Scotland’s Women fly to the Netherlands for the ICC Women’s World T20 Qualifier in confident mood. Despite the absence of several regulars the squad has been buoyed by some excellent recent performances, and with new talent coming through to add to the big-match experience of players such as Kathryn Bryce, Sarah Bryce, Lorna Jack and Abbi Aitken there is genuine belief that Scotland can go one better than their semi-final appearance at Thailand 2015.
Katie McGill is another who belongs in the same category, and as she prepares for her third Global Qualifier in Scotland colours the all-rounder is looking forward to seeing what the tournament will bring.
“The preparations have been going really well,” she said. “We’re particularly focused and clear on what we want to do and how we want to do it and we’ve had a good run of practice games which have given us a bit of momentum.
“Different people at different times have been stepping up, too, and it’s really nice to know that we have that depth within the squad.”
Scotland go into the tournament on the back of their best-ever performance in the ECB’s domestic T20 competition after finishing third in Division Two of the Vitality Women’s Twenty20 Cup.
“It’s been a massive help mind and body-wise to have played the fifty-over competition in early season before moving to T20,” said Katie. “It’s nice to have been able to focus on that different pace of game, particularly for our batters.
“To have had a good block of T20 coming into [the Qualifier], to be really confident that we have the skills for that and for us bowlers to have been able to get into the rhythm of going hard for four overs without having to worry about having to pace out eight over spells has been really good.”
Since her debut in 2015 the twenty-six-year-old has become a cornerstone of the Scotland team in both domestic and international cricket. Awarded her fiftieth cap in June, Katie scored her first half-century for the Wildcats in Division Three of the Royal London Women’s One-Day Cup against Cumbria before ending the Twenty20 Cup campaign as the team’s leading wicket-taker.
“I’ve always been a bit of an all-rounder, very much in the mould of jack-of-all-trades rather than master of one,” she smiled. “I was always a middle overs bowler as I’ve not really got the pace or movement of some of the others, but I have a bit more control I guess.
“Spending a winter in New Zealand [with Northern Districts Women in 2016-17] was so good for my development. It opened up opportunities for me to bowl with the new ball which I’ve never really had before as even in club cricket I’d look to come in later and use change-ups and so on. But when I went out to New Zealand there happened to be an opening, so they got me opening the bowling.
“It was a brilliant place to learn a new skill and I took that momentum and got a little bit of a go with it [at the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier] in Sri Lanka. I’ve never sat there and said I want to open the bowling, but I love doing it now when I get the chance. I have always liked a new challenge.
“When something’s going well and you have confidence in one discipline you can work on the other,” she continued. “As I said I like a challenge and I like tinkering but I’ve learnt through time that it’s best to keep things simple. With the bat I just focus on hitting the ball. It doesn’t necessarily make for the best photos but if I’m scoring runs and supporting an in-bat then that’s my job done.
“To have had the opportunity to get a bit more crease-time in the Regional Series has been a very good test as well. I’m in a place now where I’m really confident in the shots I’ve got and when and how to use them.”
In Cricket Scotland’s rebranded Regional Series Katie’s all-round credentials have been very much to the fore. With 45 not out in the first T20 match of the series and 4 for 12 in second, the Eagles captain has led from the front in what has, she says, already become a hugely significant competition.
“It’s massive,” said Katie. “It gives it weight. Previously there were different franchise-type names like East and Rest, which for the Rest felt like you were part of a bit of a hotchpotch, so to have good branding in place now has been a really important step.
“But [the Regional Series] also cements the pathway. It’s already shown its worth when you look at people like Charlotte Dalton, for example, who performed well at club level, got a shout at Regionals, performed there and got a shot with the ‘A’s, all within six months. Hannah Rainey, too, only debuted this year but is now going to her first international tournament, again thanks to her performances through that regional structure.
“It keeps the established players on their toes as well,” she continued. “You know what is coming through and it keeps you pushing to elevate yourself. It’s just so good for our game that the competition is branded seriously, taken seriously by the players, taken seriously by the set-up and provides a genuine pathway for people who shine within it.”
And as her attention turns towards Scotland’s opening match against Uganda on Saturday, confidence is high.
“We want to get to the World Cup and there’s no denying that there’s a genuine belief within the team that we can,” said Katie. “We sat down at the beginning of the winter and asked what our goal should be and if it was realistic and yes, we feel it is.
“In the Regional Qualifiers there have been a few upsets and teams you would expect to be in this Qualifier haven’t made it, so it proves that up-and-coming teams like ourselves can leap-frog over others. We’re confident in our game and we’re definitely more skilful and more fit than we’ve been, so I think we’re in a really good place to go and cause an upset and get ourselves to the World Cup.”