Sandy Strang: Struggling Saltires need right mentor

Depressing. Humiliating. Spineless. Just some of the more printable denunciations from a dwindling army of Saltires-watching diehards, utterly dejected by Scotland's recent capitulation at New Cambusdoon in the four-day I-Cup mismatch with Afghanistan.

"We were awful," laments Tommy Halpin, chairman of the Western District Cricket Union, and a time-served national team supporter. "It seems that we've lately gone back a long way. Something radical needs to be done to arrest this decline."

The low point of fledgling skipper Gordon Drummond's reign was surely on the second afternoon as the captain himself trudged disconsolately from the wicket, newly dismissed, with his disjointed team 359 runs behind on first innings with just a solitary wicket left. Notwithstanding a more resolute batting performance in the second dig after the Afghans, having absurdly refused to enforce the follow-on, had batted on to establish a lead of 546, we eventually lost by 230 runs.

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When I observed the newly-arrived Afghans training at Whitehaugh they seemed a decently talented squad but, notwithstanding an ICC Associate ranking superior to the Scots, not a side which looked likely to embarrass their hosts, or unleash a deadly seam bowler, Hamid Hassan, who would wreak havoc and return match figures of 51.5 overs, 11 wickets for 154.

Sunday's defeat of Leicestershire Foxes was welcome, but shouldn't be allowed to mask the limitations which elicited only one win in eight prior CB40 starts.

Even the reintroduction of Tasmanian hired hand George Bailey hasn't worked, with scores of 7, 0, 0, 43, and 4. Captain Drummond, who surely deserves to escape censure - another fighting innings of 35 at number 10, and a wicket with the first ball of the second match were two highlights of the drawn two-game Afghan ODI series - crystallised the mood with characteristic candour after Saturday's Mannofield loss to Hampshire: "There were no real positives in what was a nothing performance."

So what can be done? We possess a rich crop of emergent young talents, but there are suggestions that we urgently require a higher profile of senior coach, someone with a proven record of performance at the top, possibly Test, level. This would mean a significant financial outlay, but it would be a crime to let this latest influx of home-grown talent drift, their talent unfulfilled, for want of the right mentor.

The gift of the Gav

SO Gav has gone. That redoubtable Saltire Gavin Hamilton has taken his final big-time bow out after 17 years at the top, appropriately in Sunday's Mannofield win.

Hamilton, now 35 and captain of our T20 World Cup team last year, is an utterly remarkable cricketer. He ended up as the batsman with his country's highest ODI aggregate and best average – a very worthy 35 - after starting his 132-game career in 1993 listed to bat at number 11.

In those days he was principally a lively seam bowler who saw some fruitful days in Yorkshire colours and a brief England Test call-up. The 'yips' ended his serious bowling, but Hamilton refused to call time on his cricket career and re-modelled himself as a specialist batter.

Enjoy your retirement, Gav. You'll be missed.

No pay, can play

The professionals may well be heading the SNCL run-scoring charts, with Dunfermline's Ally Gray (964) and Ayr's Michael Papps (948) approaching the final game pushing to be first to reach the coveted 1,000-run mark.

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But, when it comes to the bowling, it is the amateurs topping the ranks. Well out in front is Heriot's 18-year-old Kiwi overseas amateur Matthew Thomas, the Daniel Vettori-lookalike, who remarkably also hails from the same town of Hamilton, North Island, and whose splendid haul of 40 wickets has cost only around nine runs each.

"A quality left-arm spinner is worth his weight in gold, especially at this level," reflects Goldenacre skipper Steve Knox. "I well recall featuring in Grange's Premiership-winning side of 2003 when Tom Kierath did a very similar job."

Other amateur bowlers riding high are Watsonians' Stuart Chalmers (33), Arbroath's Benny McGill (31) and Aberdeenshire's Tyler Buchan (30).

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