Scotland’s international summer gets underway south of the border this weekend as the national side takes on Angelo Mathew’s Sri Lanka in the first of two fifty-over matches in Beckenham, Kent. As the sixth-ranked ODI side step up their preparations for the ICC Champions Trophy Grant Bradburn’s men will relish the opportunity to test themselves against one of the big hitters of the world game as they themselves prepare for a busy and potentially significant season of their own.
Con de Lange steps up to lead the side at The County Ground and as he looks forward to the encounter the spinning all-rounder is keen to emphasise its wider significance to the ongoing development of the Scotland team.
“I think this is about more than just playing against Sri Lanka,” he said. “First of all it is an opportunity for us to play together as a team again which is something we really enjoy doing.
“This is a strong group of guys who really enjoy each other’s company and working hard together and as a group we have made a decision as to where the team needs to go.
“There are two new faces joining us [Stuart Whittingham and Dylan Budge] and I’m really excited about that, too,” he continued. “It’s fantastic that we’re getting to a position where we are creating competition for places. That’s really healthy for an international team and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do.
“So it’s fantastic to be playing against Sri Lanka and trying to take down a Test nation but it is also a great opportunity for us to keep that [development] process going. We’ve got Namibia and Zimbabwe straight after and I think that as long as we can keep building then I’m feeling really positive about the season ahead.”
With National Captain Kyle Coetzer now available for the two matches after he and his wife Sarah welcomed the birth of their second child, Gabriella, Vice Captain de Lange is still relishing in leading the troops for the first encounter.
“Captaining the side is a fantastic honour and something I feel really privileged in doing,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to lead from the front, not only from a playing point of view but to also have a bigger role in the decision-making which is something I really enjoy.
It is an honour well-earned for a player who has become a cornerstone of Grant Bradburn’s side on the back of a series of outstandingly consistent performances. A belligerent 82 for Western Warriors in the opening match of the Cricket Scotland Pro50 has been representative of a strong start to this season, too, and with his Clydesdale side also going well in the early stages of their WDCU Premier title defence thirty six year-old de Lange is confident that he can continue in similar vein.
“I think [my present form] has stemmed from last year,” he said. “I feel like I have been working well with Grant in identifying what makes me tick from a batting and bowling point of view.
“It’s been satisfying seeing that I can manage my starts in bowling and batting and then make sure that that process continues throughout the innings.
“I’m really pleased with how it’s going so far.”
And so to Kent. Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan may have left the stage but against the likes of Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal and Lasith Malinga, not to mention Mathews himself, Scotland will face their sternest examination since the 2015 World Cup.
“As a group Sri Lanka have gone through a few changes but they have some really exciting players,” said de Lange. “They are a dynamic team and it will be great to play against them, in particular one or two of their legspinners.
“But we’re looking to get our season off to a good start. We are all relishing the challenge.”