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News

Kathryn Bryce: 'Hopefully it's a good reset for Cricket Scotland'

Scotland Women's captain hopes T20 World Cup coup can "be a big kick-starter for cricket" in her country

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
08-May-2024
The silence told the story… not so much that it was there but where it was coming from.
Kathryn Bryce, Scotland's captain, had just removed dangerous Ireland openers Amy Hunter and Gaby Lewis within the first five balls of the match and, by the time the favourites were five wickets down for just 25 runs at the start of the seventh over, Bryce had claimed four of them.
It was a collapse from which Ireland would never fully recover and, needing just 111 to secure a first appearance for Scotland Women at any World Cup, opener Megan McColl and Bryce mowed down most of the target between them, the latter bringing up victory with a four - and making history.
"There was probably a bit of silence almost and they can be quite vocal from the sidelines," Bryce tells ESPNcricinfo's Powerplay podcast in which she recalls the impact of taking those early Ireland wickets. "But we had a huge amount of support as well. When you get a couple of early wickets in a really important match like that, it can stun a team a little bit.
"The way that Megan started off the second innings was absolutely incredible, so when I went out there to bat, it was literally just trying to finish off the game and I was just saying, 'don't think about what's coming, don't think about it, just score the runs'. So when we got those winning runs at the end, it was just, I think the relief and just hard to switch off from that emotion of trying to ignore what was coming and realising what we'd actually achieved."
Most observers saw Scotland's victory in the T20 Women's World Cup Qualifier semi-final as an upset with Ireland expected to join Sri Lanka in claiming the two qualifying berths for the tournament in Bangladesh in October. But not Bryce, the Player of the Series who ended up missing the final - won by Sri Lanka - with a minor niggle.
Scotland had beaten Ireland in their most recent T20I to draw a two-match series in Desert Springs, Spain, in October and won the first of three ODIs between the teams immediately before that.
"We were fifth in the rankings," Bryce says. "The way that we've played over the last year or so, we've managed to beat Ireland a couple of times and they've beaten us as well so we knew it was going to be a really close-fought game, but we had the ability to really compete with them."
Bryce points out that it is testament to the growth of the women's game that the points tables in both qualifying groups were tightly contested at the top. UAE pushed Sri Lanka in the other semi-final before losing by just 15 runs and Vanuatu shocked Zimbabwe on the opening day of the tournament despite being ranked 18 places lower and having to crowdfund their own playing kit and equipment in the lead-up.
Scotland's achievements are also significant in the context of a sport that was largely broken a year ago, facing financial difficulty and reeling from a report in July 2022 which found Cricket Scotland to be institutionally racist. It was only in March of this year that another report found a "high degree of prejudice towards female staff and players" within the organisation.
When it comes to efforts around making the game more inclusive, the adage about needing to see it to be it often arises. Now that they are about to step onto the world stage for the first time, this Scotland team have a chance to live that out.
"A lot of people say it's the access for people to be able to watch the game and see their teams out there playing," Bryce says. "So I think for the girls in Scotland be able to watch a World Cup, which is the most televised event for the women's game, and actually see a team from Scotland there and performing, and seeing people from where they're from competing in that competition, is going to be really important.
"It's starting to become more popular in schools and getting out to a lot more state schools as well, which is really important. I think that growth is really there and there's a big push as well to make women's clubs more accessible and enjoyable, for people to want to go to and then also stay when they get there.
"Hopefully it's a good sort of reset for Cricket Scotland, to build and be able to rebuild a lot of those branches. I think for the women's team to be there and leading the way on that, showing and developing, that'll be a big kick-starter for cricket in the country."
Bryce also hopes her team's World Cup appearance attracts complete newcomers to cricket, which she says still relies heavily on players having a family connection to the sport.
That was the case for Bryce and younger sister Sarah, Scotland's wicketkeeper who was batting at the other end as Kathryn struck the winning runs against Ireland. But while their father played the game, and their mother had grown up supporting Lancashire while living in England's Lake District, there were other role models who had a big influence.
The girls started playing in school and in their grandmother's garden, trying to emulate their namesakes, retired England bowler Katherine Sciver-Brunt and wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor, using a snow-pea vine trellis as the stumps.
Right there in the backyard, they could see it… now they get to be it.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo