4th January 1979, Edinburgh, Scotland
16 May 1999 v Australia
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.