Grand Final review
MITCHELL Rao helped to propel Prestwick to CSL Grand Final glory - then outlined his quest to command a regular place in the Scotland set up.
The 20 year old had already played a big part in the Ayrshire club’s re-emergence as a force in cricket north of the border.
And they officially earned the tag as the country’s best team by pulling off the most unlikely victory over Eastern Premiership winners Heriot’s in what he described as “a crazy match” at Paisley.
Off-break bowler Rao said: “It has been an absolutely fantastic season for us.
“I’m so pleased for everyone in the team and all the supporters.
“They’ve been with us all season and that really helps.”
There was doom and gloom in the Prestwick changing room after that had been shot out for only 97 by the Goldenacre brigade.
But they turned the tide in spectacular fashion to claim a tense five-run win.
Rao went on: “It was just a crazy game.
“It certainly didn’t go as we planned, but I learned early in my career that things don’t always go to plan in big matches.
“It was tremendous the way we adapted to the situation and fought all the way.”
“The bowlers came out all fired up, believing that if we managed to capture a few early wickets then we would have a chance.
“We had been through several close encounters during the Western Premiership campaign and I think we learned as a team to deal with nail biting situations.
“We are a very hard working squad and I believe we have been rewarded for that.
“We are a very close group and I think that played a part in us getting over the line in these close encounters.”
Rao paid tribute to the influence of coach Andy Tennant, formerly a prominent part of the Scotland backroom set-up.
He enthused: “Andy is a great role model to me as a former spin bowler himself.
“He's helped me for many years now.
“He's a very knowledgable guy, experienced and a very calm head to have around and I have definitely benefitted from his coaching.
“Not only has he had a big impact not only on my game, but he has brought a professional attitude to the way we train and the way we prepare for games.
“Personally it's been a great year.
“I love representing Prestwick and am delighted I've been able to contribute to winning the title.
“I've been working so hard on my game since the U19 World Cup last year.
“I’m determined as ever to keep improving and earn further representative honours.”
Heriot’s skipper Keith Morton admitted: “It was never going to be an easy chase.
“The wicket was tricky and they had some good spin options. Our decision making against them could have been better.
“However, this doesn't take away the fact that we've had an excellent season.
“Our goal in April was top compete in the upper echelons of our league.
“We've won that and sadly Saturday wasn't meant to be.
“Everyone at our club should be proud of their achievements.”
Rao’s spin partner Sachin Chaudhury was the destroyer in chief, snapping up four Heriot’s scalps for only 20.
But it was Rao who made the most crucial first breakthrough, trapping star batsman Hayes van der Berg lbw for 21.
Morton threatened to carry the Edinburgh outfit over the line, but after he perished, also for 21, the stage was left clear for Prestwick to finish the job.
Meanwhile, on a big weekend for the slow-bowling fraternity, Majid Haq inspired RH Corstorphine to promotion to the Eastern Premiership as they demolished Stoneywood-Dyce.
Scotland’s most-capped player grabbed six for 13 at Falkland to send the Aberdonians hurtling to 28 all out.
And after completing the eight-wicket success, Haq declared: “It was tremendous to finish off the season in such a manner.
“We achieved the club’s ambition and there is definitely a lot more to come from this group of guys.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my cricket this year with a fantastic bunch of genuine lads on and off the field.”