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Jon Coates, The Scotsman
Scottish cricket was mourning the loss of a second showpiece match in two years yesterday as rain washed out the first one-day international of the summer, Scotland's much-anticipated joust with Pakistan.
In 2005, a sell-out crowd watched in dismay as rain wrecked the all-conquering Australians' one-off visit to Edinburgh, and a clutch of adoring Pakistan fans hung around a drenched Citylets Grange yesterday afternoon seeking autographs from their idols, play having been ruled out at 1.30pm. County assignments at the capital venue seldom fall victim to the weather but Sod's Law has had its way with two glamour matches out of the last three.
Cricket Scotland stood to lose far less money from this cancellation than it did in 2005, and the governing body promised ticket-holders they would encounter no trouble in recouping their £25 admission fee if they followed the instructions on the back of the ticket. After the Australia debacle, 4,500 disgruntled fans had to wait five months for a refund as a web of insurance red tape untangled itself. "There won't be a repeat of the delays in repayment that happened last time because of the way we have insured this match," said Euan McIntyre, CS operations manager. "I would imagine the process will be completed very quickly."
Only 500 fans had pre-booked for Pakistan's second visit in consecutive years, with CS hoping about 1,000 more would turn up on the day. As it was, the punctual supporters spent the morning watching ground-staff mopping up overnight and dawn rain. The umpires, former England player Ian Gould and West Indian Norman Malcolm, inspected at midday but a huge black cloud then enveloped the ground and emptied itself dramatically, rendering the outfield unplayable.
"It's a blow, but not as bad as the Australia game because we had budgeted for this being a more low-key event," said McIntyre. "With Pakistan playing India in Glasgow in two days' time and with tickets priced at £44 for that match, we didn't expect the crowd to be particularly big today. So it's not going to break the bank."
Shoaib Malik's new-look team returned to Glasgow last night without any match practice for their charity showdown with their great Asian rivals, while the Scots are also feeling starved of cricket after one of the wettest Junes on record. Their next commitment is a trip to Dublin to face the unpredictable West Indies a week on Thursday, followed by further ODIs against old rivals Holland and Ireland in Belfast. After that, India return to Titwood on August 16 to give Ryan Watson's team a third bout of exposure to the elite this summer.
"The only consolation is that we have another two chances this summer to play Test nations, so we are lucky in that regard," said Scotland assistant coach Andy Lawson, filling in for his absent boss. Peter Drinnen remains on sick leave and will hope to be reunited this week with his players, but it is thought his critics in the squad are entrenched in their resistance to working with the Australian again. "The players will head back to club cricket now and they have a week-and-a-half to get as much practice as possible before we head over to Ireland on the 11th," added Lawson. "We have to get ourselves all ready for that trip - it's another big tournament and another chance, like we hoped to have today, of playing a Test nation.
"The weather has been unbelievable. We thought we had a chance to make up for lost time with the four-day game against UAE last week but that was washed out, too. The players were ready to go today. They were very keen to play and there was a good atmosphere in the dressing room, so it was so disappointing not to get out there, especially as we gave Pakistan a decent game last year. It would have been nice to see how far we have come since then."
A high proportion of yesterday's crowd had been more interested in viewing the progress of the visiting team, travelling for the first time in about 15 years without Inzamam-ul-Haq, who quit one-day cricket after the World Cup.
Raheel Qureshi, 17, a junior member of the Hillhead club in Glasgow's west end, said: "It's a big disappointment because we have been waiting for this for ages. I was looking forward to seeing Shoaib Akhtar make his comeback and see the Pakistan team with a new captain, Shoaib Malik. We have at least been getting some autographs."
Faisal Sheikh, 28, had more reason than most to rail at the weather having spent hundreds of pounds travelling from his home in Birmingham. "I bought my ticket online as soon as I found out Pakistan were coming over and I started planning my trip," he said. "I bought train tickets and a hotel room - I didn't want to risk being late for the start so I decided to come up a day early. The one good thing to come out of it was that we got to talk with some of the Pakistan players. But, of course, nothing compares to watching them play cricket. I couldn't get tickets for Tuesday's game so this was the only opportunity."