Near the top of what has become a lengthy list of frustrations in this most peculiar of cricketing summers has been the cancellation of the 2020 edition of the Beyond Boundaries T20 Scottish Cup. An increasing number of teams have joined the tussle for the prestigious trophy over the past three years, and with victories coming from both the east and west of the country its story has provided an excellent illustration of the progress the women’s game has been making.
In 2017, the first year of the charity’s association with the tournament, it was two of Scottish cricket’s more established powers which battled it out in the Final. George Watson’s College has been a major force in the women’s game for many years now, and their victory over league champions Carlton in a remarkable encounter at New Williamfield ensured that the Cup would stay at Myreside for the third year in succession.
Sarah and Kathryn Bryce were the stars as GWC posted 107 for 2 in damp conditions made all the more challenging by some excellent Carlton bowling, but the real fireworks were reserved for the second innings as Nina Whitaker joined soon-to-be Scotland captain Kathryn in setting about the Carlton top order. Three wickets fell in the first two overs, and when Georgia Henderson dismissed Samantha Haggo, Lily Steindl and Christina Evans soon after, crisis rapidly turned into calamity for the Grange Loan side. No batter reached double figures as Carlton was eventually bowled out for just 42. Their time, however, would come again.
It was a tale of two openers the following year as another terrific match saw a combined side from The West get the better of Edinburgh South/Stewart’s Melville. After Kathryn White had carried her bat for an unbeaten half-century in the first innings, Ellen Watson then matched the feat with 55 not out to steer her side to a memorable seven-wicket win.
The experience of Scotland legend White had proved telling as she and Hannah Short overcame what had been a shaky start with a partnership of 59. White’s trademark hitting was a constant threat, and despite being given a life on 53 as she turned a no-ball into the hands of Lois Wilkinson, her belligerent knock of 60 seemed to have done enough as ES/SM posted 111 for 4.
That feeling was reinforced by the early departures of Neyma Shaikh, Abtaha Maqsood and Lois Wilkinson, but momentum began to swing the way of The West as Watson and Charlotte Dalton found their stride. Dalton found the rope twice in successive deliveries, pulling a high full toss through backward square before skipping down to plant a lofted drive over mid-on, while Watson followed suit with a neat flick off her pads to bring the target down still further. Fittingly, it was left to the latter to seal the win in the seventeenth with her sixth boundary of what had been a beautifully judged innings.
The eight teams contesting the 2019 competition included two new faces in the form of Dumfries & Galloway Women and McCrea FS West of Scotland, who added an appearance in the Final to what had been a fine season. It was Carlton who emerged triumphant, however, as a magnificent partnership of 106 between Ruth Willis and Abbi Aitken-Drummond put aside the disappointment of 2017 in impressive style.
Carlton had begun the day by posting 180 for 3 in their 136-run Semi-Final win over a young George Watson’s side, but on the expansive lower pitch at New Williamfield runs initially proved much harder to come by. Only ten runs were scored from the first three overs, and when Heather Tait was bowled by Gardee off the second ball of the fourth, Carlton, at 10 for 1, were in need of a foothold in the game.
It came via the experienced Scotland pair of Aitken-Drummond and Willis. Although the deep-set boundary and slow outfield made the rope difficult to find in the early stages of the innings – a terrific lofted drive over the top from Aitken-Drummond providing a notable exception – the two began to build the total with a fine display of running between the wickets. Willis raced past 30 in a combination of twos and threes, while Aitken-Drummond began to find the boundary with more regularity, bringing up the fifty partnership with a towering six over deep backward square off the last ball of the tenth. With Carlton 63 for 1, it was now West of Scotland who were feeling the pressure.
Still the runs came, and although both perished before the end – Willis (60) lbw to Maryam Faisal and Aitken-Drummond (41) bowled – Carlton’s closing total of 126 for 3 looked well above par nonetheless.
Not that West of Scotland had been left without hope. A half-century from Rachel Hawkins had proved the difference in their Semi-Final win over Stirling County, and the all-rounder was straight out of the blocks again to take 12 from the first over. Three wickets in the third and fourth put the batting side on their heels, however, and when Hawkins fell, caught by Heather Tait off the bowling of Georgia Henderson for 34, it struck a blow from which they would never recover.
The West’s remaining batters fought hard, Maryam Faisal leading the way with a battling 14, but Carlton held firm to claim the Cup for the third time in their history.
Three years, three unforgettable finals. Those memories are all we have just now, of course, but as we wait impatiently for the next chapter to be written, one thing is certain: 2021 will be all the sweeter for it.