Playing Kenya in Kuala Lumpur - 1997

25 Jun

The prospect of the upcoming series of fixtures between Scotland and Kenya in Aberdeen conjures up memories of the encounter between the countries during the Carlsberg ICC Trophy held in Malaysia in March/April 1997. That tournament being the qualifiers for the England 1999 ICC World Cup. More of the 1997 fixture v Kenya later.

Having journeyed with Fred Rumsey Travel to Antigua for the 1994 WI –v- ENG test at which Brian Lara broke Sir Garfield Sobers’ record, an advert for trips to the ICC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur in the 1996 SCU Yearbook from the same provider led to an enquiry about options, prices, etc. A few months of silence was followed by news that the tour had been undersubscribed so it was cancelled. Undeterred your correspondent set out to cobble together a trip to KL using a tournament schedule provided by Alex Ritchie in the SCU office (Cricket Scotland in old parlance) who was also able to advise that there was a sizeable contingent from Freuchie heading for KL to do some missionary work but little was known of other followers’ travel plans.

First up were the flights. Outbound Aberdeen > Amsterdam > Kuala Lumpur departing 23-Mar-1997 arriving 24-Mar-1997; inbound Kuala Lumpur > Amsterdam > Aberdeen on 06-Apr-1997. Next on the agenda was sorting out accommodation and Air Miles were turned into twelve nights in the Holiday Inn City Centre in KL. Let the fun and games commence…

A short hop across the North Sea was followed by a long overnight flight to KL. The latter flight was shortened somewhat by being seated next to a KL resident who gave a few hints/tips on what to do, where to eat, etc. including one excellent map sketched on the back of a KLM spew-bag showing the whereabouts of The Coliseum restaurant. Let’s just say it was sampled during the trip; it was quaint.

 

Papua New Guinea provided the first opponents. Alex’s schedule said that the match was to take place at the Victoria Institution but having duly made my way there I discovered that it was at the Kelab Alam ground which thankfully was within walking distance – aye, even in a hot and sticky KL. Remember I had a grippy Aberdonian reputation to preserve. A comfortable 6 wicket victory chasing 120 ensued. It transpired that some other Scotland fans had made the journey. Keith Graham & Willie Dick of the press, one of the infamous Bankies who followed West of Scotland, that sizeable Freuchie contingent, Messrs Flynn and Scotland of the umpiring fraternity and a few Paisley buddies plus some SCU officials. Apologies to anyone who I have omitted…

Having made contact with the team, officials and fellow travellers it became clear the match the following day against Hong Kong was to be at the Rubber Research Institute and not the venue displayed on the printed schedule. How to get to the RRI was the next challenge. The first couple of taxi drivers approached either had no idea where it was or didn’t fancy the gig to a faraway location but eventually I got a driver who had a vague idea where the ground was – well he knew the rough locality rather than its exact whereabouts. Just when that mug taxi driver started to flounder a miracle happened as a rather bedraggled Sandy Scotland exited a “suburban” train station, tumbled down a bank through bushes onto the verge just as we drove past – Alan Whicker and Michael Palin eat your hearts out. Super Sandy had worked out exactly where the ground was.

Many a lap of the boundary was spent that day with fellow supporters with several alongside “Deadly” Derek Underwood whose company had provided all of the artificial pitches specially laid for the tournament. An 87 run victory having set a target of 221 was achieved against a team including a former POGs (Paisley Old Grammarians) player. The return journey was less eventful as the supporters who were staying in hotels scattered across KL joined up to share taxis back into the city – I have vague recollections of struggling to get taxis for everyone to come out to this veritable outpost to convey us homewards.

A couple of free days ensued for the Scotland players to practice and the followers to bum around KL. I still took in a game on the first free day by attending the Ireland –v- USA game at the Tenaga National Sports complex. That USA side included former West Indies test player Faoud Bacchus and Derrick Kallicharran (brother of Alvin and a former pro at Strathmore CCC) whilst future rugby international referee Alan Lewis was in the Ireland side.

Tommy the Tourist duly took to the streets on the second free day, went up the KL Tower, visited the National Museum, etc. and made use of the hotel pool. One regret is not accompanying Sandy Scotland to a local football match in which now Sky pundit Tony Cottee featured as his career careered downhill. The recently departed Martin Flynn also had a memorable encounter with a pothole which required treatment from the SCU medical team to dress the resultant deep wound.

