THE Australian flags were dotted around the Grange yesterday, some waved supportively, others used as makeshift parasols for those Antipodeans who had not previously realised that temperatures in Edinburgh can rise enough to justify the liberal application of Factor 15.
As Australia’s A team turned up the heat, it was Scotland who were scorched. An extended match against the tourists, most of whom have worn the Baggy Green at Test level, was always destined to provide an examination of the hosts. With sun illuminating the Grange, flaws were lured out of the shadows and put under the light. “There’s nowhere to hide in a four-day game,” opined visiting skipper Brad Haddin. “It’s a true test of your skills over a period of time.” The examiners set trick questions and answers were hard to find.
The Australians had resumed on 335 for 6 and when they declared their first innings before midday, they had added 37 runs more and ceded only the wicket of Ashton Agar. In between, Peter Siddle had claimed his maiden first-class century to end up unbeaten on 103. And by the time Haddin led his team off to enjoy their Saturday evening, those who claim Test cricket should remain the preserve of the sport’s elite had further fuel for their cause.
Scotland know they have a way to go to bridge that gulf. They racked up only 149 in their first innings, subdued by the searing pressure from their guests bowling attack. At times, the assault bordered on the brazen, one solitary fielder left on the boundary with everyone else circling like vultures. And although the scavenging was tempered by Haddin’s eschewal of the follow-on, the hosts still trailed by 388 runs at the close.
“It’s going to be tough to gain a credible result,” admitted Scotland captain Preston Mommsen. “The best we can look for is a draw. The first hour on Sunday will be important, if we can grab a few wickets and manage the run rate. But they have the capacity to bat all day if we don’t control things. But we will give it a second knock. We just have to learn the lessons.”
Realistically, an Australian victory should be secured with a day to spare. The Scots were out-classed but there were moments of folly that accelerated their demise.
“Our batting didn’t really go to plan,” Mommsen added. “Our shot selection let us down.”
If not for an exhilarating tenth-wicket stand of 66 between Calum MacLeod and Iain Wardlaw, the damage could have been much greater.
MacLeod had a need to make amends for dropping Siddle on 93 as the Australians pressed onwards in the opening session, losing only James Pattinson and Ashton Agar before inviting Scotland to bat once the century had been collected, with Wardlaw capturing three wickets for an expensive 101.
The reply started poorly with only Matt Machan, with 21, making a real indent. And when Mommsen nicked into the hands of Haddin, the Saltires were 44-6 and firmly in the mire. With Pattinson claiming 3-16 in an economical spell, it seemed the score would not reach three figures. Wardlaw and MacLeod spared blushes. The former hit four boundaries in an over off Nathan Lyon en route to an unbeaten 33 while MacLeod blasted three in four balls off the Test hopeful to move on to 51 before his next attempt lofted to Agar at deep square.
After tea, Australia pressed home their advantage but found the Scottish bowling surprisingly obdurate. Calvin Burnett trapped Alex Doolan just three short of his half-century and when Moneeb Iqbal removed Steven Smith, it left the guests on 115-4. However Moises Henriques and Agar brought up a 50 partnership by the end of play and at 165-4, the cushion could yet be massively enlarged. Should the match be decided today, provisional plans have been drawn up to play a 50-over contest tomorrow.