Captain Preston Mommsen will lead Scotland’s cricketers out against Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates tomorrow as preparations intensify for next month’s World Cup.
It is the first of a two-match series taking place alongside a similar schedule involving the Irish and, for 27-year-old Mommsen, a step towards what he hopes will be a historic global tournament for the Scots.
Scotland will be taking part in their third World Cup but they have yet to win a match.
They line up in a pool that also features joint-hosts New Zealand (whom they play on February 17) and Australia (March 14) as well as England (Feb 23), Afghanistan (Feb 26), Bangladesh (March 5) and Sri Lanka (March 11). Carlton club all-rounder Mommsen said: “Our target is a win. We have a very ambitious group of guys and, at the moment, the opener against New Zealand is Scotland’s No.1 game.
“First and foremost, we want one win, but I promise you we want more than one.
“The New Zealand match is huge and has been sold out for a while. It’s in Dunedin (one of Edinburgh’s twin cities) and we will have a big following.
“Playing against other Associate (ICC) members now is important preparation for us in that we can gain necessary momentum.”
Mommsen was born and grew up in South Africa before coming to Scotland on a scholarship to Gordonstoun School. He has no regrets about staying on to eventually qualify for his adopted country on residency.
“In the back of my mind the World Cup was an opportunity I recognised and was always a major draw for me coming to Scotland. I knew the (cricketing) potential was here. Yes, it was a massive call for me but one I do not regret. I love Edinburgh. It is the most beautiful city in the world.”
First capped in 2010, Mommsen was awarded a full-time central contract by Cricket Scotland.
“I’m very happy to play cricket as a job and standing on the brink of one of the biggest months of my life is exciting.”
Scotland will cut their initial 24-man squad to the 15 permitted under tournament rules later this week and Mommsen acknowledges a balance has been struck between Scots-qualified players from the English counties and the domestic game north of the border.
“It’s great people can come out of the club scene to play at this level and while it took a while to develop cohesion – bringing two different groups together is tough – two years have gone by now and we have the best of both worlds. We are striving for the same goal.
“To play all my cricket in Scotland, and to perform for Scotland on a world stage, well, that shows our game is in a healthy state.”
Mommsen earned recognition over the winter as the ICC Associate nations cricketer of the year.
“It is important we use that as a springboard and in 12 months time more of our guys are nominated for the award,” he says.
Guiding Scotland will be head coach Grant Bradburn, a former Kiwi Test player as well as Craig Wright, captain during the 2007 tournament. Then there is Paul Collingwood, ex-England Ashes hero and ODI captain, who is part of the backroom team.
Despite being England’s most-capped one day internationalist with 197 appearances, Collingwood, pictured left, is in no doubt where his loyalties will lie.
“I’ve got a lot of good friends still playing for England and I want them to do well in the tournament – but when February 23 comes around and we’re playing them, I’ll be desperate for Scotland to win.
“Coming up against England in such an important match is exciting and we could take something from it,” he adds.
Ireland upset England last time and Collingwood feels the Scots can take a leaf out of their book.
“Ireland mightn’t be the most skilful, but they are mentally strong and you know you’re in a game with them.
“I always felt in the past that if you got on top of Scotland, then there was no fight. I was just being honest and allowing them to come up with a brand of cricket that they wanted to play. Grasping that has been an important step forward for them.
“Scotland’s fielding is world class and it’s an area where we should shine in Australia and New Zealand.
“People often ask what it’s like working with Scotland as an Englishman.
“I love team environments and whatever you have to sacrifice to be in that team set-up, you have to do!”