Sandy Strang: Scots' eclipse of India A worth maximum praise

NOT enough has been said about it. It was special. Very special. A once-in-a-generation performance. Scotland's eclipse of India A at Titwood last Wednesday was the stuff of sporting dreams. Utterly astonishing.

Not enough has been made of the quality of the opposition. These were genuine stars whom the young Scots defeated. Manoj Tiwary, who scored 71, is the most talked-about name outside the Indian Test team.

The fearlessly aggressive Kolkata Knight Riders batter is an established IPL superstar, who's already played an ODI against Australia in Brisbane, and in 62 first class innings has scored nearly 3,000 runs at an average of nearly 53. Free-scoring Manish Pandey, a member of India's 2009 U19 World Cup-winning side, who scored 32, was the first Indian to hit a century in the IPL, his 114 for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Deccan Chargers transforming him overnight from Karnataka's next big Ranji Trophy hope into the highest Twenty20 scorer in India.

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Flashy batsman Ajinkya Rahane, also an IPL star with Mumbai Indians, smacked 108 runs in 123 balls last Wednesday. He's one of only 11 players ever to have scored 1,000 runs in a single Ranji season, and last year thrashed an England Lions attack including Panesar, Plunkett and Kirby for 172.

Vice-captain and keeper Wriddhiman Saha is already a Test player, having marked his debut as a specialist batsman against South Africa in Nagpur back in February with a quick-fire 36.

Medium-pacer Dhaval Kulkarni, who accounted for Fraser Watts, debutant Ryan Flannigan and Neil McCallum on Wednesday, and followed that up with 5 for 29 on Friday, was in the Test squad for last year's tour of New Zealand. Then there's captain Chet Pujara, who took revenge on the Scots in Friday's second game with an unbeaten 122. He averages 60 in nearly 50 First Class matches, and last year hit a Ranji triple century against Orissa. A fortnight ago he whacked an unbeaten 208 against West Indies A.

So make no mistake. This Indian outfit had serious pedigree. It's also worth highlighting that as of 21 March 2010 the main Indian team is ICC-ranked first in Tests and second in ODIs.

Their second string 'A' side is an integral part of this world-predominant picture. Yet the Scots beat them - by staging one of their greatest comebacks.

Check the figures. The home side were surely down and all but out on 64 for 7, chasing an improbable 277. Enter Moneeb Iqbal - highest score in his only nine previous Scotland innings a mere 16 against Namibia - to join his current Greenock clubmate, prolific Richie Berrington, who had earlier chipped in with a fine analysis of 10-1-45-3 amidst some surrounding carnage.

Together the two began by interspersing some judicious quick running with the odd lusty blow, gradually wearing down the go-slow Indians.

Cap fits as clubs benefit from national service

It has been a bone of major contention for some time. Club officials have long been muttering about the detrimental effect of international call-ups on their clubs' prospects of domestic silverware. But the Premiership top three can have no complaints on that score this week.

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Take Oli Hairs. The Grange protg and Merchiston Castle schoolboy returned to Portgower Place on Saturday flushed with justifiable pride at receiving his first full international cap a mere 24 hours earlier, and straightaway set about flaying the Forfarshire attack en route to a rumbustious 135, his third SNCL century of the season so far. Meanwhile across the capital at Myreside, Ryan Flannigan exulted in his new capped status with a fine 58 which comfortably set the tone for Watsonians to dispose of Dunfermline's challenge.

It was a similar story at Grange Loan where Preston Mommsen, another returning Saltire - also first capped this month, and, like the other two, opening the batting for his club side - played the key innings, also coincidentally of 58, in Carlton's eclipse of Aberdeenshire's threatening 237. New Scotland skipper Gordon Drummond made a crucial contribution here too on his return to club cricket, his measured unbeaten 28 at number eight seeing his side safely through a nerve-jangling climax to squeeze home by just two wickets.

Representative call-ups can clearly work to the benefit of clubs too - well worth remembering as the Scotland squad begin a fortnight's ICC World Cricket League sojourn in the Netherlands. It was 174 priceless, pressurised runs later before they were parted, Berrington (108) having completed his sixth innings of 50+ in his last ten Scotland outings. The Scots were assuredly back in the hunt. Enter now Gordon Goudie, who had earlier grabbed four wickets and bowled beautifully at the death. He bludgeoned a rapid 26 in just 20 balls, and despite the late loss of Iqbal (67), unluckily run out in the last over, the Scots staggered over the line with just one wicket and three balls left, triggering wild scenes of justifiable jubilation.

Remarkably this was not the Scottish record for the eighth wicket. Back in 1954 at Whitehaugh, Willie Edward (73), ironically a Titwood icon, and Forfarshire's JD Henderson (121) piled on 187 in the annual First Class fixture against Ireland, having four years earlier at the North Inch, also against Ireland, set the seventh wicket record of 176, which likewise still stands.

"Character, desire and attitude - that's what we're looking for," pronounced new skipper Gordon Drummond in the slightly surreal aftermath. "Today a couple of guys stood up there, and showed what we're looking for in terms of temperament." Not half. It was simply stunning.