“Bring the Scottish flags and wear the tartan with pride, support will be appreciated!” said an elated Shane Burger, shortly after the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in December 2019, as Scotland announced home fixtures against New Zealand and Australia to be held in June the following year.
Having famously beaten England in a one-off ODI at home in 2018 and qualifying for their third T20 World Cup, undoubtedly, Cricket Scotland had set big goals for the year 2020 and it was a part of the “vision of playing against the world’s best and challenging players and staff to keep improving both on and off the field.”
Anyone who had followed Associate cricket with a passion would have known the significance of those rubbers and would have likely sent their sympathies to Grange in May when they were canned (or shall we say ‘indefinitely postponed’?) in the wake of the pandemic.
The financial strain of Covid-19 made itself evident in Scotland’s domestic tournaments being scrapped off too. As a result, players were left to train indoors at home, go out for walks and spend more time in the Gulag than on the field.
As the COVID-19 restrictions relaxed in the UK, the squad only returned from furlough and trained for the first time together in April 2021. A month later they traveled to Rotterdam to play two ODIs against the Netherlands, ending an excruciatingly long 522-day hiatus between International fixtures.
Max O’Dowd’s 82 limped the Dutch to 163/8 in 33 overs in a rain-affected game before a spirited Dutch pace attack restricted Scotland to 14 runs lesser. The visitors ensured in the next ODI that no such hiccups with the bat hindered their comeback as George Munsey and Dylan Budge stitched a 106-run partnership to level the series.
Scotland, then, announced a 40-man World Cup squad which trained at Goldenacre in the absence of any International fixtures before September. However, Calum Macleod, Safyaan Sharif and Munsey earned gigs in the Vitality Blast and Royal London Cup in England.
Zimbabwe extended their tour to Ireland by visiting the Grange for three T20Is in September. On the back of Richie Berrington’s unbeaten 82 and Sharif’s 4-fer, Scotland won the opening rubber by 7 runs before going down by 10 runs and 6 wickets in a closely contested series.
Any batting rust in the system was quickly shaken off in an undefeated run in the latest round of Cricket World Cup League 2 in Oman with two wins against Papua New Guinea and one against the hosts before rain put paid to their last fixture halfway into the first innings. They rose to second in the table as they owed their wins as much to the consistency of their top order as to the accuracy of spin duo Mark Watt and Hamza Tahir.
A trip to Dubai followed as the Emirates Cricket Board chanced upon the arrival of several Associates and teams contesting in the opening round of the T20 World Cup by organising fixtures against and between some of the teams in the first week of October as part of the Summer T20 Bash.
Scotland played against Papua New Guinea, winning comprehensively by 8 wickets in a chase spearheaded by Munsey’s 7th T20I fifty- his 4th in as many weeks- and Berrington’s 41. They went down by 5 wickets unable to repeat their batting heroics against Namibia, who nailed their match-ups, a couple of days later.
With their opening fixture against Bangladesh in the T20 World Cup days away, it’s best to heed to Burger’s advice to bring the Scottish flags and wear the tartan with pride. Support will indeed be appreciated.
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