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Scotland can pass the test for full membership status

Scotland officials maintain that the infrastructure is in place for the national team to step up to Test status despite having narrowly avoided the loss of yet another glamour One Day International.

The efforts made by groundstaff and competitors to play at Mannofield have been recognised. Picture: SNS
The efforts made by groundstaff and competitors to play at Mannofield have been recognised. Picture: SNS

Cricket Scotland have had a run of bad luck in recent years in seeking to stage ODIs against leading countries and it looked as if the jinx had struck again at Aberdeen's Mannofield on Friday.

That led to murmurings from English, and even some Scottish commentators, questioning the wisdom of taking a match so far north, but the reality is that the tendency is for drier, albeit slightly colder weather in that part of the world at this time of year. In the end, the ground staff managed to get the playing surface into a condition that was good enough for both sides to be prepared to take the risk.

Alistair Cook, England's captain, did feel it had been a marginal decision, but paid tribute to the opposition in a way that served to underline that, in one department at least, the Scots are demonstrating the potential to compete at the highest level.

"It would have been wrong if we hadn't played," he said. "Those are as wet conditions as I've fielded in and it probably wasn't fit to play but the way Scotland fielded was exceptional. They were diving around making catches when we were struggling to keep our feet."

With a route to Test cricket now open as a result of a decision to let the winners of the next Intercontinental Cup competition play-off against the lowest-ranked Test nation, the aim for Cricket Scotland is to stage that sort of event on a regular basis.

Speaking at the Grange in Edinburgh, Scotland's most regular home ground of recent years, Roddy Smith, the governing body's chief executive, said he thinks the facilities are good enough.

"If you look at the way this place is set up, for example, then it's no different for a five-day game than a one-day game and you'd probably have less infrastructure because you would have fewer people attending [each day]," he said. "I think you could cope logistically. The issue would be selling it to the public to get some people along to watch."

That, in turn, raises the question of affordability and he believes the ICC is increasingly aware of the need to provide the necessary support if nations that have 'associate' status are to bridge the gap to join 'full members'.

"If, for example, Bangladesh came here to play for five days, which would mean they were here for eight days, we would be putting 23 people up for eight nights and giving them 50 US dollars a day expenses. That's the way it works. So the viability for us is the big expenditure against the income we get with people coming through the door for five days. The ICC have recognised that and at the moment they are giving money to Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, New Zealand and, I think, the West Indes, from a Test fund to support them playing Test cricket because if they don't, it's just not viable."

Scotland could also play away matches only, but that is not something Smith wants to contemplate. "Realistically going to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh for us is less preferable to playing them in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling or Aberdeen for all sorts of reasons," he said. "The ICC recognise that, so if we do qualify and win the play-off we will jump at the chance."

It is all part of a process of widening interest in a sport that is otherwise in danger of being too narrowly defined geographically.

"I think the ICC recognise that some of the lower-end Test countries are weak and not getting stronger, whereas th e top end of the associate game is getting stronger, the likes of Ireland, Afghanistan and ourselves. So they need that natural pathway," said Smith.

"The key thing about it is that they're not going to throw their full members out. For example, should Afghanistan win the Intercontinental Cup and beat Zimbabwe, then Zimbabwe would stay as a Test country and Afghanistan would just make 11 and in four years time after that whoever's 11th plays Scotland or Ireland. Commercially, the ICC want more countries playing at a higher level so they can expand their revenue as well. It swings both ways."

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