Rob Taylor's All Out Cricket Blog
Scotland and Leicestershire allrounder Rob Taylor with the first of his World Cup blogs detailing life behind the scenes in the Scottish camp. This time round it’s a look back on their warm-up tri-series tournament against Ireland and Afghanistan in the UAE.
If you love fast cars, tall buildings and sand then Dubai is a good place to visit. It’s also a good place to get some training and play some ODIs in the run up to the World Cup. Us Scotland lads were based at the ICC Global Academy and, without actually being in Australia or New Zealand, the wickets we had access to were prepared as similarly as possible to the ones we will play on during next month’s World Cup.
Dubai isn’t a place that’s unusual to us as a squad and in the two years I have been playing for Scotland this is the sixth time that I’ve been there on tour. The facilities are world-class and with some of the best golf courses in the world you have always got some options for days off, even if it can be a bit pricey!
With four ODIs scheduled and with just one month until our opening World Cup group match the trip gave us a good chance to see where we were as a squad and to get some valuable game time heading into the group stages. We also got two games again Afghanistan – who will be in our World Cup group – and with us looking for our first ever win in a World Cup match it was a great chance to size them up.
A game against Afghanistan is never a quiet affair. Whether you are playing in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi or at the ICC Cricket Academy there is always a travelling support. Personally, I quite enjoy it; it creates some atmosphere which is much better than ‘a one man and his dog’ affair. The morning of our first game we were greeted with 50-metre visibility at the ground due to fog. It was more like being in Aberdeen in April than Dubai! A delayed start was inevitable but unless you like building sand castles there isn’t much to do during a delay. Having been told the wicket would have pace and bounce, and taking into account the foggy and slightly damp conditions, bowling first would have been the ideal scenario… we lost the toss and were asked to bat.
We batted steadily, Hamish Gardiner compiled a brilliant 96 but sadly fell just short of his ton when he played on to Dawlat Zadran. With a couple of other contributions we got ourselves to 237 and I felt this was a good total on a wicket that had seamed and had a bit of bounce. How wrong was I! The Afghans have a fearless nature to the way they approach their batting in that they like to get ahead and then get further ahead. As you can imagine this goes one of two ways. In this game it paid off for them and they cruised to an eight-wicket win.
The self-elected social committee of Ali Evans and Preston Mommsen had a couple of failed attempts at trying to organise some golf and go-karting during our days off so instead there was a fair bit of thumb twiddling. The Xbox was a godsend on this trip, though; a great addition to the suitcase!
Our second game was against Ireland at the International Stadium in Dubai. Again we batted first and found ourselves 45-4 and despite 86 from Matt Machan we were never in a position to press on and get a score near 250 which we needed. In reply we managed to take early wickets and got a couple of key players out but Niall O’Brien made a good 80* which took them to a three-wicket win with three overs to spare.
If we’re going to win games at the World Cup we need to be clinical and take all of our chances and play close to the perfect game of cricket. Against Ireland we didn’t do this and dropped five catches and after losing four early wickets it cost us the game.
With two games in three days the schedule didn’t allow us to think about the Ireland game too much and this turned out to be a good thing. We travelled down to Abu Dhabi to play at the impressive Sheikh Zayed Stadium. We batted first for the third time in three games and made 213-7 thanks to half-centuries from Richie Berrington and Josh Davey. Sometimes it’s just your day and when that happens it’s great: Davo had one of these days. On top of scoring 53 off 48 balls he then went on to take 6-28 and we bowled Afghanistan out for 63. When the lights came on and the temperature dropped slightly the ball started to nip around and it all went our way. It was the first time in an ODI that both opening bowlers had taken all 10 wickets and Davo also became the first associate player to get a six-fer in an ODI.
Spirits were pretty high after the win in Abu Dhabi and when Afghanistan won their last game it left the door open for us to win the series if we beat Ireland. The odds of a game being rained off in the desert would have to be pretty long so we hoped the ominous weather forecast was wrong – 100 per cent chance of rain on the Met Office app is never a good sign, though. As soon as there is a chance of rain every cricketer becomes a weather forecaster, which – using the term loosely – means poking their heads out of the changing room doors and checking the direction of the wind before declaring which way the rain’s coming from… it’s genius. With a lot of time wasted, a lot of coffee drunk and a couple of failed warm-up attempts, the rain won. We were unable to get a game in and the series went to Ireland.
With the tri-series over we headed back to the UK for 10 days. We’re flying out to Sydney soon to begin what will hopefully be the best six weeks in Cricket Scotland’s history and of our careers.
This article originally apeared in All Out Cricket