Jon Coates, The Scotsman
Majid Haq, Scotland's leading all-rounder, proved at the World Cup that the planet's fastest bowlers didn't scare him, and yesterday he proved he is not the type to pull out of attacks on authority either.
The 24-year-old from Paisley issued a strong criticism of Cricket Scotland's employment of overseas players on the eve of tomorrow's Friends Provident Trophy against Yorkshire, who will travel to Edinburgh today with a squad full of them.
Scotland's cricket community rarely agrees on anything, but this pre-season has been unusually discordant, with few acquiescing to the logic of the governing body travelling to the Central Lancashire League to woo a second high-calibre batsman, Arno Jacobs, to join George Bailey in a southern-hemisphere-heavy middle order.
Their dual presence means Omer Hussain, an enticing prospect and Haq's younger cousin, must continue to wait in the wings, despite having struck a half-century on his only county appearance to date.
A Saltires side with Bailey and Jacobs is better equipped to repel what could be a coruscating ensemble of Jason Gillespie, Darren Gough, Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan in the Yorkshire attack. But the general gripe is with the way CS refused to countenance settling for one hired hand when it became known its blueprint for a second, a Scottish-based all-rounder, was nowhere to be found.
The selectors have begun to look forward by including Hussain and Gregor Maiden in the 13 for the opening three games, but when these nine matches are out there will be precious few opportunities to face classy, professional bowling attacks ahead of September's Twenty20 World Championships and the daunting one-day international tour of South Africa next March.
Haq is envious of the approach of Ireland, who shelled out big money last summer for Shahid Afridi and Saqlain Mushtaq, with very little return. This year, after missing out on South African Vernon Philander, they decided their indigenous World Cup side was laden with more than enough experience.
"Before this winter, we would have been looking just to compete against counties, but now we have a bit of confidence from doing reasonably well against Australia and South Africa, and we'll be a lot more positive in these games than in the past," said Haq.
"I think we should be looking to bring in more young players. With the World Cup and other tournaments behind us, I think one overseas player is enough but two is too many. I can see where they are coming from - the counties all have two overseas players, as well as Kolpak signings - but Ireland did well at the World Cup and they've had the confidence to go into their match against Kent without a single overseas player.
"We should be following their lead and giving young guys a chance. Omer and Gregor are probably the most talented batsmen in this country, and can take apart any attack on their day. They should be getting used to facing decent bowling."
Gough will bring north his fair share of batting, too. Nothing has yet contradicted the new captain's expectation that Michael Vaughan will join Craig White, Pakistan's Younis Khan and Kolpak-signing Jacques Rudolph in the team for tomorrow's opener. It is a date that will have loomed long and large for Ryan Watson, who inherits Craig Wright's Scotland captaincy.
"We are beginning to find our feet at county level and we know what we have to do to win games now," said Watson.
Haq was a revelation over the winter, even if he flattered to deceive in the Caribbean. An opening role was unexpectedly thrust upon the off-spinner and he will now bat at the top for Ferguslie. Nothing, though, could be considered a baptism of fire for a man whose bowling put the Saltires on the map four years ago, when he destroyed Durham at the Riverside. "The standard in county cricket is really high - you only have to look at how many international players are in the Yorkshire team," he said.
Yesterday, those players skittled Durham for 169 to win by nine wickets at Headingley.
Although Dougie Brown made a century for Warwickshire's 2nd XI, the only Scot involved in the county championship proper was 18-year-old Calum MacLeod, who fielded as 12th man for Warwickshire.
Scottish Saltires (v Yorkshire, Citylets Grange, 10.45am tomorrow), probable: F Watts, M Haq, R Watson (c), G Bailey, A Jacobs, N McCallum, C Smith, J Blain, C Wright, G Rogers, D Nel.