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In-form batsman Michael Leask times his run to perfection for new Saltires coach

AMONG Michael Leask's many attributes as one of Scotland's most accomplished young cricketers, good timing appears to be at the forefront.

Michael Leask hit 42 runs off 16 balls in front of new coach Grant Bradburn when Scotland played England last month             Photograph: SNS
Michael Leask hit 42 runs off 16 balls in front of new coach Grant Bradburn when Scotland played England last month Photograph: SNS

When Grant Bradburn took a preview peak at his new charges during a flying visit from New Zealand to sign on the dotted line as national head coach, Leask marked the occasion by flaying England's bowlers to all corners of Mannofield during May's one-day international.

When Bradburn returned during the week to take up his post on a permanent basis, Leask was still at it. This time the Stoneywood-Dyce all-rounder reminded the new coach of his ability by scoring a career-best 173no as Scotland A secured a somewhat improbable draw against Yorkshire's 2nd XI at Scarborough.

In the interim, Leask had kept the scorers busy almost every time he walked to the crease, particularly so in the inaugural North Sea Pro Series which his Highlanders team won in both T20 and 50-over formats. His 240-plus runs in the short game and almost as many in the longer format, together with crucial wickets, ensured that he was the Highlanders' automatic choice as player-of-the-tournament.

The first two months of the season have been the 23-year-old's most prolific, his performances making him a likely starter when Scotland face the Netherlands in a three-match series at Titwood this week.

"Every time I play I try to send out a 'pick-me-please' message to whichever selectors or coaches happen to be watching," he said. "Hopefully Grant will have noticed my recent form or have been told about it by others. I'm really looking forward to working with him and tapping into his knowledge. He seems a nice guy and obviously has a good coaching background."

Leask was speaking less than 24 hours after his record-breaking show at Scarborough and, rather than basking in the glory, was still a little frustrated that he was denied the chance to score even more. Having arrived in the middle with the Scots staring at the possibility of defeat, the Aberdonian and Richie Berrington compiled a match-saving double-century stand to ensure a draw before Leask moved into his familiar big-hitting mode.

While his century was a rapid enough affair, coming off just 95 deliveries, Leask moved up several gears in a final flurry which yielded 40 runs from just 15 deliveries and included five maximums.

"They took so long to find one of the balls that I ran out of time to go on and get a double hundred," he said. "It was in the back of my mind because Richie and I had done the hard bit and I was starting to enjoy myself, but when the last ball came back from the houses surrounding the ground the umpire told me the next over would be the last. But it was a special innings for me and nice to show I can score runs in the longer format of the game.

"It's a bit frustrating that I can't seem to get as many runs as I would like for Stoneywood. But at national and representative level things have been brilliant and hopefully I'll get the chance to carry that on against Holland."

What the longer term future holds for Scotland's man-of-the-moment remains to be seen, but he has already been tipped by Jan Stander, the Stoneywood-Dyce player-coach and former Saltires player, to make the grade south of the border. Calum MacLeod, his Scotland team-mate, has set the perfect example by converting a short-term loan deal at Durham to a season-long contract and Leask is not ruling out the possibility of following suit.

"My main priority is my next match and contributing as much as I can to Scotland to make sure I am on that plane to the World Cup next year. But there have been a few nibbles of interest from south of the border and hopefully something can develop along these lines. Calum has shown what can be done and has been absolutely brilliant with Durham."

This week's game may not enjoy full ODI status, the Dutch having fallen down the ICC pecking order in the wake of their failure to qualify for the World Cup, but no one in the Scotland camp is is under-estimating its importance. For Scotland's players it is an early opportunity to impress Bradburn, while the visitors, always a competitive force, are determined to get their rebuilding process under way.

Scotland squad: K Coetzer, P Mommsen, R Berrington, F Coleman, M Cross, J Davey, A Evans, M Haq, M Leask, M Machan, C MacLeod, S Sharif, R Smith, I Wardlaw.

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