'Con is always on my mind': Richie Berrington opens up on lost friend as Scotland prepare for Super 12s

Vice-captain Richie Berrington had someone very special on his mind as he looked skywards to see how far he had hit the ball over the boundary for six to create Scottish cricketing history this week.

Scotland's Richie Berrington plays a shot during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between Oman and Scotland.

Con de Lange played 13 ODIs and eight T20 internationals for Scotland between 2015 and 2017 and represented the country 35 times in total in all formats.

And through playing together for the national team and for club side Clydesdale, he and Berrington became very close friends.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

While on Scotland duty at the end of 2017, South African-born De Lange took ill and was later diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Berrington was very close to Con de Lange, who passed away two years ago.

He passed away aged just 38 in April 2019 and the news rocked Berrington, the rest of the national squad and backroom staff and the wider Scottish cricketing community.

As a result, the wonderful strike with the bat from Berrington at the Al Amerat Stadium which took Scotland over the line against Oman on Thursday – the eight-wicket triumph making sure they topped Group B after the First Round - was a poignant one.

“Con is always out there with me and he was certainly on my mind after I hit the winning runs against Oman,” Berrington said.

“Whenever I am out there wearing a Scotland top and representing the country Con is never far from my thoughts, he was such an amazing and special person.

“It is hard to explain what I mean by him being ‘out there’ with me, but it is just a feeling I get and it drives me on during the tougher moments. There is a lot of power in that for me.

“He meant so much to me personally and he meant so much to everyone else who is in this group out here at the World Cup, so after the Oman match I took a moment to myself to think about him and hoped he’d be proud of what we had achieved.

“I played against Con when I was at Greenock and he was at Ferguslie, we didn’t become too close at that stage because he was a fierce competitor on the field, but when we moved to Clydesdale we just built up a great friendship.

“Things grew from there and then Con came into the national team set-up and straight away the other guys took to him because he was just such a genuine person who wanted to win on the field and was the nicest guy off it.

“He had a massive influence on us all, the way he carried himself and the way he played his cricket have stuck with us and we all looked up to him.

“I think back to the time when we beat Sri Lanka [in a non-ODI 50-overs-a-side match] at Beckenham in Kent in 2017 and Con was the captain that day.

“The words he said to us before the game have always stayed with me and he just had a way of motivating us and making us believe in our abilities.

“That belief has grown and grown to this day and has now taken us through to the Super 12 phase of the T20 World Cup which is just an amazing feeling.”

Berrington, the 34-year-old who made his ODI and T20 debuts for Scotland in 2008 and has played a record 260 matches for his country in all formats, has made sacrifices over the years to get to where he is now.

The squad have already been away from these shores since late September and will not be home for a few weeks yet and he has fiancée Steph and son Oliver back at home in Greenock.

“Oliver was born last May so he is growing and changing all the time. Being away from him and Steph is hard, but I know they are watching and cheering us on,” he said.

“When the dust had settled on Thursday and we were on the bus back to the hotel I managed to speak to Steph and I was told that the wee man had been watching us singing the national anthem on television, so that was pretty cool to hear.

“The support we have had from everyone back home since we got here has just been incredible. I know Shane [Burger, the head coach] said the other day that he wanted us to inspire a nation and I hope over the next couple of weeks we can do that as we play in the Super 12s and that it will help raise the profile of the sport in Scotland.

“When I moved over to Greenock from South Africa when I was a youngster I wasn’t sure what sporting path I’d go down, but a cricket taster session at my primary school got me hooked.

“Now we want to play our part in getting youngsters involved in the game and loving it as much as we do.”

The Oman result backed up previous victories over sixth in the world Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea and means that Scotland are through to the second phase of a global tournament for the first time ever.

The squad are now preparing for their first Super 12s Group Two clash with eighth in the world Afghanistan tomorrow in Sharjah in the UAE.

Further matches will follow against fellow qualifiers Namibia and world ranked top four sides New Zealand, India and Pakistan.

The match against Afghanistan takes place at 3pm UK time and is live on Sky Sports and Five Live.

A message from the Editor: Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.