Of the many heroes in Scotland's famous victory over England at the Grange, Calum MacLeod stole most of the headlines for his unbeaten 140 while Safyaan Sharif's agape jaw while running away towards point after trapping Mark Wood for the match-ending wicket was the iconic image captured by many photographers on the day.

But there was another hidden hero on the afternoon, someone who has flown under the radar somewhat while emerging as a key cog in Scotland's bowling attack: left-arm spinner Mark Watt. On a day when boundaries were dragged in at least five metres to make room for Sky TV's temporary camera scaffolding, and boundary-striking was rampant, Watt took 3 for 55 in a pivotal spell that helped turn the tide in the field.

"I think a performance like that on that ground and on those boundaries, as nice as it was for me to walk away with the runs, it's probably a lot harder to go for under six an over on that wicket," MacLeod said of his team-mate's effort. "So I think he gained a lot of confidence from that. He has taken things from that game and realised what other top spinners do and worked on his variations. He's not got big change-ups but he tries subtle variations and I think he's improved a lot on that in 50-over cricket where he can bowl a bit longer.

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"He is somebody who wants a challenge, will put his hand up and bowl tough overs. As a spinner, he's got to be brave enough to do that. If you watch some of his best performances, he'll tie people down but he's not afraid to change his pace to get wickets. The wicket he got Moeen Ali out against England last year, that was quite a brave ball to toss it up to Moeen who was hitting it really well. It was almost six or out and Mark was good enough and smart enough to do it."

The role he played on that day at the Grange is not something Watt could have dreamed of after picking up the game as a 13-year-old.


"Jason Roy is one of the best white-ball players there is and I got him, Moeen Ali and Sam Billings out," Watt tells ESPNcricinfo ahead of the start of Scotland's international home season. "I think if you said that to me a few years ago when I was playing at Leith in a public park with people walking through the match on the footpath, I would have bitten your hand off to bowl at the No. 1 team, never mind getting three key players out."

Watt isn't kidding. Forced to give up football as an aspiring left back in Edinburgh after suffering from Osgood-Schlatter's disease, a developmental condition in adolescents affecting the knees, Watt followed his dad to cricket on Saturday mornings at Leith Franklin CC.

"It has a public footpath walking through the middle at cover," Watt says with a grin. "So you'd have to stop the game while people walk through the park. All my cousins still slag me off saying, 'Who plays cricket in Scotland?' Especially with all my schoolmates as well, but I don't really mind it. They're working in an office and I'm out in sunny countries."

It wasn't long before Watt walked off the Leith footpath to greener pastures, first with Heriot's CC in Scotland's premier division. In his first season there as a 16-year-old, he helped them win the 2012 Scottish Cup Final over Watsonians with 1 for 30 in a 10-over spell, though it didn't immediately dawn on him the significance of his precocious talent.

My first ball went for four and I thought, 'Oh no, it's happening again.' But thankfully I got through it
Watt on his rematch with Mohammad Shahzad

"I didn't actually know who I was bowling to," Watt said. "Dewald Nel, who had played for Scotland and [former captain] Craig Wright, who then gave me my first cap. I was bowling well and my team-mates were coming up to me saying, 'You're gonna be playing Under-19 cricket for Scotland.' I was like, 'What do you mean?' They were like, 'That's Under-19s coach Craig Wright you're bowling at.' I was like, 'Oh right, that's cool.' But I never really thought much of it and just got on with it."

Not only was Watt oblivious to his own talent, but also the opportunities it could afford him. Before the end of the 2013 summer, Wright indeed approached Watt's father to ask about his availability, aware that there could be a possible clash with some holiday plans Watt had made with his schoolmates.

"My dad told me in the car on the way home, 'You've been asked to play in an Under-19 World Cup Qualifier in the Netherlands to qualify to go to Dubai. Do you want to play or do you want to go on this holiday?' I was like, 'I wanna go on the holiday with all my mates!' It was in Malaga. He was like, 'Maybe put your thinking hat on and see what happens. I think you should go to the World Cup Qualifiers.'

"I remember telling my mates, letting them down gently. 'Lads, I can't make it.' But thankfully I think I made the right decision because that's what kind of kicked me on. After winning that qualifying tournament and doing pretty well, that's when I thought I can make something out of this."

As a 17-year-old Watt excelled at the regional qualifier to clinch a spot for Scotland U-19s in the UAE the following year, taking eight wickets in five matches at an average of 12.13, which included almost absurd figures of 10-8-2-2 against Guernsey U-19s and 4 for 20 in a key victory over Ireland U-19s. He claimed five more scalps at the Under-19 World Cup in the UAE facing stiff competition in the group stage against Pakistan and India.

"Sarfaraz Khan just took me to all parts and I hadn't seen anything like it," Watt said. "Kuldeep Yadav got a hat-trick against us as well and I was like, 'This is next level stuff.' But I think for them to shine against us and to see how they've kicked on in their career, if Scotland were given more opportunities and games to play, I wonder would we be closer to them?"

