Cricket Scotland today welcomes two new additions to the Hall of Fame in Eric Thompson and John Blain.
E R Thompson
One of only two Scotland players born in the Orkney Islands, Eric Thompson was one of the very best seam bowlers ever produced by Scotland. Educated at Melville College in Edinburgh, before the amalgamation with Daniel Stewart’s College, he progressed to the best ever team produced by Melville College FP. This team included Dougie Barr & Ronnie Chisholm, both seasoned Scottish internationalists, who have previously been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Eric Thompson progressed to the Scotland team in 1965, his first game being against Ireland in Dublin. In the Irish 2ndinnings he took five wickets for 11 runs, helping dismiss Ireland for 25, the lowest score ever against Scotland until the figure was lowered by Oman earlier this year.
This was the first of six 5 wicket hauls in a 41 match Scotland career which stretched until 1977. Thompson was a regular choice in an era of far fewer games, but before the days of one-day cricket for the Scotland team. This meant lengthy bowling spells against County and Test Match standard teams.
A genial and generous companion, he had a sense of fun which endeared to friend and foe alike. Whether inwardly glowing from a six wicket haul against the West Indies or foot weary after a fruitless day at Edgbaston, he would be the same Eric, smiling wryly over a well-earned beer and invariably seeing humour in either success or failure.
In all he took 107 wickets for Scotland, during the course of bowling just over 1100 overs. Standing just over 6 foot tall, he had a superb bowling action, his most dangerous delivery being the ball he would bring back sharply to right-handed batsmen. A superb athlete, Thompson also excelled at rugby & squash. He died in 1992 at the all too early age of 53. His Hall of Fame cap will therefore be received today by members of his family.
J A R Blain
John Blain has undoubtedly been one of the most successful and influential Scottish cricketers of the last three decades, a pace bowler to rival the very best this country has produced.
Raised in Penicuik where he first played the game, Blain moved as a teenager to Heriot’s and came under the tutelage of Jim Love, then national team coach. Love immediately recognised the talent of the precocious young fast bowler and had no hesitation in handing him a cap debut at the tender age of 17.
That Benson & Hedges Cup clash with Notts at Trent Bridge in May 1996 demonstrated that cricket at the highest level held no fears – nor the press duties that come with the territory (his opening salvo to this reporter was: “you’d better not write any rubbish about me!”) While there were no immediate heroics, it was later that summer that Blain announced himself as a bowler of genuine international class, playing a starring role in the European Championships in Denmark.
In 1999 Blain marked his World Cup debut by claiming the notable scalp of Ricky Ponting and finished the tournament with the best strike-rate of any bowler in the competition – a remarkable feat. This passionate and proud Scot would go on to enjoy such international highlights as helping his country win the inaugural ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004 in the UAE and a year later claiming a winner’s medal at the ICC Trophy in Dublin.
It was little surprise that Blain’s talents attracted interest from south of the border and he moved initially to Northants and then Yorkshire, the latter of whom he went on to coach at 2nd XI and Academy level. County commitments at once deprived Blain of numerous caps, and Scotland of one of our most potent strike bowlers of all time during that period when he was clearly at the peak of his powers.
Yet, despite limited availability for long spells, he still managed to amass 118 caps and claim 188 wickets, behind only Majid Haq and Craig Wright neither of whom could match Blain’s impressive strike-rate of 32.30. Blain’s influence on the Scottish game did not end with his international career and endures through an increasing focus on coaching.
Having acquired his ECB Level 4 coaching badge, he went on to work with West of Scotland, Loretto School and is currently making a significant impact at Grange where he has established a successful Academy.
There was also a spell passing on his considerable expertise to Scotland’s international fast bowlers. In time, it could be that coaching paves the way for a return to the international game.