After a fascinating opening weekend, the Covid-related cancellation of the remaining rounds of the Cricket Scotland Regional T20 Blitz has brought both the men’s and women’s competitions to a disappointing, if entirely understandable, close. Hamilton Crescent was to have hosted the latest instalment in the rivalry between the Eagles and Stormers this Sunday, but while that will have to wait for another day, there are still plenty of positives to take away from that absorbing first afternoon at Strathmore.
On a day in which rain threatened but never came, it was the ball which had the upper hand. Muggy, blowy conditions combined with a slow pitch and outfield to keep the scoring low, with neither side managing to break into three figures in either of the two matches played. The Stormers came closest with 97 for 9 in the second thanks in large part to an unbeaten 40 from Megan McColl, who stepped into the anchor role after the early departures of Ailsa Lister and Priyanaz Chatterji had given the Eagles hope of an equalising win. Stormers skipper Chatterji had already steered her side to an eight-wicket victory in Game One by putting on 87 for the second wicket with top-scorer Lorna Jack (48*), but significant partnerships were few and far between on a day which yielded only 321 runs in total. The Stormers’ batting ultimately gave them the edge; that almost a quarter of their runs were gifted through extras, however, hardly helped their opponents’ cause.
For the Eagles it was the on-loan Ellen Watson who was the stand-out performer, her big hitting and innovative shot-making an ever-present danger to her former – for the moment at least – team-mates, while the in-form Ikra Farooq was unfortunate to come up against the nous of Abtaha Maqsood, who trapped her leg before in both innings. The void at the top of the order left by the absent Bryce sisters was always going to be hard to fill, however, and although flashes of exciting potential were always there – from Emma Walsingham, for one – the Eagles were ultimately undone by the lack of specialist batters, which culminated in their second-match dismissal for just 47.
It was a different story in the bowling department, where both sides could take away plenty of positives. The confidence of Maqsood was evident in the way in which she recovered from a first-over assault from Watson to post combined figures of 4 for 29 for the day. The leg-spinner varied her flight beautifully, darting it in to cramp Watson while inviting others to chance their arm against more loopy tempters. The twenty-one-year-old’s progress has been considerable over the last couple of years, and with time still very much on her side, both the Stormers and Scotland will be the beneficiaries of a talent that will only get even better.
And so too for the Eagles. So much has happened in the two short years since Katherine Fraser’s debut at The Grange when, as a thirteen-year-old, she took a wicket with the first ball she bowled in the very first match of the newly-rebranded competition. Now taller and with even more tricks up her sleeve, she showed exactly why she has become such a lynchpin of the national side by returning figures of 1 for 9 and 3 for 12 after opening the bowling in both matches. She clearly relished the opportunity to bat at three, too, and it will be fascinating to see how this part of her game develops in the seasons to come.
Having bowled tidily in the first game, Ikra Farooq shone in the second, taking 4 for 22 in a spell which began with the key wicket of Jack. Megan McColl came into her own too, adding 3 for 13 to her earlier heroics with the bat, while spinner Abbie Hogg and seamer Orla Montgomery – who had to sit out the second innings after sustaining a painful blow whilst batting – also put in impressive, though unrewarded, performances. But happiest at the end of the day was undoubtedly fourteen-year-old Nayma Shaikh, whose 4 for 9 on debut capped an afternoon which would in due course lead to the Stormers regaining the crown they last held in 2018.
Both sides will be back again next season. This one has turned out in a way that none of us could have imagined, but the production line of young Scottish talent is clearly functioning as well as ever.