By STEVE SPINKS
FORMER local cricketer Andrew Watts was not expecting a call-up to the Australian cricket team.
This is despite being in mighty form for Scottish first division club Breadalbane in the Strathmore and Perthshire Cricket Union.
Recently the right-arm fast bowler took 8-8 off 10 overs including five maidens against club side Coupar Angus.
It earned the former Wardell junior Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine's Club Cricketer of the Month award.
"The award is a UK-wide run award for club cricketers, excluding professionals, run by the Wisden Cricketer magazine," Watts said.
"It was the first time the award has been won outside England and it was awarded for my bowling figures."
As a result, Watts won a bottle of Cockspur Rum, an award certificate and a Woodworm bat, which is the brand of bat used by English stars Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pieterson.
After playing junior cricket with Wardell, the fast bowler played in the FNC LJ Hooker League with Tintenbar-East Ballina and Southern Districts.
He decided to travel and cricket was put on the back-burner as he and his partner Heidi McKay ? who had played plenty of junior cricket on the Far North Coast ? headed overseas.
It wasn't until the Breadalbane captain, Brian Stone, noticed Watts' Aussie accent at the Green Park Hotel in Pitlochry and asked him if he would be interested in a game that Watts thought about cricket again.
"I was approached in a bar where I was working at the time as a manager," Watts said.
"He (Stone) had heard my accent and asked if I played, and it went from there."
Apparently it took Stone months of drinking at the Green Hotel to finally get Watts to agree.
It was worth the hangovers.
"I've had a pretty good season," Watts said modestly.
"I've taken 45 wickets this year at an average of 6.8.
"I'm also averaging 30 with the bat.
"Although the standard and competitiveness (of the Scottish league) would not reach that of our competition back home, there are still plenty of factors which make the game tough over here."
Scottish wickets are never covered, so given the fact that the Scottish climate and weather is usually damp, playing cricket can be difficult.
Watts also had a nasty surprise in his first match of the season.
"It was played at the beginning of summer and the temperature was three degrees," the 26-year-old said.
"There was a stoppage for sleet and snow, which was an eye opener."
There's not too many stoppages for snow in cricket matches down Wardell way.
Despite the cool weather, Scottish cricket is well supported, with each club having at least one professional.
Breadalbane's professional coach is Andrew Lawson, who played first-class cricket in South Africa. The Breadies were established in 1868.
But the money plowed into the seniors usually means there's no junior cricket at all.
The Australian selectors were told they needed to pick a pace attack for the Fifth Ashes Test that was suited to English conditions.
It was never going to happen, but Watts' 8-8 shows he doesn't mind bowling in the challenging weather.