Scotland cricketer Ally Evans returned to the English county scene with a spring in his step this week and more than ready to hold his own against any dressing-room banter over the fluctuating fortunes of the Saltires.
The 23-year-old seam bowler, from the Carlton club, has taken up a summer-long contract with Derbyshire while the negotiating skills of Scotland coach Peter Steindl have freed him up for further top class experience in the Clydesdale Bank 40 over competition.
It was in that competition on Bank Holiday Monday that Evans, 23, unleashed the full force of his developing skills to help Scotland post a notable victory over Nottinghamshire at Raeburn Place just 24 hours after making a debut in a rain-effected defeat to Surrey.
The aim is that Evans might be able to balance club and country demands, otherwise some are entitled to ask what benefits arise from Scotland continuing to produce players only for other teams to take advantage.
Steindl is aware of the tightrope he walks in that respect, saying: “The reason why we want to use the likes of Ally and (Middlesex’s) Josh Davey when they are based with counties is to give them first-team experience. If they are in seconds down south there is an opportunity for an all round win-win situation.”
So far as Evans is concerned, whether he follows up by appearing for Saltires against Glamorgan at Uddingston on Sunday after four days of second team action for Derbyshire at Durham is down to others.
“It is up to Pete and Derby where and when I play and I know for both parties it is about getting me the best cricket possible.
“If both are happy I’m more than happy, too. If I get told to bowl then I’ll bowl as best I can,” says Evans.
What is beyond doubt is the pride Evans feels at pulling on the Saltires sweater and competing in a way which, over the course of two days at Raeburn Place this week, yielded one of only two maiden overs. What’s more, Evans made it a wicket maiden by having Nottinghamshire’s Riki Wessels caught at cover by Calum MacLeod. “Whenever you get asked to play for your country, at any level, it is a great honour especially coming back into a changing-room with guys you have grown up with.
“But I’m also pleased to have an opportunity at Derbyshire which came about as a consequence of attending the Darren Lehmann Coaching Academy in Adelaide a couple of winters ago.
“By coincidence Derbyshire had a young player out there and a couple of their coaches came to check on his progress.
“We got talking and they extended an invitation for me to get in touch when I returned from Australia. I did and found myself taking five wickets on my debut for Derbyshire seconds and going on to finish the club’s top wicket taker last summer at that level with 35 wickets.
“This year I was invited on a pre-season tour to Barbados which resulted in two appearances in a Twenty20 match and also a two-dayer.
“The club must have liked what they saw because I was offered a contract for this summer.
“What I learned on tour with Derbyshire is the need to keep producing dot balls (no-scoring deliveries) which mounts the pressure on the batsmen.
“I’ve brought that into the Scotland set-up and what helped was playing on the same Raeburn Place pitch two days running as I became more aware of which areas to hit.
“Beating Nottinghamshire was a great win because we put into practice a lot of things we had discussed and then got the rewards.
“We bowled well in partnerships throughout and kept our heads.
“We knew that when breakthroughs came if we squeezed again we could keep them to a competitive total which we did.
“Whether for Derbyshire or Scotland it is about keeping things simple and I’m now in a position I dreamt about as a youngster.”
Steindl is delighted with the progress of Evans, saying of a player who has now represented Scotland seven times in adding to caps against Canada (twice), India A, Ireland and Netherlands since 2009: “Ally bowled better against Notts than against Surrey and that was a pretty solid effort. That is only his first two games in CB40 cricket but he has come in and looked stronger. Ally’s got a long way to go and he knows that but he learns.
“We had two guys out injured and it can only be a good thing when we have players coming in and competing. It’s nice to be in a position where some of our young bowlers are doing so a bit quicker. That can only help us over the next five to ten years.”