Just over a year after being threatened with the destruction of their iconic home ground, Edinburgh club Heriot’s CC have capped off a remarkable season in the truncated makeshift Edinburgh league by being crowned 40-over champions, defeating historic powerhouse Grange in a final-over thriller by 1 wicket on Saturday.
After the cancellation of the Eastern Premier League and Scottish Cup earlier in the summer, Edinburgh’s major clubs moved quickly to organise a makeshift tournament when the Scottish Government allowed inter-club matches to proceed in early August. The traditional 50-over Saturday league and 20-over midweek league were truncated to 40 overs and 16 overs respectively, owing to the fast fading light in August and September. And though a number of matches had to be rescheduled through weather, both tournaments were able to complete, a contrast to elsewhere in Scotland where many teams struggled to even organise friendlies.
Heriot’s have dominated both tournaments, finishing unbeaten and top of the table in both. Boosted by the new signing of national team wicketkeeper Matthew Cross from English club Bexley and the full availability of Scotland internationals Mark Watt and Adrian Neill, the club’s already impressive depth proved too much for their city rivals.
Captaining the club for the first time, Watt promoted himself to number 4 in search of some all-round credentials, and found them, posting 170 runs in 7 innings including 2 fifties. But Cross has been the standout performer for the short season, scoring over 300 in only 5 innings, including 112 away against Grange. With the ball, middle order batsman Michael Shean found some surprising success with his spin, taking twice as many wickets as any other bowler with 16 at less than 10.
The final of the 40-over tournament, completed today in the still-standing Goldenacre, saw the strength of the club’s bowling too, with Grange restricted to 96/9 in a shortened 30-over match. Adrian Neill did much of the damage upfront on a green pitch with overcast skies, taking 4/14 in his opening spell, before the left arm spin pair of Watt and Shean controlled the latter half of the innings, taking a pair of wickets each.
Heriot’s openers Cross and Peter Ross, assistant coach with Scotland women, threatened to win the game at a canter with a strong opening stand but the conditions turned for the worst and a dramatic collapse followed. From 40/0, Heriot’s slumped to 64/5, and consistent wickets from Grange’s spinners left last pair of Elliot Ruthven and Adrian Neill with 9 to win from three overs. The pair, both noted for their big hitting, played the conditions well and completed the chase with only four balls remaining.
The club’s ground, the picturesque Goldenacre which boasts views of Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle from its balcony, was under threat from plans of the landowners, George Heriot’s School, to convert the main oval into artificial hockey pitches. The plans were revealed only a day after Heriot’s won the illustrious Scottish Cup, a nation-wide knockout competition, at the end of the 2019 season.
Although the school intended for cricket to be relocated to the club’s 2nd XI oval, many in the club feared that the loss of revenue from former players due to the club’s famous clubhouse would spell the beginning of the end for the club. In addition, the club’s status as arguably the best ground in the capital can attract strong players, both from other clubs and abroad. The club’s current professional, former South African U-19 batsman Hayes van der Berg, has now served the club admirably for three seasons, including a man of the match in the Scottish Cup win, after having played for other clubs in Scotland previously.
But strong opposition to the plans from club members, locals and the media, including pieces in Emerging Cricket and the Edinburgh Evening News, helped convince the school of the value of the ground, which has hosted World T20 Qualifier games and may be a vital second ground for the national team in the future. The plans have not been officially cancelled as of July 2020, but the lack of movement on the development, as well as the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on all parties, seem to signal that the club will last a while longer.
Heriot’s have a chance to finish the season with two competition wins when the 16-over competition concludes with a finals day next week.
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