Scotland / News Analysis

Scotland v Australia, Only ODI, Edinburgh

Scotland's prolonged reality check

Beneath the surface, Scottish cricket is in reasonable health and the signs from the age group teams are promising, but the conversion process is a tough one and years keep passing without any natives making an impact in professional circles

Jon Coates

September 2, 2013

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

Matt Machan celebrates his maiden ODI ton, Scotland v Kenya, WCL Championship, Aberdeen, June 30, 2013
Matt Machan is a great young hope for Scotland © ICC/Donald MacLeod
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Scotland haven't beaten Australia since 1882 and it is hard to imagine that run being ended. And before the accusations of negativity hit the inbox it is worth stressing that this hunch is derived more from an analysis of Australian strength than Scottish weakness.

Australian cricket's proud roar may have been muted by England in three successive Ashes series, and they lose as many ODIs as they win nowadays, but there is a difference between a team that is forced to accept being second-best and one prepared to slum it in the second tier. The Aussies may have been humbled but they won't put up with being humiliated in Edinburgh.

A 2005 loss to an inspired Bangladesh aside, Australian teams rarely allow minnows so much as a sniff of the warmer waters near the surface. And the players employed today won't lack motivation on the brink of another crack at England.

James Faulkner said as much: "Any time you get the opportunity to play for your country, it doesn't matter whether you're playing England, India or Scotland, you've got to stamp your authority." In other words, brace yourselves boys because we are Australia and we are going to come hard.

Besides, Scotland are not very well equipped to pick off a crack team coming at them hard. A prolonged reality check has engulfed the Caledonian game since Craig Wright's team were taken apart by Ricky Ponting's legends in Basseterre on a day in 2007 that had shimmered with false promise.

Beneath the surface, Scottish cricket is in reasonable health and the signs from the age group teams are promising, but the conversion process is a tough one and years keep passing without any natives making an impact in professional circles. Now that the Saltires are no more, Pete Steindl's crop of full-time players can no longer even impress their abilities on the counties in List A games.

Nobody wants to see a mismatch on the scale of Australia's 189-run win here in 2009, nor England's visit in 2010, when the visitors only had to bat for 34 overs. So who is going to make a local stand?

Majid Haq has got so many top-class batsmen out in the past 10 years that the accountant from Paisley has started to lose count of them himself. But will he have enough runs to bowl at?

Kyle Coetzer is Scotland's captain and classiest batsman - unfortunately he is at home in the Midlands trying to cradle a new-born girl with a slow-healing wrist injury. His absence places greater pressure on Matt Machan, the Sussex allrounder who arrived as part of a new draft of Scotland players when the eligibility laws were tweaked. Great things are expected of him and still expected of Richie Berrington, who does everything the way an international cricketer should but perhaps still questions his inclusion in their company.

Ireland have taught their Celtic cousins never to say never, but when they beat England at the World Cup they had 11 players who genuinely believed they were good enough to do it, naive as that sounded on the eve of the game.

All logic indicates that Scotland will lose to Australia but not because they are especially weak, but more because the opposing force is strong. Andy Flower can assess Australia's Test side and identify cracks but Scotland's video analysts won't find too many weaknesses in the canary-coloured chainmail.

Preston Mommsen, Coetzer's deputy, has a confidence based on a reasonably competitive performance against Pakistan earlier this summer, but this had a familiar ring to it: Pakistani teams seldom produce 100 solid overs in a day. Australian teams quite often do.

Better days lie ahead for Scotland, a team resigned to the protracted nature of transition. This summer they have only beaten Kenya, who never travel well, in Aberdeen. One win from two World Cup qualifiers against Ireland in Belfast next week would be a presentable September return, leading into the World Twenty20 qualifiers.

That said, there are many ways in which this exposure to elite opposition can be made to seem beneficial. Any signs of individual competitiveness and collective organisation would be warmly received.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (September 4, 2013, 14:09 GMT)

For all those who have got riled at me mocking Faulkner, I was just having a laugh.

