The Neil Drysdale Column
Scotland: Six to watch in 2012
Scotlandís cricketers have rallied in the last year from a difficult rebuilding period, following the retirement of such stalwarts as Craig Wright, Gavin Hamilton, Paul Hoffmann, Colin Smith, Greig Williamson, Ian Stanger, Dougie Lockhart and Ryan Watson.
The aforementioned Wright is now actively involved in nurturing and encouraging the cream of his countryís elite youngsters and there are promising signs of future riches. Here, Cricket Europe looks at some of the best of the emerging talent.
GAVIN MAIN (Durham Academy): A genuinely thrilling prospect, the emergence of the 16 year-old paceman has sparked genuine excitement in Scottish cricketing circles, because there is nothing quite like raw speed and the Uddingston teenager possesses that quality in abundance. He has already made enough of an impression with Scotlandís under-18s to have been snapped up by Durham for their Academy team and, assiduously assisted by Craig Wright, who helped Main to re-model his action, there are plenty of observers who reckon that the Scot can make a rapid transition to the county circuit. A Durham spokesman said: ďWe envisage a bright future for Gavin and I canít see any reason why he canít be playing first-class cricket in a couple of years.Ē
MICHAEL ENGLISH (Ferguslie): Scotland has produced several exciting prospects in recent times and this teenager definitely fits into that category. Technically proficient and blessed with sound judgment, the youngster has appeared for Scotland at various age-group levels and the Ferguslie opener highlighted his potential by striking a superb 128 against Northants in 2010, as the prelude to stacking up runs for his club throughout the rain-affected 2011 campaign. He knows he is only at the start of his career, but has the right attitude, application and ability to become a Scotland regular in the future.
SAM PAGE (Clydesdale): One of the challenges for any youngster is triumphing in the face of adversity and the teenage Page has proved his mettle with some outstanding performances for his country, most recently against an England Development XI in Glasgow. In the first of three matches, Page picked up three wickets and hit a fine half-century and he top-scored for his country in the next contest, before maintaining his excellent form as part of the team which recorded a superb win over the Auld Enemy. Page will be a vital member of the Scottish ensemble at the Under-19 World Cup.
FREDDIE COLEMAN (Penicuik): The free-scoring top-order batsman was one of the most consistent players in Scotlandís successful qualification for this yearís under-19 World Cup and Coleman has the right blend of belligerence and sound shot selection to punish the best of opponents. Without him, the Scots might have struggled in the qualifying tournament, but he plundered 81 against Nepal, an unbeaten 60 against the USA, a further 63 against Afghanistan and a hard-fought 30 against Namibia, which enabled the Scots to book their place at the prestigious global event in Australia.
MATTHEW CROSS (Loughborough MCCU): The emerging wicket-keeper was another performer to stamp his imprint all over Scotlandís qualification for the Under-19 World Cup. Whether clinging on to vital catches from the quicks, working effectively with a spinner such as Kyle Smith, or hitting significant runs when the Scots were under pressure, Cross showed a maturity which belied his age and deservedly picked up the Man of the Match award for his heroics against Kenya where he was nerveless in a pressurised situation. The former Aberdeenshire player is currently studying for a degree in chemical engineering at Loughborough University and honing his cricket skills in an environment with first-class facilities to help him advance to the next level.
SAFYAAN SHARIF (Dunfermline Knights): The 20 year-old enjoyed a sensational senior Scotland debut when he ripped through the Dutch line-up to record figures of four for 27 and has grown in stature since that summerís day in Aberdeen. He has risen through the representative ranks and proved his worth in a variety of formats, including some telling displays against Namibia in the Twenty20 milieu towards the end of 2011. The Scots have struggled to produce genuinely quick bowlers in the last few seasons, but Sharif is growing in stature and he can only benefit from Craig Wrightís tutelage.