Sandy Strang: Green shoots rise from league rejig
THE aims were undeniably lofty. To safeguard the future of amateur cricket in Scotland. To provide more opportunities for local players to develop and succeed.
To build on increased participation levels, transforming recruits into regular league players. Such were Cricket Scotland’s avowed objectives when, at the tail end of the close season, they took the radical decision to regionalise the national league into a four-league structure, with a Premier and First Division in both East and West.
Are they succeeding in their aspirations? Is the new Cricket Scotland League (CSL) delivering? These are very early days yet, as we head towards just the fifth round of matches, but, notwithstanding some seriously inclement weather in the opening two weeks, initial signs are highly encouraging. Andy Tennant, Cricket Scotland’s Head of Performance, has ever been keen to stress the developmental potential of the revised template.
“There was a cut-throat nature to the national league, with clubs viewing it as vital not top drop out of it. But inevitably clubs tend to look at things on a far more short-term basis, which takes away some of the crucial developmental thinking,” he says.
“We’re not looking for clubs to become less competitive,” stresses Tennant, “but we do want to provide more opportunities for local players to succeed.” On the evidence of last Saturday alone that key criterion is demonstrably being met. A host of talented young Scottish-reared batters used the CSL to showcase their talents. Ayr’s emerging keeper-batter Neil Smith led the way at New Cambusdoon with an unbeaten 195, closely followed by Clydesdale’s forgotten protege Kasim Farid (83). Ferguslie’s impressive duo David Stafford (69) and Gregor Preston-Jones (57) made their marks too, as did Arbroath’s Fraser Burnett (69), Stirling County’s Josh Edwards (68), Greenock’s Alex Baum (53), Dumfries’s Tom McBride (51) and West’s Andrew Umeed (50).
Tennant and his colleagues are also admirably endeavouring to factor in to their thinking the significant effects of ongoing social change. “We’re more cash rich and time poor nowadays, so that players effectively become consumers of cricket. There are guys who are really keen to play on Saturdays, but much less eager for Sundays, and we’re trying to respond to that change. By reducing each league to eight teams we’ve created six spare Saturdays for the national cup competition in the hope clubs will utilise freed-up Sundays for youth cricket, T20s and women’s games, capitalising on the game’s popularity.”
The recent Cricket Scotland agm published some astonishing figures showing that there are now more than 45,000 cricketers in Scotland, and that the sport is currently taught in more than 500 schools. Our reconstituted league structures now look fit for purpose to deliver on quality and quantity.
Tons of fun for Tracey
HE’S the current toast of Inverleith. Prolific Aussie batter Brayden Tracey is on a serious run roll. The SMRH run machine began his purple patch on 5 May with a thumping 115 in the Scottish Cup against Prestwick at The Henry Thow Oval, followed by two CSL Eastern First Division tons, against Penicuik on 26 May, and then a pulsating 117 on Saturday against Edinburgh Accies at the Newfield.
The SMRH faithful are actually calling it four consecutive tons, citing a further midweek century for the Headmasters XI against Heriot-Watt Staff.
Denizens of Stenhousemuir can recall a similar run back in the late 1980s by the scorer of Scotland’s highest-ever innings, 234 against MCC at Titwood in August 1991, and recent inductee to Scottish Cricket’s Hall of Fame, one Iain Philip. Philip, 54 this Saturday, delivered 86 against St Ninian’s at the weekend.
Wildcats full of fight
IT MARKED an important first. Sunday past at Dollar Academy saw the inaugural meeting between the Wildcats, our Scottish ladies side, and the MCC Women. Starring against the Scots were celebrated ex-England internationalists Claire Taylor MBE, Sue Redfern and Bev Nicholson.
The Scots lost an early wicket when luckless Charlotte Bascombe was neatly pouched by Taylor, but recovered through veteran Kari Anderson and Lois Wilkinson to post a creditable 129. Then, astutely captained by Abbi Aitken, who shuffled her attack well, the Wildcats made MCC fight all the way before succumbing to formidable Redfern’s bludgeoning undefeated 50 to go down by five wickets.
It was an unequivocally encouraging performance from our ladies. They are developing fast.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West