SCHEDULING cricket games for Aberdeen in mid-August is a fraught venture based on hope rather than expectation but for once the weather appears to be playing kind.

Not a drop of rain is forecast for the north-east – famous last words – for the entirety of today as Scotland welcome the UAE for the start of the latest World Cricket League 2 (WCL2) tri-series also featuring the USA. If anything, the 25C temperatures predicted for Mannofield would seem to favour both sets of visitors rather than the hosts who are more accustomed to turning out in the gloom and smirr whenever they venture north.

The occasion will also be a special one for the local loons in the squad, including Matthew Cross who will captain the side in the absence of the injured Richie Berrington. For Michael Leask, the Aberdeen all-rounder who plundered 85 in the one-day game against New Zealand recently, the chance to represent his country in front of friends and family is always something to be cherished.

“It’s sunny and warm so that makes a nice change!” said the 31 year-old. “We can crack on with it without having to worry about the weather for a few days for what’s going to be an exciting challenge.

“Every Associate nation these days are no mugs, including the two we’re facing this week. We were in America not that long ago and they’ve really come on leaps and bounds, while the UAE are familiar foes and always dangerous.

“But being at home should favour us more and we’ve got a lot of guys who have performed well for us with bat and ball over the last few months.

“It’s great that they’re taking the fixtures around the country and it’s always nice to be playing in my hometown. It certainly makes it easier for my family to come along to watch rather than travelling to Edinburgh or Glasgow all the time.

“I feel that I’ve been playing pretty well this summer. I wasn’t really thinking about trying to get my century when I was in against New Zealand to be honest, it was more about how we could try to get the team total up to about 340 to give them more to chase.

“It would have been nice personally to have made three figures but it just didn’t work out on the day. Now we’re up against two different opponents so it's a case of just resetting and going again.”

These fixtures may lack the glamour of that series against New Zealand but if anything they are more significant, forming part of the long road that Scotland will hope will lead to their involvement at next year’s 50-over World Cup in India.

The lopsided WCL2 table has Oman 10 points ahead at the top but Shane Burger’s side have 12 games in hand in second, with the top three progressing to the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe next June.

“We’ve gone all right in this tournament over the last couple of months,” added Leask. “Getting four out of four from this series would leave us in good shape and then we’ve got a trip to Namibia at the end of the year and finish up in Nepal in February.

“So we’ve got 12 games to go all in and we’ll be looking to win every one of them if we can. Every victory takes us closer to Oman who finished their fixtures a while ago.”

Not forgotten amid all these one-day fixtures is the looming T20 Cup that begins in Australia in just two months’ time.

“It’s always at the back of our minds, the World Cup,” admitted Leask. “These games this week are a different format but just getting regular cricket is so important after barely playing for two years during the pandemic. We’re just focusing on the series ahead but after this our attention will switch to T20 and getting in the best shape possible ahead of that trip to Australia.”

Leask has plenty of Mannofield memories to look back on ahead of this week’s action, including a man-of-the-match performance against England in 2014 when the weather intervened to deny what could have been a famous win over the Auld Enemy.

“Yeah that was a good one for me although the result didn’t quite go as we’d hoped,” he recalled. “It feels like a long time ago now as there’s been so much cricket played since then! But having nice memories of a ground always does help as you can draw back on them when you’re getting ready to play. We’ve had quite a bit of success at Aberdeen in the past so hopefully we can extend that this week.”