Scotland struggle as top attacking threat is prevented from bowling

Fraser Watts fielding for Scotland versus Durham <em>Picture: Hamish Macdonell</em>
Fraser Watts fielding for Scotland versus Durham Picture: Hamish Macdonell
Scotland’s cricketers have long harboured ambitions to sit at the top table of world cricket – albeit somewhere down at the bottom end. On the basis of the Saltires’ two games this week, though, they are as far away as they have ever been.

The games brought two defeats but, worse than that, the losses – in the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition – were recorded against sides which appeared to be virtual second XI teams for the counties they represented.

On Sunday, the Saltires lost to Surrey and on Monday they lost again, this time to Durham. Both matches were at home, at the Citylets Grange in Edinburgh, and in neither of them did Scotland really look like winning.

Against Surrey, Scotland scored 209 for 9 in their 40 overs and against Durham they managed just 198 all out in 35 overs.

Both totals were below par by 60 or 70 runs, giving the county sides (who each batted first) comfortable victories, Surrey scoring 257 for 7 in their 40 overs and Durham 278 for 4.

So what’s going wrong?

The first and most glaring problem seems to be that Scotland are having to do without possibly their best bowler, Calum MacLeod. But this is where it gets a little murky, because MacLeod is not injured.

The 22-year-old opened the batting for Scotland on Monday and looked in fine touch before being bowled for 16.

But MacLeod is a bowler, a pace bowler and a pretty good one at that. He has played for Warwickshire seconds for the last two seasons and has even been drafted into England matches as a specialist substitute fielder.

So why aren’t Scotland letting him have a bowl?

Apparently, the International Cricket Council were concerned about his action and the extension of his elbow during his “effort ball”. MacLeod was on the verge of being punished for throwing, so he went away and got remedial action on his bowling to stop this problem becoming too serious.

He can bowl now, apparently very well (and he is doing so in England), but he is not bowling for the Saltires even though the Scotland camp could really do with some penetration in their attack. In those two games at the start of this week, Scotland failed to bowl out either county side and that was the root of their losses.

There are unconfirmed suggestions that Scotland are anxious not to get on the wrong side of the ICC and are being overly cautious. It may just be that Scotland are waiting for ICC clearance before MacLeod can bowl again – but whoever is in charge should put pressure on the council as soon as possible to secure his services once again, otherwise this will be another very long season for the Saltires.

The rest of the attack looked solid without being too threatening, while the batting was occasionally meaty but with a tendency to self-destruct.

Those are hardly qualities that will take Scotland places this season and, until there is a change, the paltry crowd of a couple of hundred who turned up on Monday will not be swelled to any great extent, nor will Scotland climb up to a level equal to the better county sides – which is where they want to be.

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