The Neil Drysdale Column
Berrington buoyant about Scotland prospects
Richie Berrington could have been forgiven for concentrating on personal milestones when he caught up with CricketEurope in Sri Lanka.
The talented Greenock batsman had, after all, created a little piece of history by scoring his maiden first-class hundred during his country’s recent victory over the UAE in the Intercontinental Cup. Yet, befitting the esprit des corps which epitomises the present Scottish collective, Berrington seemed happier talking about the exploits of others, whether saluting the bowling exploits of the twin Gordons, Drummond and Goudie and the marathon stint served up by Majid Haq, or applauding the “vital” half-century amassed by Simon Smith, which allowed the Scots to gain a first-innings advantage in excess of 200, which eventually proved enough for the tourists to emerge with a comfortable win.
Berrington’s quiet resolve has shone through in the last few seasons, but he remains a modest individual in a team, which prefers stirring actions to grandiose declarations of intent. To that extent, Richie is the beating heart of the side; he and the likes of Majid Haq have clearly benefited from gaining professional contracts with Cricket Scotland and one suspects that both characters would shine on the English county circuit if they took the plunge.
But, for the moment, his thoughts are focused solely on maintaining his compatriots’ revival and assisting their ascent towards the Associate summit. In which light, the success over the UAE was an important indication of fresh progress.
“We still had a lot of work to do, but I managed to get a start and kick on, and Simon did really well in making sure that we laid a solid platform on the second day. Obviously, it was pleasing to get a hundred, but it was honestly more important to me that it came in a winning cause, and though the UAE fought back, we kept plugging away, Gordon Goudie took some crucial wickets towards the end of the third day, and then Majid and I got the job done at the end. It was very satisfying, not least because it was a genuine team effort and, when you think that we had been training indoors all winter, the guys hit the ground running, and that was important, because we knew that we would have to hit them hard from the start and we did it.”
Berrington accentuated his belief that Scotland remain a work in progress, but, with an average age of 24, they are definitely making significant strides. One shouldn’t perhaps read too much into a solitary Twenty20 result, but there was a palpable effervescence and ebullience about the tourists whilst defeating a strong Sri Lankan A team this week, which bodes well for next month’s World T20 qualifying tournament.
Once again, the triumph was the consequence of several players making important contributions, from Calum MacLeod with a belligerent 65 (from 38 deliveries), to the three-wicket hauls for Safyaan Sharif and Preston Mommsen, and Berrington isn’t alone in reckoning that the number of quality all-rounders in the Scottish ranks should be an advantage when they prepare for the rigours of seven fixtures in eight days in hot, humid conditions.
First, however, there are another brace of duels with the UAE, this time in the ODI format, and these tussles next month will be as pivotal as any of the Scots’ sojourn. “They are massive, because the only way to make up ground on the nations in front of us is to keep registering victories, and things have gone to plan so far, but we recognise that the UAE will be tough opponents [especially following their wins over Afghanistan], so the mood among the guys is that we have to do our best to win every match on this trip,” said Berrington, who will be involved in another gruelling set of contests with Sri Lankan opposition before the Scots return to the UAE in March.
“We are all really looking forward to the T20 challenge, because we have plenty of youth in our squad, and we all love the short form of the game, so it promises to be an exciting event. There is a fair bit of confidence among the lads, but we realise that the hard work has only just begun, and our attitude is that the only way to move up the rankings is to keep winning.”
They are disinclined to blow their own trumpets and this party is less concerned with style than substance. But Berrington has proved in the last year that he can be explosive when required – his demolition of the Irish attack was thrilling to behold in Edinburgh last summer – and also a careful accumulator, capable of nudging and nurdling his path to substantial scores.
Whether indulging in greased lightning or creased fighting, Berrington is demonstrating he is equal to the task, which has to be good news for the Scots.
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