Scotland Beat Lancashire 1986


In these whirlwind days of Twenty20 mayhem and bowlers being despatched to every part of the ground, many won’t realise that cricket used to dance to a different tempo and was no less interesting.

First impressions can be deceptive, mind you. When Scotland’s cricketers tackled a star-studded Lancashire line-up at North Inch in Perth 30 years ago in the old-style B & H Cup, you wouldn’t have imagined that history was in the making as you shivered on the boundary edge.

Slowly, gradually, painfully, the Scottish part-timers eked out a total, which never looked remotely good enough. Iain Philip moved to 28 from 80 balls, Richard Swan mustered 31 from 96 deliveries – this was a one-day tussle which lasted a weekend – and even when Neil Burnett struck a six off Jack Simmons in his 27 from 48 balls, it didn’t seem significant.

At the end of their 55 overs, the Scots managed just 156 for 9. Nowadays, most sides would fancy chasing that in just 20. And Lancashire boasted a formidable array of stars, from England Test luminaries, Graeme Fowler, Neil Fairbrother, Paul Allott and Mike Watkinson, to West Indian merchant of menace, Patrick Patterson. What could possibly go wrong?

I spoke to Neil Burnett last week and even he still seemed a tad perplexed, although this proud Arbroath character and his family have done a fantastic job in steering the Lochlands club to national glory in recent seasons. His message was crystal clear: just because he and his confreres weren’t getting paid didn’t lessen their resolve. If anything, it actually stiffened it.

As Neil said: “We were always the underdogs, because we had full-time jobs away from cricket and there were no training camps or trips abroad to prepare for these B&H games. You just turned up and said “Hi” to your teammates, knowing you might never see them again.

“That just made what happened at North Inch all the more special. We usually had decent bowlers and we were good fielders, but it was the batting which tended to let us down. At the halfway stage, I don’t think any of us thought 156 was anywhere near enough and you could see from the Lancashire boys that they agreed.

“But we had good bowlers. We had Omar Henry who later played for South Africa. And Peter Duthie and Dallas Moir, two lionhearted characters who always gave 100%. We said to ourselves at the interval: ‘Let’s make them scrap for every run. And see what happens.”

Initially, there was little sign of anxiety from the Manchester brigade as they progressed to 62 for 1, with Gehan Mendis and John Abrahams settling into a smooth, if pedestrian groove. And yet, the more the squeeze was applied, the more these professionals buckled under the strain.

Thus it transpired that 93 for 3 became 109 for 6 and 119 for 8, with Duthie taking three for 31 from 11 overs and Henry recording the remarkable analysis – especially in a one-day milieu – of 11-4-19-2.

At the death, the Englishmen still threatened to sneak the win, but were eventually restricted to 153 for 9. For the first time ever, the Scots had triumphed over English county opposition in a competitive match.

And, as Burnett told me this week, it felt absolutely blissful.  “We had a good side and we always fancied our chances, but it wasn’t a level playing field, so we knew there would be days when it all fell apart,” said Burnett, whose family members, Gary, Fraser and Calvin are still pivotal characters at the club.

“Yet you have to give a lot of credit to our captain [Richard Swan]. Every time he made a bowling change, it seemed to work and we gradually ground them down. Peter and Omar were outstanding, and then Richard brought me on for one over and I got rid of the dangerous David Hughes.

“I think people have to realise that just because we were amateurs didn’t make us any less committed. I’m glad that the current team are on full-time contracts, because cricket has moved on an awful lot. But that was a good Scotland side in 1986. “

As for the future, Burnett is wishing the current Caledonian squad well in their imminent World T20 campaign, but he didn’t hold back on his view that Fraser Burnett should be involved in the Scottish set-up, not in 20/20, but the longer form.

“It’s a travesty that he hasn’t got a few caps for his country, but it is a familiar story when you are involved with a club outside the central belt.

“It was the same with [Freuchie’s] Scott Gourlay in the 1990s and there have been others. All we can do is encourage the kids and get them playing – and we have a really strong set-up at the moment – but Scotland selection policy is out of our hands. Maybe Fraser has burned a few bridges along the way, because he speaks his mind. But he has so much talent I’m amazed at his omission over the last couple of years.”

The 1986 boys of summer are all in their 50s and 60s now. But these men still care deeply about the game.

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