Scottish Saltires’ hopes of a unique hat-trick of Clydesdale Bank Pro 40 cricket wins at The Grange, Edinburgh, were dashed on a day of frustration.
Having seen hopes of adding the scalp of Surrey to those of Northants and Warwickshire achieved on successive days last July initially boosted, Saltires were then deflated only to rise again late on before rain eventually saw them fall short when needing 65 runs with four wickets standing and 54 balls left, losing by 18 under the Duckworth/Lewis method for determining results.
To begin with, though, the Saltires were entitled to be optimistic when Surrey were restricted to 187-7.
However, with the spinners getting a bit of encouragement off the pitch the door was slammed shut as early promise evaporated.
That Scotland were entitled to dream of what would have been only a second-ever victory over Surrey was down to some athletic fielding as well as a tight bowling attack in which skipper Gordon Drummond delivered five overs for just 13 runs while Majid Haq took 2-27.
Indeed, Surrey went through a spell of 15 overs without notching a single boundary and Scotland’s economy was summed up by the fact that top scorer Jacques Rudolph was out for 69 having pierced the field just once.
Rain in the lead-up was always likely to make the pitch lively and for Drummond it was a good toss to win as two Surrey wickets tumbled in the first four overs, seamer Matt Parker getting the breakthrough by trapping Rory Hamilton-Brown leg before wicket. Skipper Drummond undoubtedly bowled effectively, too, but it was his diving catch at backward square leg to remove Steven Davies that led to hopes snowballing.
Rudolph held the innings together but regular successes continued and even the traditional late flurry was muted, Ali Evans bowling the final over effectively enough in conceding 14 runs.
Scotland’s reply got off to an encouraging start before Calum MacLeod fell with the total on 26 and Josh Davey perished ironically within seconds of his Middlesex County tweeting good wishes for success against their Home Counties rival.
Another setback was the loss of overseas signing Jean Symes lbw without scoring to add to a modest four overs for 27 runs with his off-spin but cap record holder Fraser Watts stayed around for a useful 25 and Richie Berrington celebrated a month-long loan deal with Leicestershire by making a not out 47 when rain ambushed any chance of a win for the hosts.
Skipper Drummond said: “We were really aggressive with the ball; there was only a lean spell in the middle where they got a partnership together and we let the game drift.
“(But) we have learned from the past that you have to take wickets at regular intervals and stop them setting up the game in the last ten overs.
“The good thing was we kept taking wickets and restricted them to what was an achievable total. Then we maybe needed to be a little bit more aggressive up front and stop losing wickets in clusters which killed us a little bit. If, however, we had known the rain was coming we might have had more of a go but that was always challenging especially with five wickets down.
“The pitch didn’t do that much off the seam and not too much in the air either but we bowled in pretty good areas which was another positive.
“We have played Surrey twice in recent seasons and know the areas to target.”
On South African hired hand Symes’ lbw dismissal, Drummond said: “Jean has got to realise 50-50s tend to go against us at times and he has to use his bat.
“He’s disappointed but, along with Berrington who again showed class and Watts who was good at the start, hopefully with a bit more cricket these guys will be putting scores on the board.
“We have to be more attacking in the field but that is the first game under our belt against what I believe to be the strongest side in the contest.
“What’s more challenged them all the way so I guess there is a lot of confidence we can take from that.”
Saltires continue their campaign today against Nottinghamshire Outlaws at Raeburn Place.