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Cricket: Huntly 17-year-old Ailsa Lister on unique preparations ahead of Scotland fixtures and potential debut

Ailsa Lister could make her senior Scotland debut later this month.
Ailsa Lister could make her senior Scotland debut later this month.

It’s fair to say Ailsa Lister’s preparations for a potential senior international debut are different to most.

The 17-year-old could make her bow for Scotland against Ireland in four T20 matches in Belfast later this month.

However, her build-up to those games is being dominated by exams.

As a fifth-year pupil at Gordon Schools in Huntly, Lister is currently sitting her Highers, while also dreaming of representing her country at senior level, having previously played for the A side and age group teams.

She said: “It’s quite tough to fit everything in, especially this year, I’m in the middle of my exams.

“I’ve got eight exams and the last exam is the day before we go to Ireland.

“So this year it has been very full on, but the school has been really good.

“They give me authorised absence when I need to go away and then I catch up when I come back or do extra work before I go.

It’s quite tough to fit everything in.”

“But this year doing my Highers it’s been more difficult because they’re the big exams.

“Hopefully by the end of the next two weeks I’ll be free for cricket all the time.

“The next two weeks will be very full on, but I’ll be even more excited to go to Ireland because I’ll be done with exams.

“It’s difficult and I’m having to balance quite a lot between study and cricket.

“But I’m trying to make sure I get enough of both and I met the new Scotland coach Mark Coles for the first time last Wednesday.

“He must have heard from the coaches and the captain about me and that was why I got picked, because he’d never actually met me or seen me play.

“It was good to meet him and I’ve been able to balance my cricket and my studies quite well.

“At the weekend I was playing cricket on Saturday and then on Sunday I was studying all day.”

Hoping for a debut after previous cancellations

Scotland’s fixtures later this month will be their first since September 2019.

They had been been scheduled to play Ireland in Spain last November and then in March.

Lister was in both those squads, but the fixtures were called off because of the pandemic.

She hopes she can make her senior international debut this month in the fixtures to be played on May 23, 24, 26 and 27.

The Stoneywood-Dyce wicketkeeper added: “It would be unbelievable, I still can’t get my head around the fact I play for Scotland and possibly have this opportunity to make my debut coming up when we’re away.

Ailsa Lister in action behind the stumps for Stoneywood-Dyce against Aberdeenshire.

“I’ve had a couple of opportunities which ended up being called off.

“We were supposed to go to Spain in November and then again in March, but they got cancelled because of Covid.

“I’ve been waiting for my opportunity and hopefully I will get that opportunity in Ireland to make my debut.

“It means a huge amount to me and to my family.”

If she does make her Scotland debut this month Lister hopes it can lead to more international action both this summer and further down the line.

“To be honest I think I’m at the start,” the teenager said.

“Hopefully I have many more games to come and I just want to progress my cricket as far as I can.

“We’ve got World Cup qualifiers at the end of the summer and that will be our main focus.

“We’ve also got Commonwealth Games qualifiers next year as well, so there are opportunities there.”

How it all started in Huntly

Huntly has long been a hotbed for cricket, with Scotland and England international Kirstie Gordon another to have come through the Castle Park club.

Lister started playing at primary school after her older brother Stuart had taken up the game.

She credits Huntly coach Neil Nicol with helping her and others make their breakthrough.

Lister said: “I got started through my brother, who is a couple of years older than me.

“He played at the club in Huntly and as the younger sister I wanted to do what he was doing.

Ailsa Lister, centre, trying to run out a batsman playing for Stoneywood-Dyce against Aberdeenshire.

“So I started playing in primary four and played with Huntly for a good few years until 2019 when I moved to Stoneywood-Dyce to try to progress that bit further.

“Neil Nicol does a great job at Huntly, he goes into all the schools and he’s done a huge amount for girls’ cricket.

“Now there are only-girls’ sessions and things like that and there’s a huge amount of junior members and that is mostly down to Neil Nicol who works hard to keep the girls interested and that’s really good.”

Support at Stoneywood-Dyce

Two years ago, Lister left Huntly to join Eastern Premier Division side Stoneywood-Dyce and play at the highest level of the Scottish club game.

She is thankful for the support and encouragement she’s had at Peoples Park as she plays senior cricket against men.

Lister said: “They’ve made me feel really welcome. I played rugby at a young age as well and I’ve done lots of different sports and I’ve been used to being the only girl on a team.

“They’ve been really good. I’m playing men’s cricket and sometimes you get a few funny looks when you turn up and opposition realise I’m playing.

“But Stoneywood-Dyce have been really good and I don’t feel like I am the only girl – we’re all just team-mates.”