Some of Scotland’s most promising young cricketers have been in sunnier climes this winter honing their considerable talents – with a few still to come home!
Not only have these youngsters had the chance to play plenty of cricket, they’ve also been learning much about themselves, and making memories to last a lifetime.
Ailsa Lister has just returned from South Africa, where she was Vice-captain for the Scotland squad at the Women’s U19 T20 World Cup, but prior to this, she was in Australia for a few months.
The 18-year-old Stoneywood-Dyce and Northern Lights product, who already has 16 full T20 international caps under her belt, was in Perth.
“My journey to Australia began at the end of September – I went straight there from the Women’s U19 T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Abu Dhabi,” she said.
“During my stay I played for Midland-Guildford CC and received extra coaching from Job Van Bunge at the Perth Cricket Academy (PCA).
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Perth and both Job and Midland-Guildford were so supportive. I feel I greatly improved my all-round game while I was there.
“The highlight of my time would have to be playing with the Western Australia and Scorchers contracted players at Midland-Guildford.
“To learn from them whilst enjoying playing for the club and still having a role within the team was amazing. As a young player, to play with people with such experience of the game has been wonderful.
“My trip was the best preparation I could have asked for ahead of the World Cup and the rest of 2023. The learnings I’ll take in all aspects of my game, I believe, have put me in a great position with my cricket to continue developing as a player.”
Lyle Robertson, a 20-year-old who’s played for numerous representative teams including the Caledonian Highlanders, the Scotland Performance Academy and Scotland ‘A’, is still in Australia.
“I left Scotland in mid-September for New South Wales, and I’ll be returning at the end of March,” said Robertson, who came through the youth system at Falkland.
“I’m playing for the Macquarie club and the experience so far has been very good. I’m enjoying the challenge of bowling on the decks as there isn’t much turn and I’m loving batting on them.
“I’m learning lots each day on and off the field, taking in the culture of the people here and, on the pitch, adapting my game to the different conditions.”
Clydesdale’s Kess Sajjad has, like Robertson, played for the Scotland Performance Academy and Scotland ‘A’ – and right now is in Pakistan. Having arrived in December, he won’t return to these shores until February.
Sajjad is involved with the Paklions International Cricket Academy/Ghani Institute of Cricket, and said: “The experience has been very, very helpful.
“Being able to play cricket regularly contributes a lot towards improving as a player. The different conditions from pitch to pitch in Lahore, and from the UK to Lahore, requires adaptation and every tricky pitch that I play on gives me that extra bit more experience to use in the future.
“Being able to bowl on grass at will and having floodlit nets allows for sessions at any time, ultimately giving you some freedom in your schedule.
“The highlight is having people like Mohammed Irfan, Mohammed Abbas and a lot of PSL local players joining our training. Being able to train and play with players with such experience can only be positive for me as I try to improve as a cricketer.
“I’ve learned a lot about mindset and being mentally strong and confident to deliver the best performance. The desire that players over here show – and the determination to master their craft – has had a massive impact on me, making me strive further to push the limits and improve.”
Finlay McCreath, the 24-year-old Benwell Hill player who’s been part of a full Scotland squad tour before, is in Brisbane.
The Eastern Knights and Scotland ‘A’ man arrived at the end of September and will stay until early April.
“I’m playing at Valley District Cricket Club and we’re playing in the Queensland Premier competition,” he said.
“My experience has been brilliant so far, the club has been fantastic looking after me and I’m playing with [fellow Scot] Rory Johnston as well, so it’s been great to have someone I know with me.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better club, the people are great, the coaches are knowledgeable about the game and there are some top-quality players. That makes training competitive and a great learning environment which I’ve loved being a part of.
“Putting on an unbeaten 294 run partnership, contributing 103 not out and my partner making 235 not out in a 2nd grade match was a highlight and it was a record fifth-wicket partnership for the club.
“Making my first team debut and being cap number 746 for Valleys was also special.
“I’ve had to learn to adapt to the different conditions out here, the heat has obviously been a factor, and with the two-day format of games played over two weekends, the basics are really important. You have all day to bat as well as trying to bowl consistently when the wicket is usually pretty flat and the ball isn’t doing too much.
“Another feature of this type of cricket is that sometimes you don’t get a bat or a bowl for a couple of weeks depending on the toss or if one weekend is washed out, so you have to be ready to ‘go’ when you do get that opportunity.
“I think these factors as well as the experience of playing some tough cricket in foreign conditions is helping to expand my game both with bat and ball, so I’m looking forward to continuing to learn as much as I can and aim to put in some match winning performances as we make a push for finals.
“I’ll then be ready to ‘go’ for the season back home when it starts.”
Like McCreath, 18-year-old Olly Davidson was part of a full Scotland tour in 2022 and the Harborne player who is involved at English county Worcestershire is currently in Western Australia.
He is playing for Collingwood Park in the Albany and District Cricket Association leagues and is part of the Albany County XI playing in the Western Australia District Championship. His good form has also seen him picked for the Western Australia Country U21 select team.
“I’m really enjoying it at the moment. I’m learning a lot about my game in different conditions which is challenging, but good fun,” he said about his trip that began in October and runs until March.
“In terms of highlights, I took a five wicket haul one week and then followed it up with six wickets, a hat-trick and 58 not out, so that was a good run.
“From what I’ve experienced so far, the difference in pitch conditions means a lot and I will be able to use that experience when I get back home to benefit my playing style.”
Davidson’s older brother Jasper, 20, is currently based in Adelaide and is involved at the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy.
The Harborne man, who’s played for Herefordshire Minor Counties, the Scotland Performance Academy and Scotland ‘A’ amongst others, is there from October until March and is currently taking a year out from his studies at Edinburgh Napier University.
He is playing for the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy first XI and West Torrens District Cricket Club in the Adelaide Premier League and said: “The experience so far has been very enjoyable.
“I am loving the amount of cricket I am playing and the high standard of it. I feel like it’s really helping me develop my game and I hope to showcase that next season in the UK. Alongside the cricket I’ve also made some very good mates and love the Australian culture and way of living.
“Getting my ‘A’ Grade cap presented to me as well as playing alongside a huge number of professional cricketers has been a highlight.
“I have made changes to my bowling action to add pace and variations and I’ve been improving my batting technique as well as power hitting whilst over here.”