In this week’s Eastern Premier Division preview Gary Heatly looks ahead to Saturday’s matches…
When ion8 Forfarshire won the Eastern Premier Division crown back in the late summer of 2019, they could not have imagined that the defence of their title would not start until May 21, 2021.
However, that is what happened and, although a lot of things have changed cricket-wise and in the world in general since then, one thing that has stayed the same is Forfarshire’s ability to win league games.
In week one they saw off Arbroath by seven wickets at home at Forthill and backed that up with a four wicket away triumph at Stoneywood Dyce in week two.
From the team that won the division two years ago a number of familiar names such as Chris Greaves, Umair Mohammed, Brock Ditchmen and Bryce Allchinn are no longer featuring, but Forfarshire have a core of exciting, young talent who were involved in that team and who want to continue to take the club forward.
One of those is talented batter Rory Johnston and he is looking forward to hosting Meigle on Saturday.
“The team we have now is slightly different to the one that won the league in 2019, but a lot of us have come together through the ranks at the club and although we are still quite young we have played quite a bit of senior cricket,” Johnston, who is studying sports science at the University of Edinburgh, said.
“There are also other guys who have progressed since 2019 and are pushing for regular first team spots this season, so that competition for places is really good and keeps us all on our toes.
“We have made a good start to the summer in the first two league games and we are looking forward to taking on a Meigle side who we certainly won’t be taking lightly.
“They are new to the league, but they beat Arbroath last time out and will have taken confidence from that.”
Having had time out with a shoulder injury in late 2019 and early 2020, Johnston played for Watsonians in some friendlies last summer to get back into the swing of things and 2021 has been busy already.
As well as turning out for Forfarshire in various competitions since May, he represented the Scottish Universities against the Performance Academy last week.
And on Sunday he is likely to be playing for the Performance Academy against the Western Warriors in Ayr as the Cricket Scotland Men’s Regional Pro Series gets underway.
“It is really good to have the Performance Academy joining the Warriors, Knights and Highlanders in the Pro Series and it will expose us to some top quality matches,” he explained.
“We are a young team obviously, but there are some exciting players in our squad and it says something about the talent coming through at the minute that I feel old in my early 20s!”
For Saturday’s league match in Broughty Ferry, Forfarshire have their Scotland duo Michael Leask and Craig Wallace – the latter having hit 140 not out in a T20 match in midweek against Falkland – back along with Graeme Black.
Charles Clark’s Meigle are set to be unchanged.
Along with Forfarshire, Gen!us Grange are the other unbeaten team in the division and they host winless Stewart’s Melville at Portgower Place this week.
Scotland all-rounder Dylan Budge returns while Gordon Goudie, Ryan Flannigan and Ben Davidson come into the Grange side. Out have gone Matt Angelini, Tom Mackintosh, Stuart Davidson and Haris Ali.
Ben Wilkinson is missing for Stew Mel, but Andy Appleton will play against his former side and they have high hopes for young bowler Jo Newman.
Heriot’s are third in the fledgling table and they have named a strong XI to host Carlton at Goldenacre.
Scotland quartet Mark Watt, Matthew Cross, Adrian Neill and Gavin Main come into the team as do Keith Morton and Michael Shean.
Ali Evans, the Scotland seamer, should be back to lead Carlton in this one after a good week for the club which has included league and Masterton T20 Trophy wins over Watsonians.
Talking of Watsonians and they have batter Mike Carson back for the trip to RH Corstorphine.
Scotland batter George Munsey is set to make his league debut for the hosts at Barnton, Nick Murray, Johnnie Brydon and Arnie Sathiy also likely to feature in Caleb Whitefoord’s XI.
Winless Arbroath have named an unchanged team as they await the visit of Stoneywood Dyce to Lochlands.
Stoneywood Dyce travel having defeated Aberdeen Grammar in the Caledonia T20 Cup on Thursday evening.
Rory Johnston is pictured batting by Ian Potts
The Cricket Scotland Podcast will include a round-up of the men’s and women’s league action from across the country every Tuesday, with player interviews from our featured games. Follow @ScotlandPod on Twitter for all the latest information.