Mommsen’s moment as YB40 followed by Pakistan clashes

SCOTLAND’S record against cricket’s Test-playing clique is the stuff of nightmares rather than dreams.
Preston Mommsen bowls in a World T20 qualifier in Dubai. Picture: GettyPreston Mommsen bowls in a World T20 qualifier in Dubai. Picture: Getty
Preston Mommsen bowls in a World T20 qualifier in Dubai. Picture: Getty

A solitary Twenty20 victory over Bangladesh aside, rain has been the only barrier placed in the way of an unbroken sequence of defeats going back to when official status was granted 15 years ago.

Yet stand-in skipper Preston Mommsen points out that few in the line-up to take on Pakistan in Edinburgh on Friday in the first leg of a two-game one-day international series have been scarred by the memories of those past reverses.

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“It’s a massive opportunity,” asserted the 25-year-old. And he added expectantly, “we get two cracks at them”.

It is fighting talk from the South African-born all-rounder but he is keen to set a tone. He will captain the Saltires in today’s YB40 clash with Essex at The Grange, having assumed the job in the wake of Gordon Drummond’s abdication last week. Yet it is expected that the metaphorical armband will be passed on, most likely to Northants’ Kyle Coetzer, for the arrival of Pakistan in a move that could see the two split the role on an ongoing basis. Nothing new there, of course, given that Mommsen has regularly acted up over the past year. Now, however, he can add his own imprint to what is one of the most inexperienced squads in the international game. “I’ve had a few games now,” he said. “I’m still trying to establish how I go about my business and what kind of authority I can have. Previously it was an ad hoc thing so it was hard to put a marker down.”

Gradual improvement, he says, is the key if Scotland are to challenge for a place at the 2017 World Cup and achieve some measure of respectability.

While Iain Wardlaw of Yorkshire and Northants pair Rob Taylor and David Murphy are also likely to be added to the squad that will perform domestic duties this afternoon at The Grange, the nucleus has, with few exceptions, come through the national academy.

Coetzer and Majid Haq apart, the current crop have yet to prove themselves. The Pakistanis, despite the absence of familiar faces including Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal, will provide a fresh exam in the learning process.

“For the squad we have now, it will be new territory,” said Mommsen. “We’ve had a couple of proper international clashes recently but not an awful lot.

“If I think back to Sri Lanka in 2011, we gave a good account of ourselves in the field and were able to restrict them to the target we wanted. So, if we can contain Pakistan and the explosive type of cricket they play with the bat, and make a game of it, all we can really ask is to give ourselves a chance.”

It would do Mommsen’s own cause no harm if the Scots can surpass expectations against the English counties. Last weekend against Hampshire, they were 20 runs short on Mommsen’s official debut. Good results, he knows, will help his candidacy when the job of captain is eventually formalised. The YB40, therefore, must feel a little like an audition?

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“That’s the way I have to look at it. If I’m given this opportunity, I have to embrace it. And I have to make something of it. You want to leave a legacy. You want to be remembered for the right reasons. If I was able to have success with Scotland, I’m sure people will remember that.”

The cricketing public would recall a triumph over Pakistan as a historical breakthrough

And, with tongue only half in cheek, Mommsen adds that the tourists, warming up for this summer’s Champions Trophy, “might not fancy a chilly overcast afternoon in Stockbridge”.

“They’ll probably be ticking the boxes by being here but whether or not they want to be here is a different story. We’ll try to catch them off guard. We’ll do our preparation and have our plans but we have to have 11 guys firing at 100 per cent on both days.”