International cricket returns to Aberdeen this week and for Matthew Cross, it is a chance to come back to where it all began.
It is a homecoming of sorts for Cross, who spent eight years playing for Aberdeenshire alongside his studies at Robert Gordon’s College.
His profession takes him across the globe. This tournament alone will take him to Oman, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, United States, Namibia and the United Arab Emirates.
But walking out to the middle in his hometown is a rare and enjoyable privilege.
He said: “I’ve played a few games at Mannofield (for Scotland) but it’s always quite special playing here.
“I’m sure the other lads will have family coming down and hopefully some of mine are able to get down over the weekend.
“I’ve been thinking back over some of the games I played for Scotland here; I played in the ODI against England in 2014. I was part of the Aberdeenshire team that won the Scottish Cup and league in the same year. I’ve got really good memories of playing here.”
His cricket talents were harnessed by Peter Wilkinson, a teacher at Robert Gordon’s, before his progression through the ranks with Aberdeenshire. Cross’ development continued at Loughborough University before moving into the English county scene with Nottinghamshire.
International recognition came first in T20 in 2013 and then in One-Day International cricket against Canada in 2014.
Scotland face Oman tomorrow in the first of four games at Mannofield. Papua New Guinea will be next up on Saturday, with the second fixtures against both opponents slated for Sunday and Tuesday respectively. Fellow Aberdonians Kyle Coetzer – Scotland captain – and Michael Leask, who played for Shire’s City rivals Stoneywood-Dyce, are also in the squad.
It is the first round of the 21-round World Cricket League Two, running until January 2022, in which 126 games will be played and each country will host three rounds.
The top three sides will advance to the final qualifying round, where they will compete with the top two sides from the tier below and the bottom five sides from the World Cricket League – made up of full ICC member nations – for the final two spots at the 2023 World Cup.
Scotland also have the qualifiers for the T20 World Cup taking place in the UAE in October, marking a pivotal competitive period for the national side.
Cross added: “The World Cricket League gives us a great chance of playing in 2023 now. Everyone is pretty focused and driven to qualify for these next few tournaments.
“We’ve got good depth now, which is something we’ve maybe not always had. (Head coach) Shane Burger has been a breath of fresh air; he tries to work with us as individuals to make us better players and make the team better. It’s been a new lease of life for the guys.
“Both Oman and Papua New Guinea are dangerous teams. They will play an aggressive brand of cricket and will have no fear. We might be seen as the scalp and that’s a pressure we have to embrace a little bit. It’s a good thing for people to see us that way – we want to be talked about as the next member nation.”