AS a youngster growing up in South Africa Con de Lange knew his life would revolve around cricket.

What he could not have envisaged was that his playing career would culminate in a World Cup representing a country 6000 miles from that of his birth.

Yet that is the prospect for the 34-year-old spinner who last month made his Scotland debut in an I-Cup match against Afghanistan. He even marked his belated arrival on the international stage in style by taking a wicket with his first delivery. Now his sights are set on the ICC World T20 Qualifiers which begin on Thursday when co-hosts Scotland face the UAE at The Grange, Edinburgh.

Six of the 14 competing nations will progress to the finals in India next year, an enticing prospect for de Lange whose career has taken him from his native Boland, through staging posts such as Cape Town and Northampton, and finally to Clydesdale where he now plies his trade as player-coach.

It was, though, a five-year spell spent in Paisley, where he was professional at Ferguslie, which perhaps shaped de Lange's destiny more than anything else. It was there that de Lange first fell in love with Scotland and - crucially - also with Claire, the girl he was to go on and marry and who was to become his biggest fan.

Indeed, in a splendid spat on Twitter recently it was Mrs de Lange who jumped to her husband's defence when one journalist dared to question the selection of a 34-year-old who was born in South Africa.

"That was one way of showing she loved me," said the player who will be proud to wear the Saltires jersey for as long as he feels he has earned it. "There's no doubt my time in Paisley has had a big impact on my career and on my life. I loved Scotland from my first season with Ferguslie and marrying a Paisley girl has obviously affected things massively.

"But back then I could never have seen things working out the way they have with me playing for Scotland. I did know my life would be in cricket because that's all I ever knew growing up. All my family were into cricket and there's a picture of me holding a bat before I could even walk. Cricket was and is in my blood."

He is prepared to sweat some of that blood to ensure Scotland first emerge from a tricky group containing major threats such as Afghan- istan and the Netherlands, and claim one of those six places in India.

"I am determined to play my part and contribute to a winning team. It is a big dream to represent Scotland on a world stage but that has to be earned. I am prepared to put in the hard yards to make it happen and so are the rest of the lads. I have been impressed with the work ethic and the team culture which is being created.

"As long as the surfaces allow I think spin will have a part to play in this tournament - that's the way T20 seems to be going. You can either be the hero or the villain but I relish that sort of challenge and attempting to execute your plans. I was fortunate with my first ball for Scotland which went exactly as I had envisaged. You try to visualise the delivery, where you are going to land the ball and the shot the batsman is going to play and everything worked perfectly."

De Lange's experience as a coach - he is currently studying for his ECB Level 4 qualification - has helped him appreciate the delicate relationship between process and result.

"The result is obviously crucial in any sport but you have to first get the process right. And, of course, that becomes easier if you are winning so the two are closely related. You have to prepare properly and develop the right mentality so you can win those crucial stages within matches.

"Studying as a coach helps you understand yourself and I think it has definitely helped my cricket. I can see both sides of the coin now."

De Lange's arrival in international cricket has overlapped with the absence of his Clydesdale team-mate Majid Haq following the well-public-ised tweet that led to his expulsion from the World Cup and a subsequent suspension which was lifted too late for the record-breaking cap holder to take part in the T20 qualifiers.

Indeed, there are those who believe there might not have been room for both players in the Scotland team. However, de Lange declines to speculate on such matters and on Haq's situation takes a diplomatic stance.

"I hope Majid gets back to represent Scotland again. He is a class cricketer."

The cricketing world may be about to discover that so too is Con de Lange.