Saltires’ final away game is heavy loss

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THE Saltires were last night still seeking a first YB40 win of the summer as their final away fixture of the campaign ended in a heavy 100-run defeat to Surrey.

This was the Scots’ final competitive fixture in England for the foreseeable future and the match at a sunny Oval followed the pattern of so many that preceded it. There were glimmers of hope with both ball and bat – particularly in the performances of Ruaidhri Smith and Hamish Gardiner – but Preston Mommsen’s men again failed to compete for the full 80 overs.

Chasing an unlikely 304 for victory, the Saltires made a solid start with Freddie Coleman and debutant Gardiner picking off the bad balls. Coleman was first into his stride with three boundaries in one over from Azhar Mahmood.

However, Gardiner also warmed to his task and showed genuine international class with an effortless clip over the rope at mid-wicket off former England paceman Jon Lewis. Just as impressive was the way he danced down the track to Gareth Batty and pierced the offside field with a delightful extra cover drive. The pair had put on 94 when Gardiner, just two short of a deserved half-century, played across the line to Batty and was bowled by a ball that kept low.

The Brisbane-born batsman had stroked five boundaries and the maximum in his 56-ball stay. Coleman did go on to reach 50 for the third time in this campaign but Gardiner’s dismissal saw Scotland lose their way. Two runs later Richie Berrington attempted to sweep Zafar Ansari but top-edged to Thomas Curran a yard inside the boundary.

The same bowler had Calum MacLeod stumped for seven as hopes of getting close to Surrey’s total subsided. Coleman, too, became bogged down and was eventually trapped in front by Curran for 53 from 71 balls.

It got worse when skipper Mommsen skied a catch into the leg-side to give Ansari his third wicket and, at 133-5, it had suddenly become an exercise in damage limitation. But wickets tumbled at an alarming rate despite Craig Wallace’s enterprising 20-ball 35.

Earlier the Saltires were caught cold as the Surrey batsmen came out with all guns blazing. Steven Davies and Jason Roy matched each other shot for shot, cashing in on some wayward bowling from all the Scottish bowlers.

The sight of the normally frugal Majid Haq being hoisted over the short leg-side boundary by Davies twice in his first over confirmed this would not be an easy day in the field.

The removal of Davies, caught by MacLeod off Goudie for a rapid 32, offered no respite as Vikram Solanki joined Roy in a second-wicket stand of 126 in just 15 overs. When the pair were together, there was every prospect that the Saltires would find themselves chasing as many as the 364 made by Essex earlier in the campaign.

However, with the help of some over-confidence from the home batsmen, Scotland turned things around to the extent that Surrey, having made 217 runs from their first twenty-five overs, added just 86 in the remaining 15.

Solanki faced 47 balls for his 63 but departed when he tried to hoist Calvin Burnett over the long-on boundary only to pick out Smith. Roy followed in identical fashion in Burnett’s next over, by which time Smith had produced an excellent ball to 
remove Gary Wilson first ball.

It was the first of three wickets for Smith who would have been with Scotland U19s at the World Cup qualifiers but for the ICC’s bizarre eligibility rules. The Glamorgan teenager completed a fine display in the field with a direct hit run-out of Rory Burns.