March 12, 2016. Four days into the 2016 T20 World Cup and Scotland were already playing their final game of the tournament against Hong Kong. Having restricted their Asian counterparts to 127 in 20 overs and with rain adjusting the target to 76 off 10 overs, the sides had everything to play for in the dead-rubber clash.
With Scotland needing 20 off 23, Matt Machan came in at four. First up, he swatted Aizaz Khan over mid-on, winked at skipper Kyle Coetzer and made his intentions clear. He was in a no-nonsense mood as he knew where the result was headed. With Scotland just four shy of victory, Machan clobbered Nadeem Ahmed over mid-wicket for a six.
It wasn’t just any another six in T20 cricket but a historic one. It helped Scotland bring up victory sooner than expected. It was their first win at an ICC global event in 21 attempts and 17 years after their first one. Earlier in the innings, the journeyman off-spinner in Machan was unleashed and he challenged Hong Kong’s luck by dismissing their batting mainstays Nizakat Khan and Anshuman Rath.
Machan was awarded the Man of the Match but little did he know that it would be his last appearance for Scotland.
An Interview With Matt Machan
Those who have seen him play for Sussex will say he’s not your archetypal nurdler but a Test maverick with a good hitting prowess. Hitting the ball with immense power, crunching cover drives, punches and hooks were a common sight when on song. If you ask him, he likes to be an attacking cricketer, “a bit of live or die by your own sword”.
The Brighton-born batsman started out playing for Brighton and Hove Cricket Club aged just seven and rose through the ranks playing age group cricket for Sussex which culminated in a County Championship debut and provided a glimpse of the batting prodigy that was only about to get bigger after striking 71 versus Nottinghamshire. Apart from his WT20 Man of the Match moment, he lists his first First-Class hundred versus Somerset in 2013 as one of his most treasured memories. The ton marked his coming of age as he furthered his credentials after enjoying a stellar run in Sussex’s Yorkshire Bank40 team averaging a staggering 64.25.
After being rewarded with Sussex’s Young Player of the Year, a quiet season followed in 2014. With Sussex being relegated to Division Two, he notched his career-best knock of 135 against Worcestershire and batted against adversities. His batting aggression helped him find form and success in limited overs and pretty much helped him shape well for challenges on the International circuit.
“ Age group cricket is great exposure wherever you play. I feel that I was challenged at a young age by my coaches and that helped me progress “.
Just when he was starting to find his feet in the County circuit in 2013, Scotland came calling. Having qualified to play for Scotland by the virtue of having a Scottish mother, his T20I debut versus Afghanistan in the UAE yielded three wickets and a cautious knock of 42* in a losing cause. Four ODIs later, he had announced himself with a match-winning ton against Kenya. Soon he found himself battering bowlers Down Under as he struck an aggressive 83 off 86 against New Zealand XI prior to the 2015 World Cup. He found a likening to the Kiwis as he churned out a laborious knock off 56 against them at Nelson in a close encounter at the showpiece event.
Having played a significant role in the WC Qualifiers 2014, the World Cup was a massive learning curve for a number of Scottish players let alone Machan. “I felt that we were at the start of a journey during that World Cup and looking at the side now, it is evident. Playing against top international players showed us that we weren’t far away from their standard and that’s shown now with a tad more experience. “
World Cup Disappointment
The fact that Scotland missed out on a World Cup berth by the skin of their teeth hurts Machan but he remains positive about how cricket has improved in the country and is happy with the transformation of the team that is now beating Full Members. “They’ve come on leaps and bounds and I am so proud to be watching that knowing I have played a part in shifting the culture four-five years ago with senior members. Long may it continue.”
Machan believes that there’s a lot to be done by the ICC to improve the standards of the sport and cites financial shortcomings along with lack of opportunities for the Associates to push for a case to be included at the World Cup. “ It’s down to the financial situation of the game. If the ICC were brave enough to throw more money at Associate cricket there would be a massive rise. It’s down to limited games and experience which is purely down to money. “
With the WT20 2016 being his last tournament, an untimely wrist injury cut short his career at an age where he was at his prime. He still yearns for those days when he could bat all day at Sussex or win a game for Scotland.
“I miss the sport a lot. What has happened has happened. I can’t control that at all. It’s not my fault nor anyone else’s and yes, it is frustrating. I have moved on and I am so proud to watch Scotland and Sussex play. Those two teams will always be a part of me but I have moved on and I have got my own goals to try and achieve in the coaching world now. “
While life after retirement hasn’t been easy, he finds solace in coaching the future generations of Cooks, Roots and Andersons. Having started his own coaching venture Precise Cricket Coaching, he hopes to coach teams around the world in the near future.
“ I focus on all age groups. I started my own company as I have quite an entrepreneurial mind set. It is initially designed to help me learn and focus on my own coaching style and learn my coaching game inside out before I try and tackle bigger coaching projects at an elite level. “
Recently, he joined his former Scottish teammate and all-rounder Rob Taylor as one of the coaches of Loughborough Lightning in the Kia Super League, the English T20 domestic tournament for women and had a successful stint after the team finished off on a high as runner-ups.
Just like his playing opportunities with Sussex and Scotland held him in good stead, he hopes to further his credentials in the coaching arena by giving back what he learnt from a young age under sunny spells at the Brighton and Hove CC.