As Scotland’s men prepare to get their year underway in Oman, so a new chapter is about to begin for the newest addition to their battery of pace bowling talent. It has been a year to remember for Adrian Neill, and as he looks forward to his first experience of international cricket the twenty-four-year-old Gloucestershire player and former Caledonian Highlander is determined to make the most of his biggest opportunity to date.
“I can’t wait to get going,” he said. “To have the chance of a place in the full Scotland team is very exciting and such a privilege.
“It’s been a lot of hard work to get to this point. I’ve really focused on my fitness and stamina and the benefit that has brought to my game has been very apparent. Whereas before I might have started well then kind of dropped away I’m now so much stronger and can bowl at a high intensity for far longer, which is hugely important.
“Being able to train five days a week [with Gloucestershire] has made a massive difference. The Gloucestershire set-up includes a lot of support staff, too, and being able to draw on their expertise has been a huge advantage as well.”
Adrian was born in Riversdale, South Africa, but it was in the north of Scotland that his cricketing journey began in earnest.
“Growing up in South Africa means that you play rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer,” he said. “So since I was about eight or nine, maybe a little earlier, I’ve always played cricket, and when my family moved across to the UK I just kept on going. As a youngster I always played a bit above my age group, and when we moved from England up to Nairn I got my first experience of playing alongside adults, first and second team cricket and some age-group stuff as well.
“I played for Nairn County for six years before moving on to Aberdeenshire which gave me my first opportunity to play Eastern Premier League cricket. By this time I was playing within the Scotland Development set-up as well but I knew that if I wanted to push on further I needed to be able to get to more of their training sessions. Because of that I made the decision to move down to Heriot’s in Edinburgh. That made things a lot easier travel-wise and playing at that standard helped my game develop a good deal further as well.”
Adrian’s debut for Scotland ‘A’ followed in 2016, and after impressing for the ‘A’ side against Gloucestershire’s Second XI he earned the chance of a trial with the English county for the second half of last summer.
“We played Gloucestershire a couple of times [in April 2018] and as a result of that I was given an opportunity by their coaching staff to come down for the rest of the season.
“I was delighted when they told me at the end of last year that they’d like to keep me around for 2019. Toby [Bailey] always says that if you perform well against the counties you never know what might come of it, and that was always at the back of my mind as a non-contracted player.”
Adrian ended the season with 16 wickets at 18.93 from his five matches for Gloucestershire in the Second Eleven Championship, figures which included a match return of 9 for 92 against Sussex in July. Under the guidance of county coach Owen Dawkins – who will be joining Scotland’s coaching staff for Oman – Adrian also turned out for West of England Premier League side Bedminster, for whom he added a further 34 wickets to his healthy season’s haul.
And as he prepares to make the step up to the international stage, the 6 foot 8 inch pacer is keen to add yet more options to Scotland’s already potent bowling unit.
“Being able to extract that extra bounce from a wicket in a way that slightly shorter bowlers can’t is, I think, a big advantage for me,” said Adrian. “I’m also able to bowl a fuller length which means I can’t be driven so easily. Being able to swing the ball both ways as well is a big plus as well.
“The conditions in Oman are going to be testing,” he went on. “We know that it is going to be very dry which isn’t necessarily going to suit our bowlers so we are going to have to adapt, bowl a bit fuller and make sure that we’ve got all of our variations sorted for their slower pitches. We’re certainly not expecting to be able to run in and bounce guys out, it’s going to be about being clever with changes of pace and executing our skills well.
“On top of that there will be the heat and fatigue and so on to deal with. That will be a challenge.
“But I’m really looking forward to getting going. It’s going to be a real honour to be in that dressing room.”