Preview: Scotland v Derbyshire
Jon Coates, The Scotsman
Seldom are the Scottish Saltires favourites going into a county assignment but tomorrow's visit of Derbyshire to Edinburgh presents a rare opportunity to kick opponents when they are down. John Blain senses a whiff of blood.
Derbyshire are badly depleted by injuries and the ongoing refusal of the ECB to grant Australian all-rounder Ian Harvey permission to play as an Englishman. Like the Saltires, they have only won once in this Friends Provident Trophy season and are only clear of the bottom courtesy of a no-result, the one-point consolation prize that has, paradoxically, eluded the Saltires since 2004.
"It's a great opportunity for us to beat them and beat them convincingly," said pace bowler Blain, who took three wickets for 24 runs to become the hero of the magnificent, duck-breaking win over Lancashire last Sunday at Old Trafford.
"I'm not going to say it will be easy, but they don't have much in the way of bowling to be afraid of, and only a couple of batsmen stand out, such as Travis Birt and Steve Stubbings. It's a chance for us to say that we are here and show what we can do. In the game at Leicestershire [the first of two away matches lost on the final ball] I was looking around thinking that if we were professional, we would have been absolutely annihilating them."
Having taken ten wickets at an average of 27.60 and contributed usefully with the bat, especially in Monday's disappointing loss at Durham when he and George Bailey added 78 for the eighth wicket, the former Yorkshire and Northants pro is enjoying his first full Saltires campaign and bowling consistently despite the absence of daily rigours.
The only drawback of life as a part-time cricketer is that the sole income Blain can generate from his talents comes from appearances on Saturdays in the Yorkshire League for Rotherham. That means a long drive home on the eve of turning out for the Saltires. "It's been a nice start and I'm delighted with my form," said the 28-year-old from Penicuik. "I am used to travelling and I don't mind the drive back on the Saturday night. I feel fine on Sunday mornings and the only thing I am missing is some midweek cricket. But it's a battle for us all.
"It's very frustrating that we have only one win to our name so far this year. We could have easily been sitting on six points. You could say we had a disastrous World Cup and you'd probably be right, but we have played a lot of good cricket in 2007."
Meanwhile, Scotland's second-string players were celebrating last night after pulling off a stunning victory over Lancashire, the Second XI County Championship leaders.
After stand-in captain Qasim Sheikh propped up the Scots' second-innings with a magnificent 103, Jan Stander took four wickets and Majid Haq three to beat the Red Rose county by 12 runs. As the Scots scrapped their way to 197, Clydesdale's Sheikh stood tall to become the first 'A' player to pass three figures at this level. Lancashire were set 211 to win but subsided within 46 overs under pressure from Stander, the Stoneywood-Dyce all-rounder whose debut was a revelation, and World Cup spinner Haq.
Scotland A 278 (J Stander 97) & 197 (Q Sheikh 103) beat Lancs 2nd XI 265 & 198 (J Stander 4-30, M Haq 3-48) by 12 runs. Scotland 21 pts, Lancs 7. At Alderley Edge.