SCOTLAND'S cricketers, briefed by their coach Grant Bradburn, were last night given a further insight into the sort of test that awaits them in their forthcoming series against New Zealand A.
As former coach of the Black Caps' second string, Bradburn has a detailed knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the tourists, who will face Scotland in 50-over contests at Ayr tomorrow and Sunday and at The Grange next Thursday.
However, Andi McElnea, the current Ayr captain, singled out a former team-mate as one of the players who will pose the biggest dangers to the Scots. Hard-hitting Hamish Rutherford will open the batting for New Zealand A seven years after arriving in Scotland as a raw teenager whose precocious talent was immediately apparent.
McElnea said: "I think Hamish turned 18 the day he arrived in Ayr and he made an instant impact. He scored a half-century in his first game and his talent and skill was obvious. It was apparent even then that Hamish had the ability to go on and play at the highest level and it's no surprise he has done just that."
Rutherford, now 25, has played in 14 Tests for New Zealand as well as four one-day internationals and seven T20s and his presence in the Kiwis' second string emphasises his country's strength in depth.
McElnea added: "He's one of the cleanest strikers of the ball I have seen and is capable of hitting any bowler for six from his crease. The boys at the club have stayed in touch with him and we're all looking forward to seeing him again and hosting the first two matches of the series. It's going to be memorable for Ayr Cricket Club."
Rutherford is just one of several New Zealand A players with Ayr or Scottish connections. Fast bowler Doug Bracewell is the son of Brendon Bracewell, the club's professional for two seasons in the 1990s, top-order batsman Tom Latham played a handful of matches for the Saltires last season and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme spent a summer with West of Scotland.
De Grandhomme and Colin Munro both scored 151 as New Zealand A opened their recent tour by hammering Northamptonshire.
Rutherford & co went on to beat both England Lions and Sri Lanka A to win a triangular series, further emphasising the scale of the task facing a Scotland team missing several county players, including captain Kyle Coetzer.
Bradburn, of course, is well aware of the challenge, saying: "It's no time since I coached every one of the players we'll come up against so doing the homework has been easy.
"The difficult bit will be competing because we're up against a side who have lots of experience at Test and first-class levels and all of them want to be in the top team so they are highly motivated. But I have been really impressed with the work ethic and skill sets of the Scottish players during my first month in charge.
"We have some proven players who are attached to counties and others who have shown they have the ability to go down that route as well. But simply playing for a county or having a Cricket Scotland contract won't guarantee a place for Scotland.
"There are others who are coming through the ranks in the country and some of them are getting their chance in this series to show they can play at international level."