Cricket: Machan is making his mark with Scotland

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THE first week of Matt Machan’s international cricket career has been darkened by lows, enlightened only by his own performances which hint at promising days ahead.

The Sussex batsman has averaged 36 runs in his first four appearances for Scotland. To his dismay, however, all have come in defeats as Afghanistan proved superlative in both the Twenty20 and one-day formats of the game.

Machan, and the Saltires, get one last opportunity to strike back when they face their fellow Associate nation in a four-day Intercontinental Cup match in Abu Dhabi, starting on Tuesday. With skipper Gordon Drummond’s men sitting second in the standings, a gulf behind Ireland but just ahead of the Afghans, the victor will hold pole position in the race for the final.

Newcomer Machan, at 22, is in a chase of his own, to secure a regular spot in the firmament of his home county. Brighton-born, he made his first-class debut four years ago but has toiled largely in the seconds, awaiting his moment to shine.

“I’m still very new to this level,” he admits. But, with Ireland’s Ed Joyce taking over as captain, it has been a winter of upheaval in Sussex. Doors are currently sitting ajar.

Machan is not oblivious to what that might signify. “A couple of batters have gone. So there is definitely an opportunity at Sussex. And, with the experience and exposure I’m getting with Scotland in the winter months, hopefully it can push me forward very quickly.”

Joyce was one of those who encouraged Machan to accept the approach from Cricket Scotland once his eligibility, via his Glasgow-born mother, was affirmed.

It would do him good, the Irishman insisted. The standard will pose challenges, he added. “And so far it’s been excellent,” the protégé confirms. “It helps my case that the captain of the club plays associate cricket as well because they can relate to it better.” With former Warwickshire stalwart Neil Carter expected to come into the side for the final match of the Scots’ desert tour, Machan is dreaming of a maiden win and some vengeance over the Afghans but improvement, especially from the bowlers, will be needed to avoid a whitewash.

“A four-day game is perfect practice for me because they’re a quality outfit. More importantly, we’re second in the I-Cup standings so if we can win here in tough conditions, we can hopefully get to the final.”