During the second of these free days I was taking a bus back towards my hotel when I spotted the then convenor of Grampian Regional Council and erstwhile Banchory CC cricketer – Geoff Hadley – strolling towards the hotel. Later that day he and his wife popped out to the hotel pool to find your correspondent already ensconced on a deckchair catching some rays. It transpired that he was there retracing his steps from his post-grad days on Langkawi Island and I duly advised him of the ongoing ICC Trophy.

The presence of a team representing Israel in the tournament was creating a perceived need to shuffle match venues around to outwit protestors so the next game against Italy ended up being played at the University of Malaya ground. We posted 273 and ended up winning by 131 runs. Three games, three wins, so far so good for Scotland but adverse weather elsewhere across KL had left a couple of the fancied sides with splits of the points for No Returns against less fancied opposition.

Word had got out amongst the travelling support that the local “Caledonian Society” was going to be providing free food and drink at the Royal Selangor Club during the Bermuda match. It was true and the travellers made sure that this hospitality did not go to waste. A score of 231 led to another victory; this time by 57 runs so we had coasted through to the next phase of the tournament. At another venue on this day there was a protest against the presence of the Israelis in the tournament resulting in the abandonment of the Holland –v- Canada game without a ball being bowled. I kid ye not, that was the game at which the protest took place.

Back to the RRI for our first second stage match against a Denmark side coached by Ole Mortensen (an ex-Derbyshire colleague of Dallas Moir the erstwhile AGSFP, Aberdeenshire & Scotland left-arm spinner) providing the opposition. We stuttered our way to 167 but that was enough to set up victory by a 45 run margin.

Next up was a fixture against Canada at the Royal Military College. We were advised to carry our passports to the RMC to smooth our entry to what was a tightly secured venue. Did I say tightly secured? For the ordinary fans amongst us like Geoff Hadley and myself the security checks were indeed fairly tight but for Eric Grierson – the then President of the SCU – and his good lady wife there were no such challenges as the guards on the gates misheard what he said in his broad Borders accent and he got the full red carpet treatment befitting of the President of Scotland. Eric was the following year to make an inspired speech at the end of a B&H game at Forfar when he informed all and sundry that he was a John Players man himself. He needed to have a word with his scriptwriter!

A late start and two rain interruptions left only 29.4 overs in the field for Scotland and a No Result. A proper tropical rainstorm left us cowering in pitch side marquees waiting for the rain to go off – the rain really was bouncing; almost knee high and had turned the playing area into a lake. Geoff and I eventually walked from the cricket ground to the gates and eventually flagged down a passing taxi.

My last game was the final second phase fixture against Kenya at the Perbadanan Kemajuan Negari Selangor. The PKNS was another challenging ground to get to but we now had “The President of Scotland” on our side so anything was possible. Kenya didn’t exactly post a huge score but the pace of Martin Suji had been the talk of the steamie and he duly blasted out three of Scotland’s top order leaving us with a rebuild job which meant that we were well behind on D/L when that day’s rains arrived and put an end to proceedings.

I well recall former Stoneywood-Dyce player and ICC administrator in Argentina – Grant Dugmore -  telling me that he had only been “sconned” by three bowlers in his career - the afore-mentioned Martin Suji, Shaun Pollock and Aberdeen Grades’ legend Russell Balsillie who took over 1000 wickets in a career spanning Stoneywood, Cults and latterly Stonehaven Thistle. There’s no harm in a gratuitous mention of the Grades!

Home time for some but a semi-final defeat against Bangladesh set up a 3rd/4th place play-off v Ireland and we won that to get into England 1999 ICC World Cup proper alongside Bangladesh and Kenya. Nae bother!

I’d better not anger the weather gods and say too much about the previous occasion when we hosted Kenya for ODIs in Scotland in 2008 – one game started and got 43.1 overs in; the other didn’t get going at all. But that was in the rainy west… this time in the tropical North-East we’ll get Kenny the local pitch doctor to do a bit of praying to the sun gods and hope for some good cricket. Two home wins for starters in the WCL would be just dandy…

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