Cricket: Saltires limber up for Surrey clash

A NEW season of CB40 action gets under way tomorrow when the Saltires entertain holders Surrey at the Citylets Grange.

A NEW season of CB40 action gets under way tomorrow when the Saltires entertain holders Surrey at the Citylets Grange.

The winter may not have brought everything that Scottish fans had hoped for, particularly with the side’s failure to qualify for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka later in the year. There was also disappointment when the Saltires’ previously unblemished record in the World Cricket League came to an end with two defeats to the UAE in Sharjah.

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While a reminder that the current national side is still a work in progress, these setbacks will be put aside when Gordon Drummond strides out for the toss with Surrey counterpart Rory Hamilton-Brown tomorrow afternoon.

Instead the focus will be firmly on maintaining the steady progress this young team made last summer with a string of consistent performances – including two victories against the counties – and success against Ireland, the Netherlands and Namibia on the one-day stage.

While victories against county sides remain elusive, there is a sense of quiet optimism on the eve of a new campaign. As ever, preparations have been hampered by inclement weather but, for once, the county stars have had to deal with similar problems, though Surrey, and in particular Hamilton-Brown, showed few signs of rustiness in their CB40 opener against Somerset yesterday. The captain scored an 89-ball century as his side amassed 295-6 at the Oval.

But the visitors may not welcome the chilly forecast which suggests that temperatures will struggle to get into double figures in the capital tomorrow.

Certainly Pete Steindl, the national coach, hopes the elements will play into his side’s hands as they seek a winning start to a campaign which will see further tests against the likes of Somerset and Glamorgan as well as Monday’s visitors, Notts.

“By all accounts we’re going to need the thermals over this weekend, but playing in colder conditions is something we are more accustomed to than the county guys,” said the coach. “We played Surrey twice last year and know they are holders of the trophy on merit. But we have to concentrate on our own game and make sure we execute our skills.”

The Saltires were dealt a blow when neither Gordon Goudie nor Safyaan Sharif recovered from rib injuries sustained during the T20 qualifiers in time for this weekend’s double header. But the absence of the new-ball pair will allow Matty Parker to continue his return to full match fitness following hip surgery while Derbyshire recruit Ali Evans is expected to spearhead the attack on his CB40 debut.

Skipper Drummond, along with all-rounders Richie Berrington and Josh Davey, will complete the seam attack while Majid Haq has a quality foil in the spin department in the shape of Jean Symes, who also has a key role with the bat.