Scots coach backs 'workmanlike' attack to stand up to England

SCOTLAND coach Pete Steindl has backed his "workmanlike" bowling attack to keep England's champion batsmen in check next month after Dewald Nel was ruled out of the showpiece one-day international through injury.

Former Edinburgh schoolboy Nel, Scotland's most experienced paceman, has only bowled seven overs for Kent since signing for the county but has now been told to rest his injured back for the entire month of June.

With Calum MacLeod still getting used to his remodelled bowling action with the Warwickshire 2nd XI, and being protected from first-team or international action, Steindl has no choice but to retain faith in the attack that has performed surprisingly well in the Clydesdale Bank 40, conceding 250 runs only once in five matches.

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Steindl expects to name his squad for the Intercontinental Cup match and one-day international against Netherlands tomorrow. That will serve as key preparation for the visit of the Twenty20 world champions to the Edinburgh on Saturday, 19 June.

Governing body Cricket Scotland announced yesterday that 600 tickets remain unsold for the second meeting between the two nations at Citylets Grange in Stockbridge.

"Nel is recovering from a back injury and his first priority is to get fit with Kent, having only played one game all summer," said Steindl.

"It's a workmanlike attack that we have and there is no great pace there, but the guys know what they are trying to do, which is to be as disciplined as possible."

Steindl sounded a mite frustrated as he made his way back north from successive defeats in the 40-over competition, Hampshire and Kent extending the Saltires' run of defeats to four, but there is no escaping a sense of relief that morale-sapping hidings have so far been avoided.

The opening-day victory over Leicestershire was always likely to engender false optimism that a callow Saltires side could cut a swathe through the county community this summer, but reality set in when Kent administered a nine-wicket win at Grange the following weekend.

Apart from the form of Richie Berrington and Australia A captain George Bailey – the young Greenock all-rounder started with three consecutive half-centuries while the overseas player has been the top scorer with a 50 in each of the three road trips – encouragement has chiefly been derived from the effectiveness of an attack which is dependent entirely on stealth.

Gordon Goudie's nine wickets have come expensively at times, though he has more often than not thrown the ball during the Powerplay overs, but Gordon Drummond's economy is becoming a hallmark of the Caledonian game and the guile of Majid Haq and Ross Lyons, operating in tandem for once last weekend, has wound up numerous professional batsmen.

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The spin duo's accuracy resulted in the penetration of both Hampshire's and Kent's top order, only for the Saltires to suffer at the hands of long-handled resistance lower down.

The batting continues to disappoint – with Berrington out cheaply twice, no other Scot was able to score at the required rate in Southampton or Canterbury – and it was left to Bailey, using Omer Hussain and Neil McCallum as foils, to make a decent fist of two unlikely run chases and ensure that neither margin of defeat was ugly. However, at this mid-term juncture – the CB40 campaign is now postponed until the end of July while the counties light the Twenty20 touchpaper, Bailey nips back home and Scotland switch their energies to international matters – Steindl does not want to accept that his team have got off lightly.

"There has been a good energy about us in the field in recent games, and because of that we have been able to put the squeeze on teams," said the Australian. "But we want to keep improving. There are one or two other things we haven't got quite right yet and we want to get those things sorted."

With Drummond replacing Gavin Hamilton as captain, the Scots will now turn their thoughts to a four-day game in Deventer from 10-13 June, then an one-day international in Rotterdam two days later.

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