Still, that was nothing like the challenge he eventually faced when he received a baptism of fire as an 18-year-old at the T20 World Cup Qualifier in the summer of 2015 against a rampaging Mohammad Shahzad.


"I got dropped straight after that game for a while," Watt says of the match in which a belligerent Shahzad belted him for four sixes in his first over, eventually ending with figures of 0 for 41 in two overs. "I thought that's my opportunity done and I would have to wait quite a while to get another opportunity. I didn't think I would be starting in the World Cup in India, never mind opening the bowling first game against the same team."

Having debuted earlier in the summer against Ireland, Watt had a promising start to the T20 World Cup Qualifier, taking 3 for 28 in the opening match against UAE. Two matches later came the carnage at the hands of Shahzad and he was dropped for the rest of the event. But then-head coach Grant Bradburn helped rebuild his confidence with a peer-pressure drill in a winter training session.

Even though I was getting the ball before him, he was coming up to me in the nets and helping me with what I could do better
Watt on former team-mate Con de Lange

"Grant had a lot of faith in me," Watt said. "We had a drill training indoors and he said, 'Everyone line up. You need to nominate one bowler who is gonna hit middle stump out of the ground and every time he misses, you have to run a five. And the bowler is not allowed to run if he misses. If he gets it, everyone is allowed to go home.'

"He asked, 'Who wants to bowl it?' No one put their hand up. He kept staring at me and I kept avoiding eye contact but he kept staring at me so I said, 'Okay, I'll bowl it.' All the boys were like, 'Really?' I went up and smashed it first time and he was like, 'Right. Everyone go home. Well done Watty.' I was like, 'Jeez, he really believes in me.' It was a weird moment on a weeknight indoor training in January before the T20 World Cup."

Regardless of how much faith Bradburn and captain Preston Mommsen had in him, Watt says he was "absolutely terrified" when he walked to the top of his mark to bowl the first ball, to Shahzad again, in Nagpur.

"Being that it was on Sky, telling all my mates to go and watch it and then realising at the top of my mark what's happened before, 'Is this gonna happen again?' And my first ball went for four. So I was like, 'Oh no, it's happening again.' But thankfully I got through it. My figures weren't too bad. They weren't amazing, 1 for 30. But just that mental block of having Shahzad pump me out of the attack and being dropped to come back, I took a lot from that."

That one wicket also happened to be Shahzad, caught at long-on, which further helped Watt exorcise some of his mental demons. The redemption propelled his confidence to new heights and he claimed figures of 2 for 21 against Zimbabwe and 1 for 21 vs Hong Kong in the remaining matches during the group stage. Watt also gives a huge amount of credit to the late Con de Lange, Scotland's senior spinner in the squad as someone who gave him invaluable support and guidance.

"After every game, we'd have a small group reviewing each other's performances, me, Con and [Michael] Leasky," Watt said. "He talked about the way he bowled and what he could do better. Just listening to him and the way he saw the game was an absolutely massive help for me.

"When we came to India, I was playing ahead of him but he came up to me and was like, 'You're definitely the man for this and can do this.' Even though I was getting the ball before him, he was coming up to me in the nets and helping me with what I could do better, a lot of it with field placings. He was very on the ball and switched on and helped me a lot with that. Con was a massive help to me."

Despite regularly being one of the youngest players in the Scotland squad since his debut, Watt's outward confidence is something that has stood out and helped him mature quickly in the team environment. It's one of the things that MacLeod, who Watt refers to as his 'dad' in the team, says has helped endear Watt to his team-mates and made him such a feisty competitor on the field.

"The first time I played against him or even met him, he got me out sweeping and then the next morning at training he walked past me with a smile on his face and said to me, 'Are you gonna work on your sweeping today?'" MacLeod said. "He puts you under pressure to keep working. I thought he's got quite a lot of character, especially for a spinner who doesn't spin the ball huge amounts."

Watt's growing stature is getting him noticed outside of Scotland too. After the England win, he was signed for the rest of the summer for Lancashire in their white-ball teams. Though he wasn't retained for 2019, Watt landed on his feet on the eve of the season with Derbyshire, collecting six wickets in their Royal London Cup campaign. And he no longer needs his dad to help nudge him into passing up fun times with his mates to keep an eye on a burgeoning professional career playing a key role in Scotland's push for Full Member status.

"After the England game, I had a trip planned down to watch England against India at Edgbaston with a few of the boys from Heriot's, just have a few beers, watch that and relax for a few days because I had zero cricket," Watt said. "As I was going to the bar, I got a call from a number I didn't recognise. I said 'Hello' and he said, 'It's Glen Chapple from Lancashire. Would you be interested in coming to training tomorrow at 9am at Old Trafford?' It was the first day of the Test match and I was like, 'Ughhh'. I said, 'Yeah, I'll be there.'

"I came back to the boys and said, 'Sorry guys, I'm gonna have to go back and get some cricket stuff. I'm going to Old Trafford tomorrow. Enjoy the beers.' A couple weeks later I was playing at Edgbaston against Warwickshire. I was like, 'I was sat up there watching a Test match a few weeks ago and now I'm on the pitch bowling at Ian Bell.' It's quite surreal."

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna