Cricket: Scotland aim for a positive performance

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND GO into the biggest game in their history against Australia at Worcester tomorrow with their captain, George Salmond, determined to demonstrate the progress his team have made.

"Whether we are batting or fielding, we have to do the basics right and make sure we are not frightened out of the game," he said. "No one is going to say we are going to beat Australia, but it will be a privilege to play against them on such an important occasion.

"There will be a big crowd and the atmosphere will be fantastic, something else we are not used to. But we are determined to stay positive and enjoy the day. Most of all we want to come off the field feeling we have done our best."

He added: "We have to play at 100 per cent and hope Australia have a bad day."

Two defeats and a match rained-off from their three-game warm-up programme might not offer the kind of encouragement Scotland will need, but Salmond has been able to take a number of positive lessons from a series of matches which have seen Scotland excel at various times.

At Durham last Saturday it was the general bowling performance and middle- order batting display that caught the eye. In the abandoned match against Lancashire the top order performed well before the rain came, while at Scarborough on Wednesday Scotland bowled well to halt the Yorkshire charge, despite defending a total 30 runs short of what had been required.

"We have prepared quite well and we have taken a lot out of the last three games," Salmond said. "John Blain in particular has bowled well in tight situations and doesn't look out of place at this higher level.

"This competition gives everyone a chance to prove we are capable of competing at the highest level. The chance to score a 50 or take four wickets against some of the best sides in the world is not an opportunity to be spurned lightly."

Apart from the obvious disparity in experience, Scotland's hardy bunch of part-timers face one major problem. Over their three warm-up games they have shown definite signs of ability to compete, only to have a bad spell which has effectively ended their chances of victory.

Only Blain, a 20-year-old from Northamptonshire, and Yorkshire's Gavin Hamilton are full-time professionals, and it is to this pair Scotland will look for inspiration.

Mike Smith is still struggling to overcome a back injury, which could yet offer a reprieve to the opener Bruce Patterson, who has scored just nine in the three warm-up games and could be dropped if Smith does recover.

Tomorrow's other Group B game is potentially one of the best matches of the first round, with the West Indies taking on Pakistan at Bristol. The West Indies showed signs of a recovery during their recent series against Australia, while Pakistan are one of the favourites to win this tournament.

The West Indies' captain, Brian Lara, and their middle-order batsman Stuart Williams face fitness tests before the game. Lara will test his injured wrist in a net practice at Bristol's Nevil Road ground today. He took part in net practice there yesterday.

Lara missed the last three one-day internationals against Australia and has hardly picked up a bat since. However it would be unlikely he would be omitted unless his injury was severe. Williams has a leg injury and will also undergo tests today.