Bradburn offers assessment of team’s capabilities
Scotland should not be too dismayed at the heavy defeat handed out to them by New Zealand A at Cambusdoon but, should take note of the lessons served up by their more seasoned opponents.
This series against the Black Caps' A team will be a litmus test for Grant Bradburn's team and are the strongest opponents that Scotland will face before they head off to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand early next year.
Bradburn was without three of his side's most influential and important players. Captain, Kyle Coetzer and Calum MacLeod have county cricket commitments and vice-captain, Preston Mommsen is out with a finger injury sustained during club cricket last weekend.
Speaking after the game, Bradburn said as much while acknowledging that the fringe players have a chance to impress and stake a claim in the national squad.
"We were missing a few our first team guys today, but that has created an opportunity for others to show they can perform at this level throughout this series. Guys are going to get opportunities to play in the first team and show us that they can perform against quality players,” said Bradburn.
This series is about player development before the World Cup but will also provide the New Zealand born coach a chance to assess his player pool and experiment ahead of their three-match series with Ireland in September.
Playing a higher calibre of opposition will improve the team and is needed for Scotland to get an idea of the level that they need to aspire to be able to cope down under.
Scotland were in the game when they had NZ A 139 for five inside 30 overs, before Black Caps' captain, BJ Watling and Grant Elliot took the game away with a brutal batting display which the Scots did not recover from.
The 48-year-old coach said: " The first 35 overs, we bowled well, we fielded well, and then we let it get away from us."
This might sound overly critical considering Watling and Elliot in particular, are experienced international players that have plied their trade at the top end of the cricket spectrum for years.
“I think we showed that we are lacking this quality of cricket and it is a short, sharp reminder of where we need to be to compete at international level,” he added.
One of the greatest obstacles for sportsmen is pressure and pressure can be magnified in cricket to such a high intensity of pressure for the game’s uniqueness of being a team sport played by individuals.
Bradburn reflected that he thought the game was lost in the final ten overs and that NZ A’s score disproportionate to how the wicket played.
“Probably 280 was par on that wicket and I think we were 70 or 80 runs above par,” he said, implying that his team did not handle the pressure of the Kiwis’ onslaught.
“Through pressure that they applied, we didn’t respond to that pressure well and we were not clear in our plans and certainly not accurate enough in our execution [tactics] in the last ten overs, creating a situation of it being a lopsided game.
.This higher standard of expectation that his team must accept proves that Bradburn believes in the quality of the players at his disposal and their undeniable raw talent.
"We've got a lot of high-level cricket between now and the World Cup and we have to try and improve those skills, and try and be comfortable chasing," he said.
Stand-in captain, Matt Machan won the toss and invited the Black Caps to bat, giving Scotland’s opponents the initiative to set a target.
This they did despite a top order wobble, leaving the 23-year-old’s team to chase an improbable score of 348.
Recently, Scotland has chased down big scores but with a stronger batting line-up, however, they have sometimes fallen short no matter what score they are set.
"At the moment, we're more comfortable setting than chasing and we have to be able to do both. We have the skills to go out and chase big scores, but what we need is belief," he said.
This was evident during Scotland's recent series against the Netherlands during the first match at Titwood in Glasgow in July.
Scotland was in a comfortable position and chasing a moderate score when they slumped to defeat, losing their final eight wickets for 51 runs.
The second game saw them set the Dutch an imposing 318 runs to win, lending weight to Bradburn's assessment of his team's batting capabilities in either circumstance.
Bradburn also spoke of his side's thought process after the collapse against Holland and said: "Whether you win or lose, or you play well or you don't, we've got to continue to think better."
This statement does not reflect on yesterday's performance but it echoes the similarities of Scotland’s game management during crucial phases of play and how the outcome of matches is decided. The team that handles the pressure better will win.
When sensing that you are on top of your opponent, seize the game, in doing so you will thereby win the match. Miss this window of opportunity and the chance is squandered and lost.
We can only wait until Sunday in Ayr and Thursday's game in Edinburgh to glimpse whether or not, the coach’s words has resonated.
One aspect of this “new” Scotland is certain; it is a tendency to bounce back from defeats and never give in. Call it spirit, call it will. It cannot be coached, and Bradburn has a team brimful of it.