2015 a Momentous Year – Part 3

30 Dec

Cricket Scotland President Colin Neill reflects on the successful month of July for Scottish cricket in the third part of his 2015 review. 

July and the WC T20 Qualifiers

July starts with the weather set fair and there is a scramble to get warm up matches played and completed so that everybody is ready for the T20 Qualifiers. 

WDCU Celebrate a wicket (Donald MacLeod/ICC)The Western District Cricket Union have been invited by the ICC and Cricket Scotland to provide the opposition for Canada and Netherlands in two of the warm up matches for the World T20 Qualifying tournament which takes place in Scotland and Ireland during July. The side comprised of a mix of club pros and those on the fringe of the Scotland national side. It was a great opportunity for some young players, to get international experience. The Canadians were taken aback when the WDCU won a close game by 8 wickets. This set up the select side for an interesting joust against Holland, but unfortunately not to be as the weather intervened. 

Meanwhile, Scotland warmed up against Namibia and Jersey. Two wins were recorded. In the first Scotland cruised to a six-wicket victory. Richie Berrington top scored with an unbeaten 61 from 35 balls. Scotland finished on 130-4 with 22 balls to spare chasing Namibia’s 127-8. In the second warm-up Scotland recorded an emphatic 69-run win over Jersey Scotland set an imposing 199 for five in their 20 overs, however, after a 24-minute rain delay a revised total saw Jersey requiring 163 runs from 15 overs, but they never threatened. Safyaan Sharif (3-14) and Michael Leask (3-10) were outstanding with the ball for the home team as the islanders ended on 93 for nine. Earlier, George Munsey struck 75 from 44 balls, laying the foundation for Scotland’s win. Everything is looking good for our first game against the UAE. 

Scotland take on Jersey at Goldenacre

Game one and a glorious day in the capital. The Scots took up where they left off against Jersey and kicked off their World T20 Qualifier campaign with an emphatic nine-wicket victory in 10 overs. Man of the Match George Munsey continued where he left off in the second warm up match on, scoring 62 not out in a 96-run opening stand with Kyle Coetzer as the Scots cantered to victory. In the UAE innings spinners Michael Leask (3-20) and Mark Watt (3-28) starred with the ball restricting the UAE 109 all out. 

Interestingly Scotland’s second match marked the 150th anniversary of the national side’s first-ever match. The all-action hustle and bustle of T20 with its white ball and coloured kit would not be recognised as the same game played by Scotland’s ground-breaking group of 19th century cricketers. Robert Balfour led out a motley crew – a combination of serious players and those there just to make up the numbers – for the country’s first representative game against Surrey at the Oval in 1865.  

Unfortunately we were not able to celebrate the occasion with a win as a below par performance in the field allowed the Netherlands to post 191-6, this despite a superb spell from Alasdair Evans who took 5-24 from his four overs. Skipper Mommsen hit a fine 68no but we fell 32 runs short. It was a bitter sweet moment for me as I was honoured to hand the man of the match award to Ali but like him disappointed that it had not led to a win. 

Game three and more disappointment, batting first some brutal hitting allowed Afghanistan to post 211. Chasing only Preston Mommsen got going but even he fell short of what would have been an excellent fifty. Scotland now have to do it the hard way. To qualify we need to win all our remaining games while hoping for other results to go our way. 

Kenya were our opponents in game four and thankfully the team were back to their best both in the field, with the ball and the bat. Scotland cruised to a seven wicket win chasing down 141 in 15 overs thanks to Matt Cross 45no and Richie Berrington 34no. 

Two games to go and big wins were required, Canada first and an emphatic 8 wicket win on the back of a 33 ball fifty from Kyle Coetzer. 

Last game and lady luck was certainly on our side. We beat Oman by 23 runs in a tense match in Edinburgh to go top after Afghanistan and Canada was rained off in Stirling. Oman have been the surprise package of the tournament, with upset wins over Afghanistan and the Netherlands but not today. No complaints from the Scotland side. Another fifty from Kyle Coetzer was then backed up by great spells from Safyaan Sharif (3-27) and Alasdair Evans (2-19).

