The Neil Drysdale Column
Scotland and Netherlands triumph in CB40
It might be premature to declare that the ICC Associates have caught up with the English counties, but the CB40 results over the Bank Holiday weekend testified to the fact that the gap is closing sharply.The Neil Drysdale Column: Previous Articles
When, for instance, did Scotland and the Netherlands last enjoy such emphatic victories on the same day as transpired on Monday, when Scotland, chasing 220, posted by Notts, surged to 108 for 0 before the heavens opened, while the Dutch chased down a revised target against Worcestershire with nine wickets and plenty of deliveries to spare? And although both matches featured the involvement of the Duckworth-Lewis method – an invention which sometimes produces freak results – there was nothing fluky about the fashion in which the Associates surged to their wins.
On the contrary, the two sides demonstrated the progress they have made, and it wasn’t just a single auspicious afternoon for the duo; on the previous day, the Saltires had been dashed by the dreaded D/L factor when the ever-improving Richie Berrington was still quite capable of steering them to their relatively modest target against the defending champions, Surrey, and the Netherlands emerged triumphant by one run in a thrilling tussle with Gloucester in the West Country. In short, that’s four fixtures, three successes, and a damned close shave for the underdogs; proof positive that their respective governing bodies’ decision to invest in professional contracts is paying dividends.
Granted, the Oranje ranks have been bolstered by the inclusion of a number of Australian and South African recruits, but, considering the number of Kolpak signings plying their trade with the counties, nobody should criticise the ICC’s representatives for scouring the globe for every available talent. And that minor quibble certainly doesn’t apply to the Scots. Instead, in the continuing development of such luminous stars as Calum MacLeod, who amassed his maiden List A half-century on Monday, Josh Davey, Matty Parker, Alasdair Evans and Ryan Flannigan, the Scots are proving that they do possess the raw resources to challenge at the top table of the Associates in the future.
Of course, there will be disappointments along the way, as happens to every sports ensemble. But the likes of MacLeod have both professionalism and pizzazz in their make-up, which suggests that they can blaze a lustrous trail in the future. As for the Dutch, the recruitment of such individuals as Stephan Myburgh, Cameron Borgas and Tom Cooper, in tandem with gritty warriors in the mould of Peter Borren, Mudassar Bukhari and Tommy Heggelman, has lent stability to their squad, and the hope has to be that both nations can thrive on these results and use them as the springboard for further riches this summer.
I have a couple of gripes, neither of which relates directly to Scotland or the Netherlands. Last week, I contacted both Surrey and Notts, requesting some team information and asking about the possibility of conducting an interview with one of their players. There was no reply from either organisation, which rather rubbished the notion that the ECB members are committed to boosting the Associates’ endeavours to raise interest in cricket. Yes, the CB40 might not be their main priority, but it wouldn’t have hurt for the counties to have carried out a little promotional work in advance of their trip North.
The second point is even more important. In advance of the weekend’s action, Scots were surely entitled to think that Notts would send out their best XI, which would have granted the home spectators a rare opportunity to watch Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann in the flesh, Yet, in the event, neither Test star featured in Chris Read’s side, who were duly punished for fielding a distinctly pedestrian bowling attack. Would it really have caused many problems for Broad and Swann to tackle the Saltires? And, who knows, perhaps they would have prevented their employers from coming an almighty cropper!
But this isn’t the time to focus on negatives, not when the Associate members are showing their mettle on the big stage. It might have been a chilly May across Britain. But the news from the Midlands and Edinburgh delivered a nice warm glow.