Scotland batsman Calum MacLeod has credited a return to form to technical adjustments made during a winter of off-season training with his county side Durham. MacLeod's 103 in a win over UAE on Tuesday was his third ODI ton for Scotland and first since 2014.
"It's been a year without a hundred for Scotland so to get a monkey off my back in putting in a winning performance again, I'm really really happy personally," MacLeod told ESPNcricinfo after the win in Edinburgh.
MacLeod had an outstanding 2014 for Scotland, beginning that January by scoring two centuries at the 2014 World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand including a Scotland ODI record 175 against Canada. He ended the year in solid form as well, notching 116 not out in a win over Ireland at Malahide in September.
However, 2015 was a nightmare for MacLeod. A pre-World Cup tour to the UAE to play fellow World Cup participants Ireland and Afghanistan in a desert tri-series netted three runs in five innings opening the batting. Things didn't get much better at the World Cup either. He scored off one ball in his first 12 deliveries of the tournament, registering two ducks along the way to complete a string of four noughts in six innings that began in Dubai.
After being Scotland's second-highest scorer in New Zealand a year earlier at the Qualifier, with 401 runs in eight innings, he ended the World Cup with 50 runs in six innings. He struggled at the World T20 Qualifier back on home soil later in the summer too, finishing fifth in the team in runs with 114 from seven innings and a best of just 29.
That form slump carried to Durham as well. In 2014, MacLeod was Durham's leading scorer in the NatWest T20 Blast with 358 runs at 44.75 including two fifties. On the back of the World Cup drought, he made 210 runs at 21.00 in the T20 Blast while his County Championship form went south too, finishing with 161 runs in 13 innings at 14.63 with a best of 44.
"After the World Cup and the season that followed as well, I got myself into some quite bad habits," MacLeod said. "Last winter I went away and worked quite closely with the coach for quite a lot of the winter, Jon Lewis down at Durham, and we did some really interesting work.
"It was amazing how small a change I think I had to make to get back to scoring runs. It felt, and it looked when we did some video, that a lot of the time I just wasn't set. My trigger [movement] wasn't in and it was that simple, that I was doing it too late. So I was trying to bat when I wasn't even ready to bat."
MacLeod started to show signs of turning things around in January during the tour of Hong Kong when he top-scored with 58 in the first ODI. He struggled a bit more in the subsequent T20s and wound up only playing in one of Scotland's three matches at the World T20 in India.
However, MacLeod continued to plug away upon returning to Durham and the results have been showing. Working his way back into the first team he scored an unbeaten 105 on July 18 in the 2nd XI one-day cup against Northamptonshire, his third 50-plus score in four games in the competition. On July 29, he motored to 83 off 50 in the T20 Blast against Derbyshire before scoring Tuesday's century against UAE.
"Changing such a simple thing and just getting it in earlier for me, it gave me the time and the confidence started to flow when I scored more runs in the early part of this season down at Durham and continued it the whole way through. So it's been a nice reward of some hard work in the winter away from games."
Scotland have two more home ODIs in September against Hong Kong to end the summer. They're also now just one point behind Netherlands after eight games in the WCL Championship. Scotland's remaining WCL Championship fixtures through 2017 come against Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Kenya and MacLeod says the series against Hong Kong is a good opportunity to continue building momentum in an effort to overtake Netherlands on the WCL Championship table next year.
"We spent a bit of time in Hong Kong during the winter," MacLeod said. "We didn't play our best cricket so I think the guys will be really fired up to give Hong Kong a good showing and show them what we can do. If we play as well as we played and field as well as we have then I see no reason why we can't come away with two wins.
"We want to win the tournament and I think it's going to be based on performances like we've done in the last two games. We don't want to do it based on other teams losing games. There won't be a game that we won't go into without this attitude to go and win the game and take it forward. Obviously there's some big games coming up. It's just a case of finding a way to win those really."