Scotland are preparing to return to action following a significant 12 months last year, which reached its high-water mark with the historic ODI win over England in June. They will take part in a Twenty20International (T20I) quadrangular tournament before facing hosts Oman in a three-match 50 over series.
It is another pivotal year ahead – though aren’t they all when the task is to keep on underlining Scotland’s fitness to be granted ICC full member status. New head coach Shane Burger will take over the reins in March after completing his current commitments in South Africa.
Before then are games under acting head coach Bailey’s charge against Oman and the Netherlands. These clashes are bookended by an appointment, a week on Friday, with what in cricketing terms is perhaps Scotland’s real auld enemy: Ireland.
The recent record makes slightly miserable reading – Scotland have won just two of their last ten Twenty20 clashes and two of ten previous ODI clashes.
While the immediate sporting focus might be on beating them at rugby, with Scotland hosting Ireland in a Six Nations fixture at Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon, the match against Graham Ford’s Irish side at the Al Amerat ground, where all the Quadrangular T20I series matches will be held, carries potentially huge significance.
It is Ireland, having been granted full ICC membership in 2017, who Scotland wish to emulate. The Irish are due to face England in a test match for the first time at Lord’s later this summer.
After eight months without a match, since coming out on top in a T20I series in June in the Netherlands (where they drew once and lost once against Ireland), Scotland are itching to return to the crease. The aim is to continue momentum gained over a summer when Scottish cricket found itself on the front pages after that epic six-run win over England. The lengthy break hasn’t helped to this end but so welcome, so memorable, did that victory at the Grange prove that the feelgood vibes were still evident as the squad gathered in Edinburgh yesterday.
“We will go into every game to win every game,” said Bailey, pictured, speaking yesterday at Fette College prior to tomorrow’s departure for the Middle East. “We know in the past we have not performed as well as we would like to against Ireland. That’s another challenge for us – bring our A game to that Ireland game.
“I would not necessarily like to compare ourselves to Ireland,” he cautioned. “In Scotland we have different challenges and also many more advantages. When we get to full member status we would like to be in a better position than they are now. Perhaps learn from the challenges they have had. Just so as to put us in a better position when it starts”.
He concedes Scotland have probably fallen short more often than not when facing the Irish in direct competition. “No doubt about it,” he said. “It is up to us to face that challenge, come to terms with it. We have not brought our best games to those games. We are rated much higher in T20 than Ireland. It is certainly a game where we are focusing on getting the better of them – we have to face up to that challenge.”
Central to this aim could be how well newcomers Chris Greaves and Adrian Neill, leg spinner and pace bowler respectively, adapt after earning call-ups from the A squad. Bailey purrs about a pleasing sense of depth. There’s certainly everything to play for in the coming weeks and months in what is a new era following former head coach Grant Bradburn’s departure in the Autumn.
“The stakes are high whenever we play a game because we do not have that many games to play so it is a big year in terms of having important internationals coming up against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan,” said Bailey. “We need to win games against full members, we need to start the World Cricket League well and dominate that league and then obviously the World Cup T20 qualification, which is a must for us.”
Bailey, who will return to his post of national performance coach once Burger arrives in Scotland, has seen considerable improvement in the six years he has been involved with Scottish cricket.
“I think the gap between the highest ranked associate, which would be us, and full member nations is so small now – there is no reason why when we cannot make a jump,” he added.
“In the past, certainly when I started here, there was a gap. You could see the difference when we played Australia for instance at the Grange a few years ago – whereas if a team comes to play against us now they know they are in for a real game. If they don’t bring their A game they are going to be in trouble.
“Even in 2015 we put 340 on Bangladesh so there is no reason why we cannot make that jump. When will that happen? I do not know. But hopefully within the next five years.”