Howzat happen? England fields a Gaelic-speaking Scotsman in Ashes

IT IS sign of true sporting excellence – a competitor deemed good enough to wear not only his country's colours, but also those of its nearest neighbour and rival.

Calum MacLeod, one of Scotland's brightest young cricketing prospects, yesterday enjoyed the rare privilege of turning out for England.

He was called up as an emergency fielder in the Ashes clash with Australia, describing it as an "incredible" honour.

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It is believed it makes him the first Gaelic speaker to grace a Test match, a matter of great pride to his family. Last night, they joked he would have to make room on his living room wall, where he already has the framed shirt from his first Scotland game.

The young Warwickshire player, nicknamed Cloudy, stepped on to his home ground of Edgbaston in Birmingham as the 12th man, effectively a substitute. Having dreamed of playing for England since he was a boy, it was a memorable moment.

The 20-year-old from Stepps, Lanarkshire, was called into action several times during the final day's play as the Australians salvaged a draw. He fielded at third man and several other positions throughout the course of the day.

The former Uddingston and Drumpellier player, who attended the Gaelic School in Glasgow and is fluent in the language, had been told at the weekend he would be on England duty, and was sworn to secrecy. As his father, Donald, recalled, the normally outgoing player became quiet as he prepared for one of the biggest matches of his career to date.

"Calum is as Scottish as you can get – but appearing in England colours was definitely a dream come true," said Mr MacLeod snr, a former chief photographer with The Scotsman. "He has already played for Scotland against England. However, to be involved in front of a capacity crowd and millions of television viewers … it's awesome."

As 12th man, MacLeod's appearance does not count as a full cap for England, and he remains eligible to play for Scotland. The important experience, his father said, was the chance to play at the highest level.

He added: "It's world-level cricket he's playing it and it's fantastic for him. I am pretty sure he is the first Gaelic speaker to appear in a Test match for England, and am I certainly sure he is the first player with a grandad from South Uist to achieve the feat.

"It was a thrill for the whole family when he went on to the ground to field. He stopped a couple of boundaries and it gave us a real buzz to watch him on telly. It was a tremendous boost for him and for the whole of Scottish cricket."

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Roddy Smith, chief executive of Cricket Scotland, said: "It's fantastic. He's a magnificent fielder, so I'm not surprised. He's still only 20 and it's great for him to play in such a major game."

Only a small band of Britons have represented both Scotland and England. Gavin Hamilton, the current captain of the Scotland cricket team, once played test cricket for England, while Dougie Brown also played the game for both nations.

The only football player to turn out for both countries was Edinburgh-born Tommy Pearson. He played for England in 1939 after a player was injured in a car accident and donned the dark blue eight years later.