breaking partnership with Ravi Bopara to sweep away the Windies typified contemporary T20 batting at its exhilaratingly athletic best. Huge sixes, smartly improvised placements, brilliantly quick running.
T20 21st century-style encourages such vigour and self-expression. That’s why it attracts, and will continue to attract, the young and the adventurous. And that’s why it’s our job – nay, our duty – to give them this platform. “Since 2009 we’ve been in the top three Associate sides in 50-over and multi-day cricket,” trumpets Roddy Smith. Admirable, but no longer enough, Mr Smith. T20 calls. Use that fresh cash wisely.
History-maker Arafat cut teeth in Scotland
HE WAS the scourge of the SNCL. The demon seamer whose coruscating, toe-crushing yorkers wreaked havoc on hapless Scottish batsman for six testing seasons, and propelled Clydesdale to consecutive SNCL titles in 2004 and 2005. Yasir Arafat.
Yes, the same Yasir who on Friday became the first bowler in English domestic T20 cricket to take 100 wickets when he had Yorkshire opener Adam Lyth athletically caught by Tom Smith at mid-on.
The same Yasir who has now played three Tests, 11 ODIs and seven T20s for Pakistan, and who on worldwide TV back in February 2009 dedicated his first Test 50, against Sri Lanka in Karachi, to Clydesdale CC.
The same Yasir who now holds a full set of English domestic medals, including the County Championship, embracing four Counties, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, and now Lancs, but, who, curiously, whilst playing 29 times for the Saltires, never fully set the heather on fire, though 3 for 33 at Taunton and 4 for 22 at New Road, Worcester hint that more was there. A delightfully modest man, engaging Yasir never forgets where it all started for him – as a raw, shy 18-year-old at Titwood in Glasgow.
“I would dearly love to play in this year’s T20 World Cup”, he said this week. None would deserve it more.
Weather is leaving game under a cloud
IT WAS Scottish Cup time again on Saturday, as the CSL ceased for a three-week sabbatical. Critics complain this new-fangled format is just too contrived, and momentum generated by seven successive league weeks is needlessly lost.
But the real threat to the game lies not in league reorganisation. It’s the weather. We aye moan about the rain. But this time it’s serious. The stats are staggering. Of the 112 CSL fixtures scheduled for the first half of the season, 52 were lost to rain. An astounding 46.2 per cent. Of the initial three-round tranche of Scottish Cup fixtures 15 were cancelled – 31.25 per cent.
On Saturday only Arbroath, Stenhousemuir, and Stoneywood saw Scottish Cup action. Just three of 16 ties started. It’s a doomsday scenario. A huge worry for our administrators. League reconstruction aimed to make our cricket more accessible. But the weather just has to improve. Or too many club cricketers will simply walk away from the game.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east