Sandy Strang on Scottish cricket: Falklands taskforce heads for Scroggie

"It's one of the most enchanting grounds I've ever seen," reflected ex-MCC President and England Test all-rounder Doug Insole.

It's a Caledonian cricketing Arcadia - an archetypal English village scenario transported to a Scottish setting, and eccentrically accentuated by a precipitous slope requiring sudden desperate calls to unsighted fielders hidden deep from view. Welcome to Scroggie Park, endearing home to vaunty Falkland CC, who will next week celebrate their 150th year in unique style.

Cue The Festival of the Three Falklands Cricket Week, featuring the Fife home side, their Home Counties Premier League namesakes from Berkshire, called after a memorial to Viscount Falkland, killed at the Civil War Battle of Newbury in 1643 - and, most intriguingly of all, from 8,000 plus miles away, the Falkland Islands Cricket Association team. All three Falklands will lock horns for the first time when they contest the Stanley Services Cup in a triangular competition at Scroggie from Tuesday to Thursday next week - rounded off by a prestigious match on Friday against an SCU President's XI.

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The Wednesday clash between the hosts and the islanders has an added spice to it. The Fifers have always been a strong family-based club. Witness the Watsons, the Nellies, the Lindsays, the Hepburns - and the Drysdales. And thereby hangs a tale. When Islands skipper Elliott Taylforth strides into Scroggie he'll be bringing not just a cricket team, but a splendid cup presented to him just before he set off from Stanley Airport by fellow islander Karen Drysdale. Karen's great-grandfather Robert Christopher Drysdale, it transpires, was the Fifers' captain in the period 1895-7, leading them to their first honour, the now-defunct Fife and Kinross Cup. Then Karen's grandfather Christopher Reekie Drysdale skippered the side right up to the early 50s, playing frequently alongside venerable 'Mr Falkland' himself, Bob Nellies, father of present club treasurer Robbie. This new Drysdale Cup in their memory will be contested for the first time on Wednesday.

Falkland assuredly have much to celebrate. A century of mainly friendly fixtures preceded entry to the East of Scotland League in 1979, and a gradual rise through the divisions to the First in 1994, before graduation to the SNCL in 1998. The SCU Trophy was won in 2002 - thanks mainly to Watson's 50 and Hepburn's six wickets to defeat St Boswell's - before last year's annus mirabilis and the SNCL Division 2 title. Some distinguished players have worn the Falkland colours. Ryan Watson, later to become Scotland's highest run-scorer, was club coach for three good years, following eight excellent seasons from Indian keeper-bat Manoj Parmar.

Rangy New South Wales all-rounder Ian Moran, who also represented the Saltires 13 times, notched 1036 runs and 41 wickets in 2006.

Not, though, that it's always been plain sailing at Scroggie. Mediaeval legend has it beggars were contemptuously dismissed from Falkland with the rejoinder 'Awa' tae Freuchie'. But when it came to the cricket Freuchie frequently stole the march, crystallised by their legendary 1985 Village Cup heroics at Lord's. Yet historically Falkland have always sought to forge their own welcoming, uniquely hospitable identity, rightly refusing to live in the daunting shadow cast by their near neighbours.

"There's no finer aspect in cricket than the scene from the top of East Lomond Hill on a lovely summer's day, spying the tiny white figures running about the field," reflects distinguished cricket historian and Falkland scorer David Potter. 150 not out and still going strong. Long live feisty, friendly Falkland!

Mommsen worth the wait

THE selectors' perseverance finally paid off. Preston Mommsen ultimately came good. The talented Natal-born ex-Strathallan opener, first capped against Holland a month ago, had managed only 78 runs in his first eight full-cap innings, and was yet to reach 20. He was even omitted from the final WCL round-robin game against the Afghans, but recalled for Saturday's WCL final against old foes Ireland, Mommsen eventually converted potential into hard runs - at the ninth time of asking.

His fine 80 in 107 balls in a splendid opening stand of 147 with rejuvenated Fraser Watts should have enabled the Scots to post a far more challenging total than 232, but will provide Mommsen with the crucial empirical evidence that he can deliver at this level. Mommsen's initial struggle echoes the travails that batting stalwart Neil McCallum endured early in his Saltires career. McCallum looked to be on the way out after his first 13 Scotland games had yielded a mere 41 runs but the pragmatic, pugnacious Grange batter kept delivering at club level, the selectors kept faith, and he duly turned it round. As too did young Richie Berrington, with only 81 runs in his first eight outings.

The selectors will have to show similar trust in Ollie Hairs, just turned 19, whose first six games have briefly showcased his towering talent, but delivered only 86 runs.

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Full marks, too, to Mommsen's opening partner, Carlton's recalled Watts, whose four WCL matches produced 202 runs at the top of the order, climaxed by that brilliant if ultimately unavailing 112-ball 98 against the Irish in the final.

'Philpy' merits fond farewell

SO 'PHILPY' has finally gone. Saturday's rain sadly prevented Scottish batting legend Ian Philip from taking one final bow in Scottish cricket in his beloved Stenhousemuir's match with Poloc at Shawholm.

One of the finest batsmen Scotland has ever produced, rugged, taciturn Philip - after an inauspicious start when he was run out for just one in his first match against Worcestershire in 1989 - went on to win 135 caps and score a record 4831 runs at an excellent average of more than 34. His finest hour surely came at Titwood in June 1991 when in just under seven hours he smashed an MCC attack for 234, the only Scotland player ever to score a double century. A month earlier he had crashed an unbeaten 153 to beat the English Amateur XI.Less well documented is his legendary status back in his adopted home of Australia. He was a team-mate of Justin Langer and Player of the Year in 1994 at the illustrious Scarborough CC in Western Australia.

Also less well publicised is his considerable wicket-keeping prowess. A stumping of Somerset opener Andy Hayhurst off Bruce Russell in Scotland's Nat West tie at Taunton remains a high point, whilst Pakistan's Mushtaq Ahmed was another such stumping victim of Philip later that year.

After another summer stint coaching at Strathallan, self-styled 'Philpy' now heads back Down Under to drive his taxis in Perth, WA. The wee snug in the Tryst pavilion will ever resound to his stirring nocturnal tales of genuine 'derring do'. 'Philpy', your revered memory will assuredly live on.x

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