AT last a flicker of light at the end of a very long tunnel for Scottish cricket. At the tail end of a year that has seen their international fixture list completely wiped out, news earlier this week that the women’s team will travel to La Manga in Spain next month for a five-match series against Ireland has proved very welcome indeed. 

Coach Steven Knox and his players haven’t come up against another nation since last September when their campaign to reach this year’s T20 World Cup fell short on home soil. 

The Scotland A team did manage to squeeze in a clutch of fixtures against English opposition this summer but this will be the first chance for the full Wildcats squad to shake off the rust in two 50-over matches and three T20I games. 

Gauging how his squad may fare after a 14-month absence is difficult for Knox but the former Penicuik professional is hoping a number of positive performances will lay the groundwork for what will - pandemic permitting - be a far busier 2021.

“We’ve been trying to get something arranged for a while but with the virus it’s been really hard to facilitate that,” said Knox.

“But we now have these fixtures to look forward to and that’s a great relief for the squad. We managed to get some A team fixtures played in August and September and played some really good cricket. That was really encouraging on the back of some really strong indoor winter training.

“So the girls are keen to now put into practise everything they’ve been working on. Hopefully we can put on some good performances out in Spain and that can be a real motivation for the girls going into next year.

“I don’t think it’s unfair to say that there will be an expectation that the girls will put Ireland under pressure and compete. They are ranked above us in T20 but the way we’ve trained over the past 10 months and how the A team played in those games leaves us really hopeful that we can win some games of cricket out there.

“That’s important as every time you play an official T20I it affects your ranking. So we’re not going out there just to spend some time in the sun and get some practise. We want to win.”

The European Cricket Performance Centre in La Manga was officially opened in 2017 as a joint venture between Scotland and Ireland to provide suitable training and match facilities throughout the winter. It will come into its own again next month, even if COVID-19 protocols will need to be followed.

“We tried to drag the season out in Scotland until September but you’re really struggling if you try to take it beyond then,” admitted Knox. So to be able to head out to La Manga in winter makes a massive difference to your preparations. We’ve not accessed the facilities a lot but whenever we’ve been there it’s been great.

“We know it will be a bit different this time. It’s not going to be like a normal tour where you can sit in a hotel room and have a team meeting. That’s probably not going to happen. We’re probably going to have to be flexible in how we do things.

“We’re being tested before we fly out and again when we get to Spain so that will hopefully help keep everyone safe.”

As captain and vice-captain respectively, Kathryn and Sarah Bryce are again the first names on Knox’s squad list, the sisters having burnished already stellar reputations with strong performances in English cricket’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy over the summer.

“It’s no surprise to me how well they’ve done as they are both world-class cricketers,” added Knox. “It’s fantastic to have them available. And as captain and vice-captain they play a massive role within the team as well.”

Plans pencilled in for next year include qualifiers for the next T20 World Cup and the 2022 Commonwealth Games. And Knox admits it is shaping up to be a pivotal year.

“If we’re going to get better as a team, we have to play more cricket. The average age of the team is around 21 so the only way we’re going to improve and compete with the likes of Ireland and Thailand will be to play more often. And hopefully that will include some games at home as well.”