For Scotland spin bowler Mark Watt 2018 was the year he came of age as a cricketer – and now he is keen to kick on this year as the international action gets underway.
The 22-year-old from Edinburgh is currently with the national squad as they prepare to play a Twenty20 Quadrangular Series with the hosts, Netherlands and Ireland.
They then play three 50-over matches with the hosts.
A 14-strong squad is on the trip being led by acting head coach Toby Bailey before new head coach Shane Burger comes in next month.
Having made his T20I debut when he was just 18 against Ireland and then his ODI bow when he was 20 against Hong Kong, the left armer who has played most of his club cricket for Heriot’s has been around the top level for a while now.
However, many onlookers saw a new maturity in him as he took 3-55 last June in Edinburgh in the famous victory against Joe Root’s England, including a sharp caught and bowled by Jason Roy.
Off the back of that he earned a county contract at Lancashire and the man with 18 ODIs and 23 T20Is under his belt looks back on it as a great summer.
“I had to really sit down and take it all in because everything happened so quickly,” he recounts during training at Westwoods Health Club At Fettes.
“Lancashire was a great experience for me, being in that environment working with and bowling to world class players every day made me want more of county cricket and that environment.
“I feel a lot more relaxed around the Scotland group now and don’t get as nervous as I once was. I think the England game helped with the nerves too because it showed me that I could do it under that pressure.
“At one point in that one I was getting hit all around the ground, but I changed it up, bowled variations and I know feel more comfortable, after a number of years at this level, to back my decision and what I am going to bowl next.
“Going forward as we keep building we want to be a team to beat and one that people take notice of.
“We don’t want to be making up the numbers, we are there to win every game that we play: that is the way that Grant [Bradburn] left it with us and the way Toby has taken it forward.
“We are a very motivated group and we know that we are up there and can compete with the teams we will face in Oman.”
“It is exciting working as a group of spinners”
Watt is one of four frontline spinners hoping to make their mark over the next fortnight along with Michael Leask, Hamza Tahir and Chris Greaves.
“It is exciting working as a group of spinners together and it means that whoever is selected for a particular game then you are going to have to perform and that will help us all raise our levels,” he said.
“If you have quality spinners in the queue behind you waiting for their chance then it will naturally make you focus on every ball and I think the good thing is that we all offer something different and that is good for our attack going forward especially in T20.
“I really enjoy being part of this group and can’t wait for these 2019 fixtures to get underway.”
Kyle Coetzer (captain, Highlanders)
Richie Berrington (Warriors)
Matthew Cross (Warriors)
Ali Evans (Knights)
Chris Greaves (Highlanders)
Michael Leask (Highlanders)
Calum MacLeod (Warriors)
George Munsey (Knights)
Adrian Neill (Gloucestershire)
Safyaan Sharif (Highlanders)
Ruaidhri Smith (Glamorgan)
Hamza Tahir (Warriors)
Craig Wallace (Highlanders)
Mark Watt (Knights)
Thanks to Donald MacLeod/Cricket Scotland for the photos
Westwoods Health Club is an award-winning club situated within the picturesque grounds of Fettes College, one of Scotland’s leading independent schools. Established in 2002, we have gone from strength to strength, adapting to the ever-changing world of exercise, health and wellbeing. Our club offers an extensive and dynamic range of services, each staffed by our friendly, motivating and upbeat team.
Our philosophy is simple: To ensure that all members experience an unrivalled level of customer care and satisfaction. The team at Westwoods offer expert professional advice, to ensure members make the most of their superb facilities on offer.
As a private health and fitness club our facilities include a 25-metre competition swimming pool, sauna/steam room, state-of-art fitness suite, crèche, multi-purpose sports hall aerobics studio, physiotherapy, beauty therapy, café, outdoor tennis court and the all essential FREE secure parking for the duration of your visit.
Westwoods is much more than just a place to exercise. It’s a place for you to socialise and relax with your friends and family.