After this match Scotland’s place in the ICC World T20 World Cup in India in 2016 was secured. This despite the Netherland’s win over Kenya. The Netherlands fell agonisingly short of topping the Group just failing to boost their run rate above the Scots. So after all the Group B matches have been played, Scotland is the first confirmed qualifier for India next year.

I am very proud of the Scottish squad; to win the Group and thus qualify is a fantastic achievement. This after what could have been two disastrous defeats. We seem to enjoy putting our supporters through it. However everyone involved should be truly proud of what they have done. The group stage in Scotland has been brilliantly organised and run. The staff at Cricket Scotland have been fantastic as have all the volunteers that gave of their time. So onto Ireland and the chance to win the competition.

Fantastic, Hong Kong were put to the sword as we booked our place in the final of the ICC World T20 Qualifier by defeating Hong Kong at Malahide by five wickets. This was as good a collective-bowling display by Scotland in the tournament. Ali Evans (3-17), Safyaan Sharif (3-29) and Rob Taylor (3-17) shared the wickets as Hong Kong were dismissed for 116. A five wicket win followed and excitement builds as we look forward to a final against old foes the Netherlands. 

What a let down, persistent rain resulted in the 2015 World T20 Qualifier Final between Scotland and the Netherlands being washed out in Malahide. This meant the trophy was shared so Giles Clarke, President of the ECB presented it to the Netherland’s Peter Borren and Scotland’s Preston Mommsen at the end of a miserable day. 

So we go to India as the top seeded associate side after an eventful and exciting T20 Qualifying Tournament. The Scotland leg was superbly run, the weather really only letting us own once and for certain Scotland got the better of that situation. Not many Presidents get to serve a term when the national team qualify for two world tournaments not that I have contributed to that except perhaps as a supporter or lucky mascot! 

For me I was delighted to say a big well done to Grant Bradburn, his coaches and to Preston Mommsen and his team. It was also an honour to be part of an organisation that put on such a great show in Scotland. 

July, possibly the greatest month in Scottish Cricket? 

Before the T20 Qualifiers started I took a President’s XI to Glasgow to celebrate with the Glasgow Academical Club on their one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. The celebrations included a lunch and match between the President’s XI and the Club. Unfortunately the cricket match fell foul of the weather and had to be abandoned after 21 overs. The two teams took tea and reminisced about cricket past and present before abandoning their whites for the day. 

When the season started there was general concern that with promotion the Wildcats might have a tough season. However many players have stuck their hands up and a two game trip in the Natwest County T20, returned a defeat and a win. A close loss to Hampshire and a fine win against Cornwall reflected progress and a great hopes for the rest of the season. 

Also in July the Wildcats lost out to Somerset in the One Day Championship. In coach Kari Anderson’s words “It’s tough because we are playing well in patches, and this is definitely a step up in terms of the quality of opposition, but we aren’t too far behind them at the moment..” 

Another T20 double header, later in the month, this time in Gloucester returned another 50% record. In the first match Gloucestershire were downed but unfortunately the team fell just short against Devon. 

The President of Cricket Scotland has many tasks to perform over his term. All enjoyable, but sometimes one arises that is just a little more fulfilling. That occurred for me when I got the opportunity to present one of our two new inductees into the Hall of Fame with his special cap. When I was at school my first XI played Melville College, our cricket master asked us to stay on after the match to watch a Scotland great a Mr Douglas Barr who was playing for the Melville College FPs that afternoon. So it was a great honour to present Dougie Barr with his special cap. The other inductee Colin Smith regrettably could not attend however both players are very worthy members of the Hall of Fame.

At the same time as our senior team were battling it out to qualify for the T20 World Cup our Under 19s were in Jersey to try to claim a much coveted place in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in 2016. 

The team got off to a cracking start with a 99-run win over the Netherlands. Posting an impressive 249-8 with Finlay McCreath and Syed Shah scoring half centuries. The Netherlands were never in it falling 99 runs short. Haris Aslam returned the best figures, 3-23, for the Scots. 

Game two and Scotland dug in to secure their second successive win, this time against Jersey. A score of 208-9 was defended successfully and a 47 run win was secured. Two from two and next up is Ireland! 

Despite defeating the Netherlands and Jersey in their first two matches, the Scots came up against a tough Irish side that inflicted a first loss in the campaign. A score of 149 was never going to be enough and Ireland romped home by 5 wickets. 

What a tournament the young Scots were having. The under-19’s bounced back from the loss to Ireland with a hard fought - and dramatic - victory over the Netherlands. Despite a fine knock of 62 from Jack Waller being bowled out for 158 was probably a below par performance. Scotland knew they had to be sharp in the field to defend such a total and things started well as they reduced the opposition to 46-4 as they approached the end of the 10th over. The Netherlands were undaunted and a several good partnerships meant that going into the last over Holland needed 9 runs and Scotland one wicket. That wicket was forthcoming and the Scots ran out 6 run winners. 

Scotland made it four wins out of five - and kept their hopes of winning the event alive - by beating hosts Jersey. The young Scots put in their most convincing performance of the week to win comfortably and in the process get the run rate up which may be crucial come the end of the Saturday if they are to go on and clinch top spot in the four team event. The start of the show was Harris Aslam who took 5-29. It’s Ireland, who are currently unbeaten, next in the final match.  

Fantastic the Scotland U19s won Europe Division One by defeating Ireland - and as a result qualified for the World Cup in Bangladesh next year. 

Scotland knew that they had to defeat the Irish, who had beaten them earlier in the week, if they were to have any chance of winning the four-team event. They also had to beat them by a certain margin to leapfrog them in the table - and they did just that.

A total of 244 was posted on the back of Neil Flack who scored a fine 71. In Ireland’s reply Scotland knew they had to bowl them out for less than 190 and Heriot’s spinner Ryan Brown was again in cracking form. He opened the bowling and took 3-37 and when Ben Wilkinson took 5-22 from just six overs Ireland’s batting fell apart. Ireland were finally all out for 161. 

A truly tremendous performance from the young Scots and their coach Gordon Drummond. So not only do we have the senior team at a World Cup event we have our U19s as well. Scottish cricket surely has never been in better shape? 

More great news as Galloway Cricket Club receives a fantastic £5,000 grant awarded by Jewson through the `Building Better Communities` Scheme. With over 2,000 project applications coming in from around the UK, for Galloway CC to be included in the Top 14 clubs/projects short-listed for a grant is a brilliant achievement. 

The grant will help the club move towards realising their dream of building a new pavilion at their picturesque Gatehouse of Fleet ground that will have a big impact on the lives of people living in a remote area. Well done to Galloway CC and we hope to see this fantastic project become a reality in the very near future.  

It is always good to see cricket clubs, players and supporters come together for a good cause and in mid July that happened. The Scottish Cricketing Community pledged to raise funds for the DEC Nepal Earthquake Fund when the Nepal national men's team visits Scotland at the end of July to play two games at Ayr in the ICC World Cricket League Championship on 29th and 31st July.  

Youth cricket is alive and well in the borders as Hawick emerged the winners of the Rowan Boland Memorial Under 12 Trophy on Sunday at Meigle Park. The tournament was played between four sides – hosts Gala, Hawick, Melrose/Gala Select and Selkirk – with the young Teries winning all three of their games to reclaim the trophy, with Gala finishing runners up. Well done to the organisers and all those that took part. 

After a recruitment process that attracted applicants from around the world, Malcolm Cannon was appointed as Cricket Scotland’s new CEO. 

The Board was very clear that, for the next stage of cricket’s growth in Scotland, we needed a chief executive with strong marketing experience. Malcolm comes with just that background and will enable us to capitalise upon the commercial and partnership opportunities to increase participation in the game and to help our men’s and women’s representative teams of all ages continue to represent Scottish cricket strongly on the world stage. I look forward to working with Malcolm for the remaining term of my office. 

The Scotland u15 side after a slow start recorded two wins in the Under 15 County Cup. Cumbria and Northumberland fell to a rampant Scottish side who are just beginning to hit their straps. 

I am not alone in feeling sad at the news that former Scotland internationalist, Clive Rice has died at the age of 66. Rice was a well loved cricketer across the world and many in Scotland are sorry to receive this news. As well as representing South Africa, Clive Rice played for and captained Scotland in nine matches in 1988 and 1989. Rice also played for the West of Scotland Cricket Club and he will be remembered as one of the world's greatest cricketers, a fine leader and great man.”  

Congratulations to Grange U13s who were crowned ECB Northern Champions. The Grange youngsters travelled to compete in the ‘North’ Finals day of the National ECB NatWest Cup. They arrived at the finals having won five games to be crowned Scottish Champions and having also defeated the Northumberland Champions, Corbridge CC. The finals day was held at  Neston CC as part of a 4-team play-off with the Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire Champions. The young Scots defeated teams from Lancashire and Cheshire to be become the U13 ECB Club Champions of Scotland and the North of England. They will now take part in the UK final at Oundle School, Northants later in August.  

A very busy month ended with two games, at Ayr CC, against Nepal in the World Cricket League. 

Before the matches the Scottish cricket community welcomed Nepal’s cricket team and I was honoured to be one of over 100 guests including both the Nepalese and Scottish cricket teams who attended a reception hosted by the Honorary Consul for Nepal, Mrs Sunita Poddar.  

Amongst those attending were Jamie Hepburn MSP, the Minister for Sport, Health Improvement & Mental health and Humza Yousaf MSP, the Minister for External and International Affairs. 

Mrs. Poddar welcomed the guests and spoke movingly about the impact of the earthquakes suffered by Nepal in April and May this year. Both Mr. Hepburn and Mr. Yousaf addressed the guests as well and emphasised the support of the Scottish people for the people of Nepal at such a time. The Chair of Cricket Scotland, Tony Brian, brought the formal proceedings to a close welcoming the Nepalese team and party to Scotland. The guests were then entertained with some traditional Nepalese music and dancing before leaving, looking forward to the cricket. 

We arrived at Ayr to find a wet area on the outfield. This delayed proceedings but play did eventually get underway at 2pm in what was now a 36 over match. Captain Preston Mommsen (73) was the pick of the Scottish batsmen and he was ably supported by Con de Lange, who himself registered his maiden international 50. A good Scotland batting performance set Nepal 235 to chase from their allocated overs. A very exciting run chase put the visitors into a position where they required 25 runs from 12 balls, but Scotland held their nerve to get over the line by 3 runs.  

It was a dry morning at Ayr as we started the second WCL encounter. However poor weather was forecast and that may have influenced Scotland’s decision to insert the opposition. A decent start was wasted as Scotland took wickets at regular intervals and the innings came to a close on 167. During the lunch-break the rain intervened and no play was possible until 6pm, because the second innings had started Duckworth Lewis came into play. The Scots target now became 110 to win from 22 overs. Scotland got things moving, plundering three boundaries in the 1.4 overs that were possible, before the rain returned and play was abandoned for the day. 

We returned the next day with the overnight rain cleared from the covers and with the mix of early morning sunshine and a strong breeze play started on time with 95 more runs required in the 20.2 overs left over from Friday and 10 wickets in hand. Scotland completed a thoroughly professional and ruthless display winning by nine wickets with George Munsey 40no and Matt Cross 51no.  

I would like to thank everyone involved at Ayr Cricket Club for hosting both matches this week. They were as usual excellent hosts for all players, officials and spectators. It was also great to see the vibrant fans of Nepal flock to Ayr to witness their heroes in action. Despite suffering two losses the Nepalese support were never downhearted and their presence provided great colour and atmosphere to the occasion.

It was a very busy July but one of great success for Scotland from the national team right across many age groups. Possibly the greatest month in Scottish cricketing history? The future looks bright. 

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