Scotland: Oli Hairs, Munsey dazzle as Durham trip unearths batting depth

After the postponement of their WCL2 leg, Scotland's trip south of the border to take on Durham's second eleven proved hugely fruitful.

Scotland Durham
Scotland Durham

The calm disposition of Scotland’s head coach Shane Burger stands out as he speaks into the microphone with an undertone of complete satisfaction.

The kind of satisfaction one experiences after witnessing their side smack the opposition by a significant margin or discovering newfound depth of their team.

And so he did on Thursday as Scotland ‘A’ took on Durham 2nd XI in a 50-over clash in Gateshead, and came away with a victory margin of 357 runs. That’s as good as it gets. Although, in truth, the Scottish side was much stronger to be termed as their second string side with nine senior team incumbents led by Richie Berrington. 

Oli Hairs opened alongside Josh Wood and carted the bowlers over long-on and long-off to bring up a 63-ball hundred before eventually falling for 104 runs off 70 balls. He took a particular liking to Chris Rushworth, a Durham veteran of 296 senior appearances and scored 75% of his runs in boundaries. 

Exactly 11 years since his international bow for Scotland, Hairs sent a reminder to the selectors about his hitting prowess ahead of the T20 World Cup. Not that anyone needed it. In the month gone by, he was in sublime form for the Eastern Knights in Cricket Scotland Men’s Regional Pro Series and the Eastern Premier Division with knocks of 102(44) vs Western Warriors at Clydesdale and 191 (97) vs Grange CC at Myreside.

“His form has been absolutely superb,” Shane Burger told Emerging Cricket. “We saw the brand of cricket he is playing and it’s the sort of brand of cricket we look to play at Cricket Scotland. He has the ability to win you cricket games and take games away from the opposition which is what he’s doing almost every single game that he plays.”

“His chances are as good as there are ever going to be going into the T20 World Cup. We could have a relatively bigger squad that we take to UAE and Oman but more importantly we need to pick the right guys to go and perform in the tournament. He has certainly thrown his name in the mix.”

If one wondered whether they had seen the best of the day’s play, George Munsey ensured there was more to come as he smoked a 79-ball 137 consisting of 13 boundaries and 10 sixes. Dylan Budge refused to be easily discounted and blazed his way to an unbeaten 47-ball 95 at the death. 

Scotland ‘A’ posted 455/5 at the end of 50 overs but Durham 2nd XI were bowled out for 98 in response as Safyaan Sharif snared three wickets with Adrian Neill and Hamza Tahir picking two apiece. 

After the postponement of their Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-series fixtures against Nepal and Namibia in Spain scheduled to be played later this month, the lone one-day fixture in addition to a red-ball two-day practice game in Gateshead Fell was an exhibition of the burgeoning batting depth Scotland have built in recent times. They came away with more answers than needed answering but that’s hardly ever an unfortunate position for a head coach to be in. 

“The first two days we decided to give a lot of our younger players opportunities,” Burger said. “Really good to know the depth in the system we have, probably the most depth we have ever had, which is really nice.” 

“The guys taking the opportunity when they have been presented, especially the likes of Oli Hairs, Josh Wood and these guys coming in, it’s an opportunity for them to perform. Whilst our usual performers put in performances, it was good to see one or two new faces come in.”

The two-day friendly fixture that preceded the one-day rubber had a youthful make-up of the Scottish squad with only three capped batsmen in Hairs, Michael Leask and captain Craig Wallace. The young Scottish batsmen struggled as Durham’s bowlers tested them in the channel outside the off-stump. 

However, the best batting performance came from another Scotsman, Michael Jones, batting in a Durham-crested shirt, who laid down the marker with a composed knock of 114. As for the visitors, having scored just 214 runs losing 14 wickets (some batted twice), the bowling retained some discipline with Eastern Knights’ Brad Currie’s left-arm swing giving cause for optimism as he picked 3-24. 

“Brad Currie was exceptional. He bowled with a really good intensity in the right areas and really challenged the Durham batsmen. Our batting getting challenged with the red ball is something we don’t often get to do especially against a high-quality attack with Chris Rushworth, who’s taken over 500 first-class wickets for Durham.

“For our younger batting line-up to face someone of his skill and his experience is really, really important. They would have been challenged and I think they will take a lot of learnings from the red-ball game.” 

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