England didn’t play badly, Scotland just played better


Yes I was there! The Grange Cricket Club in Stockbridge, Edinburgh (established 1832) on Sunday to witness Scotland’s historic win over England.

W.G. Grace played at the Grange and so did Don Bradman, y’know. For a while at the turn of the 20th century, Scottish cricket was actually run from Edinburgh. It’s a lovely club set in an area of town that actually has two cheese shops, a fish shop, two second-hand record shops, three delicatessens and two specialist posh paint stores. Yes, that sort of place.

The weather was mild with mist clearing but the anticipated early swing in the air didn’t manifest itself. Such placid, affable weather is not typical of Edinburgh in early summer. More usually it is burn-your-skin hot in the sun and bring-a-thick-coat cold in the breezy shade.

Scotland took on England in an ODI to a sold-out full house of 4,000 punters. It just so happens that I live five minutes walk away, so popping down was hardly an exercise in commitment or effort, but as I’m sure you know, any excuse to drink outdoors under the pretence of appreciating a sporting event has to be taken.

Some may think cricket in Scotland is a somewhat exotic affair played only by aristocrats and the sort of Scot who is so posh that they actually sound English – but there was only a mere smattering of the red trouser brigade present and the team is very cosmopolitan.

It must be said that Scottish cricket is in a very good place right now. Though an associate side who is 13th in the rankings, that somewhat understates their quality as anyone who witnessed the opening partnership between Matthew Cross and Kyle Coetzer can attest.

In the 50-overs format, Scotland can give most cricket sides a good game and as it turned out, they can beat the #1 side.

Cricket has a long history up here. The first recorded match in Scotland took place in Alloa in 1785. Scotland played their first full match against Surrey in 1865, a game they won by 172 runs. In 1882 Scotland beat Australia by seven wickets.

1948 saw Australia visit Scotland for two games at the end of their tour of England. These games, both of which were won by the Australians, were to be the last international games for Don Bradman. Did the Don knock a ton? Of course he did.

Scotland first competed in English domestic cricket in 1980, when they were in the Benson & Hedges Cup for the first time. Three years later they took part in the NatWest Trophy. Their first Benson & Hedges win came against Lancashire in 1986. But it has to be said that they failed to compete well for much at this time.

Of course, England has occasionally benefited from the services of Scottish players, notably Mike Denness and Douglas Jardine to name but two.

One of my favourite players in the 70s was the Scot Brian Hardie of Essex, who always topped the batting averages in my summer-long ‘Owzat’ championship.

Cricket here has been held back by lack of indoor facilities and the weather. Edinburgh often goes long periods without much rain, but sadly, usually not in the summer. To take a lend of Mark Twain talking of San Francisco, the coldest winter of my life was summer in Scotland. August, when you would think hot days would cast a long shadow, can actually be bitter. I’ve worn a winter coat in August many a time. But then much of May and October can be glorious.  

But while there have been low points, now it is all different. Scotland, like many of the associate sides, have never been better. The depth in the squad is good. There has been huge growth in women’s cricket and in kids playing the game too.  

As Scotland finished their innings on 371, their highest-ever ODI total, with Calum MacLeod scoring 140, the first Scottish ODI century against England, it was self-evident that they can hold their own against the top-ranked side. In George Munsey they surely have one of the best reverse sweepers in the game too.

And because of this, it makes sense for Scotland to aim to become a Full Member as soon as possible and use T20 and the 50-over format as a way to grow commercially and thus bring in greater investment, which in turn will allow them to become better at Test cricket.

When England batted, Jonny Bairstow started to put Scotland to the sword, roaring ahead in the run chase. But a gritty Scotland side was not for giving in easily and went through the English middle order like a dose of WD40 through your digestive system.

Yes, these are genuinely exciting times for Scottish cricket and as Scotland took the last English wicket to win by six runs, the cheer that went up echoed all over Stockbridge.

OK I’m English, but I genuinely love living in Scotland and am delighted to see them win. This was a game they dominated for 75% of the time, Bairstow’s innings apart.

The Telegraph have already reported it as a humiliation for England but that’s because the Telegraph is a unionist, patronizing, Scotland-hating rag that is forever behind the times, simply not understanding that Scotland are good. Yes, good. To lose to them is not a humiliation. England didn’t play badly, Scotland just played better.

Scotland has had a great historical cricket tradition and it has never been more obvious that it has a great future…and after the match you can buy some obscure sheep cheese and a tin of Farrow & Ball paint. What’s not to like?

By John Nicholson, @JohnnyTheNic