Disappointing performance by Saltires
Jon Coates, The Scotsman
A highlights package of any Scottish Saltires campaign contains at least one horror show, and it is to be hoped that yesterday's performance was no more than a perennial nadir and not suggestive of any lingering malaise.
A Nottinghamshire side strong enough to push for the Friends Provident Trophy title left Edinburgh with a 77-run victory that felt much heavier, so phoney was the contest that took place over the last 90 minutes.
Rooted to the foot of the North Conference after four defeats of varying ilk, next week's double-header at Old Trafford and the Riverside offers the Saltires a last chance to prise a respectable return from their county season.
Having invited Notts to bat first, the hosts bowled and fielded beautifully for 30 overs of the 50, but inaccuracy at the outset and finale allowed their guests to soar within touching distance of a score of 300. In reply, the Saltires' target of 294 became a notional issue when they slumped to 16 for two, and a downright fantasy at 103 for six.
Fraser Watts failed to get his foot across to the second ball of the reply and edged Ryan Sidebottom to man-of-the-match Chris Read. Captain Ryan Watson soon perished when a bottom edge deflected a pull shot on to his stumps.
Majid Haq and George Bailey formed a promising stand worth 57 runs but Bailey, having twice struck Mark Ealham over the top, charged at the spin of Graeme Swann and incurred a leading edge off the full toss. The unruffled Haq continued to make hay whenever he could pierce the field, but showed a sudden and scant disregard for his wicket on 42, nudging the ball back into the hands of Swann.
Uddingston all-rounder Ian Moran, recalled as second overseas player after influential displays last season, had received a vicious blow to his self-esteem when Read smashed 32 runs off his fifth and final over, and the Australian's nightmare deepened when he came out to bat at No 6 and left a Swann off-break to be cleaned up first ball.
Neil McCallum, the last recognised batsman, had just swept a second six when he was trapped lbw for 16, and the only thing left was for Simon Smith to stroke 41 consolation runs in his first county match for three summers, guiding the Scots to 216.
The story of Notts' 293 for six was the experience of one England "reject" and the anarchic power of another. Jason Gallian's polished 97 created a platform for Read to run riot at the death.
Gallian should have been run out for 92 but five runs later he gave Haq the second scalp that he richly deserved, caught low by Bailey. The off-spinner had already removed David Hussey, the visitors' danger man, in a bewitching second over.
Haq was well supported by Glenn Rogers and Craig Wright, but the other half of the attack let the side down. John Blain, who drove north after playing club cricket on Saturday for Rotherham, and Dewald Nel, on the back of two county championship matches for Worcestershire, looked weary and served up regular four-balls.
A stand of 82 was ended by an act of brilliance in the field. Billy Shafayat flicked Wright over square leg where Rogers leapt high to his right to clutch the ball with both hands. The wily spinner then came to the fore with the ball, beating Mark Wagh's swipe.
The straight-batted Gallian plundered half of his 12 fours off Wright but when Haq denied him his hundred, the Saltires were right in the game. With Notts 217 for five from 46 overs, Mark Ealham hit a Nel full toss for six to grasp back the initiative before Moran's return – after a tidy first spell – lit up the eyes of Read.
The gifted wicket-keeper first flicked a six over mid-wicket, then added four when Bailey misjudged an off-drive. A cleaner blow over long-on was followed by an edgy four, and finally two brutal slogs over the leg side as Moran, short of big-match experience since last summer, failed to adjust his length. His reward was the kind of ignominy that sticks to a career like chewing gum on a shoe.
"Ian's had a tough day today, but we all have them," said coach Peter Drinnen. "But this was a disappointing performance, and we lost the game in crucial phases."