Scotland coach Grant Bradburn looks out across the lush green oval of The Grange and could be forgiven for wondering if the scenes he witnessed less than 24 hours previously were all a dream.
All is relatively quiet now, apart from the regular sound of leather on willow from a nets session in the middle and the jovial laughs and banter from players training in suitably high spirts. The six temporary stands which housed the bulk of a 5,000 crowd who are now proud owners of “I was there” status are empty but still standing having withheld the force of wild celebrations, some of which spilled onto the playing surface in scenes which can now be filed along the likes of Wembley 1967 and ‘77 and Murrayfield 1990.
“My wife reminds me that four years ago we arrived and people asked what we had moved from New Zealand for and I’d say ‘I’m coaching the Scotland cricket team’ and lots of people didn’t know that we had a cricket team,” said Bradburn with a wry smile.
“I hope Sunday’s display and the wonderful performance the guys put on is another reminder to the global cricketing world and the folk here in Scotland that we have a wonderful cricket team here in this country.”
‘Wonderful’ is one of the more restrained superlatives which have been rained down on the Scotland cricket team following the historic one-day international win over England. They shocked the cricketing world, including their own corner of it, and the dreamlike day now lives on in a thrilling sun-soaked flashback memory reel of flashing fours, soaring sixes, calm catches, comical English run-outs and that dramatic denouement which, for a while, saw genteel Stockbridge come over all a bit Caribbean. They didn’t like cricket… they were really rather taken by it all!
Even close followers of Scottish cricket, who have charted the clear improvements made under Bradburn, carried an air of bewildered delight at Sunday’s outcome, though it all makes that heartbreak against West Indies in March and failure to be at next year’s ODI World Cup in England, a tournament reduced by the ICC from 14 to 10 nations, even more of a bitter pill.
For those Scots who follow cricket less closely, if it all, news that they had beaten England has come as a huge surprise and will have many asking how a nation who has never won a World Cup game and always been seen, despite participation numbers which outstrip rugby, as a cricketing hinterland could end up toppling the world’s best side. Bradburn, 52, a former New Zealand bowler and lower-order batsman who played seven Tests for the Black Caps, explained: “Four years ago I identified some amazing skill. The first game I witnessed in person was the England game in Aberdeen [in 2014, a 39-run loss in a rain-reduced game].
“Although I’d only just landed and was there as an observer, I said to the team after that game that the skill is not the issue. It’s the belief that we can win and how to use that skill tactically in a game we need to work on.
“We’ve worked hard over these four years but we’ve seen on Sunday that we’ve got some wonderfully gifted players. What I’d like to think now is that they’ve got the freedom to express themselves in their own way.”
The national squad are now centrally contracted to Cricket Scotland, up from the handful of such deals which started to be struck a decade ago. The search for more games continues but captain Kyle Coetzer paid tribute to Bradburn for the way he had professionalised the culture of the team, which has seen training and preparation raised to the intensity adopted by the top teams in the world.
The coach continued: “We sat down in 2016 in a hotel in Dundee and I presented to the team a list of almost victories that I’d seen in my time and there were ten identified, where the door to victory was ajar.
“Scotland had a hold of the game and for whatever reason they weren’t able to walk through and earn victory. We acknowledged at that point that we could keep going along this road, we’d have some victories because we have some good players, but if we really wanted to compete with the best in the world that we really needed to choose another direction.
“I presented to them what that direction entailed. By and large it was about being personally accountable for winning performance. It’s not about individuals – runs, wickets or averages, it’s about performances that effect a positive result for the team. That’s what we’ve worked hard on the past few years.”
And the reward is a place in Scottish sporting folklore. “That’s fantastic if people think it’s up there,” said Bradburn. “I had over 400 messages and I know some of the guys had more. It’s been humbling to see how far reaching the performance has had an effect around the world… an honour and a privilege to be part of something historic and warmly received.”