Scotland have been given a timely boost ahead of their Intercontinental Cup match against Afghanistan with the return of seamer Dewald Nel. Nel, who signed a two-year deal with Kent ahead of this year's English domestic season, last played in the county's game against the touring Pakistanis at the end of June and has been released to play in Scotland's four-day fixture, which starts on Wednesday at the Citylets Ayr ground.
Scotland faced a number of selection issues ahead of the Afghanistan game, as young opener Preston Mommsen has work commitments while experienced middle-order batsman Neil McCallum is struggling to overcome an Achilles problem. Several other players, including seamer Gordon Goudie, allrounder Richie Berrington and spinner Ross Lyons are being monitored for a variety of minor injuries.
"It looks like we'll be without two of our first choice batsmen," said Scotland's head coach Peter Steindl. "Preston would have been selected, but he has told us he can't get time off work. It doesn't look good for Neil either. We had expected his injury to clear up, but he is having a scan today and the information we're being given from the physios is he won't be ready. Our resources are a bit stretched but I'm confident we will get a competitive team on the park."
A total of 20 points are at stake in this match, and an undefeated Scotland are currently at the top of the Intercontinental Cup table, with Afghanistan 12 points behind. In second place is a Zimbabwe XI, only six points behind Scotland, with these two countries due to meet in October in Scotland's final game of the two-year round-robin series of first-class matches.
If the Afghanistan match fails to produce a result, six points are guaranteed to the side that takes a first-innings lead, with an additional three points to each side in the event of a draw. However, outright victory at Ayr would guarantee the Scots a place in the Intercontinental Cup final, to be played in Dubai in November.
With all such factors - and the current damp weather - in mind, Scotland's selectors have chosen a squad which they believe can make the most of this opportunity on a home ground against a team that has never previously played an official competitive game in the United Kingdom.
"We've performed well in our two previous matches this year away from home [against Kenya in January and the Netherlands in June]," said Steindl. "We are approaching this game with confidence and determination."
Entry to the Ayr ground for this match is free of charge. Scotland also play Afghanistan in two limited-overs internationals at the same ground on Monday and Tuesday next week, for which there will be an entry fee for spectators.
Scotland squad: Gordon Drummond (capt), Richie Berrington, Ewan Chalmers, Ryan Flannigan, Gordon Goudie, Majid Haq, Moneeb Iqbal, Ross Lyons, Dewald Nel, Matthew Parker, Qasim Sheikh, Simon Smith, Fraser Watts