First-person reports from the stands
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Choice of game
Scotland v Australia at the Grange in Edinburgh. As someone who spent his first 20 years of life in Australia and the next 20 in Scotland, it's not hard to see why this fixture was attractive to me. Some people would say that I can't lose in this game as I have dual nationality, but even though my accent is Australian, my heart belongs to Scotland and that is where my loyalties and my support lie.
I've been watching the Scottish national team take steps forward (and backwards) since I moved to Scotland in 1993. We are coming out of a long rebuilding period at the moment and have the core of a very talented bunch of cricketers that should take Scotland forward to the next World Cup and beyond. Having said that, before the game started I still thought Australia would thump Scotland even without many of their top stars.
Even though I know quite a lot of people who like cricket up here in Scotland, I still find it a bit of a chore to convince them to actually come watch a game with me. So for the last few years I have been content to go on my own.
The wow moment of the day was when, during the first over of the day, a good friend that I hadn't seen for a couple of years (due to health issues) walked up the aisle of the stand I was sitting in and turned out to have the seat right next to me. It was such a surprise that we exclaimed in unison: "What a coincidence!" We both love cricket and a slow conversation that may or may not have a destination. Cricket is the perfect backdrop for all of those musings and ramblings that you can share while catching up with a really good friend.
Face-off I relished
I was really looking forward to watching Kyle Coetzer play. He has turned into a class player over the last few years and is easily Scotland's best player. Unfortunately, a wrist injury sidelined him, so my attention was turned towards the always reliable Majid Haq and the new to the Scotland national team Matthew Machan, who also seems to be gathering quite a reputation. As for the Aussies, I wondered what this Aaron Finch chap was going to be like, especially after his fireworks in the first Twenty20 against England the other night.
Shot of the day
The third six of the match was a low full toss from Machan to Finch, who cleared not only the rope, but the entire stand and the seven-foot stone wall that surrounds the ground. Can we have our ball back please?
And it was Finch who had the most influence on the match. Scoring 148 in reliably quick time (116 balls) put the game out of reach for Scotland even before the halfway point. For Scotland, it was Majid Haq who, as always, had the best economy rate, but could feel hard done by not to get a few more wickets, especially as he has a stumping missed and a catch dropped off his bowling.
One thing I'd have changed
For years I've been saying that this is that last time I'm going to watch Scotland play cricket. I'm tired of watching them lose while freezing my butt off. I wouldn't mind if I froze while they won, or watching them lose if the weather was good, but, alas, as clichéd as it sounds the weather in Scotland is usually and mostly cold. So I rugged up warm in two jumpers, a jacket and a long sleeve t-shirt (not to mention the wraparound rug I brought along to keep the chill out of my little leggies), only to find myself roasting away in one of the hottest days of the year.
(Please note: I would not have changed the weather. Scotland lost by a massive and embarrassing 200 runs, but I don't care. I had a great day watching cricket in the sunshine.)
The stands were smaller than I expected but it lent an intimate feeling to the occasion. I felt like I was right on top of the players, almost fielding with them. Most of the stands were sold out but it didn't feel squished at any point and there was a great atmosphere from supporters from both teams.
A wag in the stand to my right took to chanting "MITCHELLLL" in a slow and repetitively way when Mitchell Johnson started to bowl. It was difficult to tell if it was a heckle or good-natured banter or something else, but the more he did it the funnier it became. Johnson must have been irked by it a bit, because soon after it started he bowled a no-ball that claimed Machan's edge. It was dropped by the wicketkeeper but by that stage the damage had been done. Free hit!
Thankfully he stopped the chant before it became annoying but picked it up again during Johnson's second spell. This time some of Johnson's fans in the stand to my left echoed his chant with something of their own in return and we had dual chants for a few overs near the close of play.
Fancy dress index
The merchandise stall was selling those Australian type hats with the corks hanging from them (you know, the ones that no actual Australian has ever worn). I saw a few kids running around with them on and a few adults wearing them too, but none of them was an Australian.
While Scotland's effort on the pitch was poor, the day was fantastic, with everyone in a great mood, helped no end by the quality weather in Edinburgh. There needed to be some speakers dotted around the ground and a few announcements made on them to keep the crowd informed of stats and trivia (as well as vital match info). Sharing it all with a long-lost mate was the icing on the cake.
Marks out of ten
Scotland's performance: 2. Australia's performance: 8. The day in general: 10.
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