Scotland are one of five nations vying for the last Birmingham berth, and on Tuesday morning kicked off their campaign against world T20 No 8 side Sri Lanka in the first-ever meeting between the two nations, losing by 109 runs.
Should the 13th-ranked Wildcats finish top of the group – which also includes Bangladesh (No 9), Kenya (No 23) and hosts Malaysia (33), they’ll have plenty to celebrate on the plane journey home – which happens to fall on Burns Night.
“Maybe we’ll see if we can sort some haggis in Malaysia,” jokes vice-captain Sarah Bryce. “That’ll be a challenge. Or have a wee ceilidh, I love a wee ceilidh. Get everyone up out of their seats.”
Skipper Kathryn Bryce adds: “We could definitely do that. Sing Auld Lang Syne down the aisles.”
The Edinburgh-born sisters have done nearly everything together since they were young – especially cricket. Kathryn, 24, made her national debut aged 13 in 2011; Sarah, 22, Joined her four years later. Both chose to attend Loughborough University and are team-mates at Lightning.
In fact, their seven-day quarantine ahead of this week’s tournament is one of the longest stretches in recent memory the pair have spent physically apart, despite occupying rooms in the same hotel.
Sarah, an avid golfer like her dad, has been working on her putting to pass the time.
This could be the Bryces’ biggest year yet. Whether or not underdogs Scotland do get to celebrate Burns Night and Birmingham in tandem, their sights are set even further ahead.
Nearly five months ago – the last time the squad was together – Scotland’s perfect record at the T20 World Cup European qualifier earned them a place in the global T20 World Cup Qualifier scheduled for later this year. Success this week, Sarah emphasises, has much broader implications for their ultimate goal: reaching a World Cup for the first time.
“It would be huge. I think it would just give just so much belief, if we did qualify for [Birmingham], going into the global qualifiers later in the year. That will just do so much for our confidence.
“And hopefully it will also bring a lot back home. There will be a lot of people that follow the Commonwealth Games that don’t necessarily follow cricket. And they’ll hear that Scotland’s women’s team is playing in the Commonwealth Games, and hopefully that will drum up a bit more support as well.”
Should they make it, Scotland’s opener would be against the hosts at Edgbaston on July 30.
“That would be incredible,” says Kathryn. “It’s just down the road.”
Her sister adds: “I feel like you’d also have the whole of Scotland behind us.”
Increased professionalism in England, the sisters agreed, could reap benefits for their national squad. The Bryces are two of 41 regional players who received full-time professional contracts from the ECB following its groundbreaking 2020 announcement – a number increasing by ten this year.
The all-rounders were also among the Scottish contingent paid to play in last summer’s inaugural Hundred – in a rare separation, Kathryn for Trent Rockets and Sarah for eventual winners Oval Invincibles, netting the younger Bryce her share of the tournament’s £600,000 prize fund, split equally between the men’s and women’s competition.
“It’s a really exciting prospect to know that there’s an opportunity to make a bit of a career without having to play for England or Australia,” says Kathryn.
“Having those opportunities is huge. That transition, to not think about necessarily having to get a full-time job alongside it.”
Sarah adds: “It seemed to be that, when I was younger, a lot of talented sports people would take another sport more seriously, like hockey, because they could play in the Commonwealth Games or be professional.
“Hopefully the greater professionalism of the sport will encourage more players to stick at it.”
A debut World Cup, Kathryn believes, could go a long way in helping to ensure a bright future for Scottish girls who one day might want to carry on her legacy.
“It’s always difficult,” she explains. “The better you do the more funding you’ll get from the ICC, but the more money you have it’s sometimes easier to do.
“It’s a bit of a battle at the moment. You need almost that extra commitment and professionalism with the team that we’ve got to compete with professional teams and get to the next level.”
One step — or ceilidh — at a time.
*The 2022 Commonwealth Games Qualifier takes place in Malaysia from 18-24 January.
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