Posted by   on (September 4, 2013, 6:04 GMT)

@Steve Back Could not disagree more. I think Faulkner has entirely the right attitude. He hasn't set the world on fire in his brief international career (though a four-fer on debut is better than most get!) but at the same time he's done nothing to suggest he doesn't belong at this level, certainly he's performed at the same level of his team mates if not slightly better. But I think confidence is something our team needs. England won the psychology game of the Ashes and that was a big part of why they won the series. Guys who set out to win from day one and aren't shaken when things go wrong (like Warney stating they could still win on the fifth day at Adelaide) are what the team needs.

Incidentally, Mike Hussey DID have modesty and manners. But his record as stand-in skipper was pretty dreadful.

Posted by Ducky610 on (September 4, 2013, 2:52 GMT)

@Steve Back... I think you simply don't like Faulkner, I fail to see what is wrong with what he said here? Crickets like Warnie, Merv and currently Swann frequently make bold statements to get under people's skin I see no issue with Faulkner doing it playing the way he is.... After Faulkner attacked England verbally, if I recall right, he took 6 wickets the next day. England clearly took the bait and tried to go after him... Or is taking 6 wickets @16 not backing up your talk? Faulkner performed well in his one test and his ODI start stands up as well with a batting avg of 37 and bowling avg of 27, he is hardly 'all talk'

Posted by mike_b on (September 4, 2013, 0:31 GMT)

@Steve Back. I think Mike Hussey was a great cricketer but no player provides the blue print for how all others should be. Many players have been loud-mouths like Faulkner. They just have to understand that without the actions to back up the words you end up with egg on your face. I seem to recall McGrath coming out with pre-series arrogant and bold predictions and Warnie publicly giving derogatory nicknames to opponents. Of course, those two fellas had the game to back it all up.I also know of a bloke called Muhammad Ali who wasn't exactly an "understated, gritty and no-nonsense" type. Cricket has room for all types of personalities, as long as they play within the rules and accept any situation that they might set themselves up for! Unfortunately for Warnie he's letting himself down in his post career as he continues to put the boot into Steve Waugh. He has never understood why he wasn't made Aust captain & that the role was how you conducted yourself off the pitch as much as on it.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (September 3, 2013, 12:14 GMT)

@Steve Back, Yeah Hussey is a legend but James Faulkner, that's just the way he is. He won't care either, feisty competitor but he is well loved in Aus, we need that grit these days, too many pretty boys.

Posted by PrasPunter on (September 3, 2013, 5:50 GMT)

@Steve Back, absolutely, this guy named James Faulkner keeps talking a lot and loves to do it. He can do better by zipping his mouth and perform where it is really requires - on the field. Tall claims count for nothing.

Posted by   on (September 3, 2013, 0:01 GMT)

What does the author mean by "the Saltires are no more"? even a cursory glance at the Cricinfo page for Scotland shows their results from this year's CB40. If they are to be excluded from next year's tournament, the author should say.

Posted by TenDonebyaShooter on (September 2, 2013, 19:13 GMT)

"A 2005 loss to an inspired Bangladesh aside, Australian teams rarely allow minnows so much as a sniff of the warmer waters near the surface." This sentence appears to ignore Australia's defeat to Zimbabwe in the world cup in 1983, arguably the biggest shock in world cup history. " Pakistani teams seldom produce 100 solid overs in a day. Australian teams quite often do." These sentences also seem to be challenged by a lack of knowledge of cricket history. I think Pakistan produced "100 solid overs in a day" when they smashed England in the world cup final in 1992, when they defeated Australia in the world cup in 2011, and regularly when they beat England 3-0 in 2012, while I'm struggling to think of any day during their recent worsting by an uninspired England side when Australia produced "100 solid overs". Of course, it is very unlikely Scotland will beat Australia, but I wish them the best, notwithstanding the reaction south of the border if they were to pull it off.

Posted by OhhhhhMattyMatty on (September 2, 2013, 17:48 GMT)

I have Scotland as slight favourites! Australia couldn't win a hospital raffle at this rate!

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