After another weekend of top-class action in the Western Premier Division, the standings going into round seven of the contest underline the competitiveness of what we have seen so far. Promoted Calero Kelburne, who picked up their first win of the season at the expense of local rivals M8 Driving Ferguslie, now sit above Saturday’s opponents Tunnock’s Uddingston, and skipper Ross Maclean is confident that his side has given more than a taste of what is still to come.
“It was a great time to get our first win,” he said. “It’s been a while since we’ve beaten Ferguslie on a Saturday.
“We knew we’d been struggling, going for quite a few runs, so we thought, you know what, if anything’s going to turn our season around we need to try and go hard at them. A few things came together at last, which was fantastic for the team and a great way for us to kick-start our season.
“We have really noticed the jump up in standard,” he went on. “We knew it was coming, of course: we’ve been in the Premier league before, and we knew that we’d got to be a lot tougher to go out and beat teams regularly. As you’ll have seen, our batting hasn’t really clicked just yet – we’ve had too many guys going out and getting 30 or 40 instead of going big – and that’s made it hard to set totals or chase those totals down. So that’s one of the things we’ve been working on, trying to get our top and middle order to go a bit longer. Again, that didn’t happen on Saturday, but we’re aiming to get that working now, to get our guys batting longer.”
Adding to that step-up in quality has been the new pink ball, which has already brought about a change in approach as the balance tips more towards the batting side.
“In the Premier league everyone seems to be going out hard in the first ten, which is a complete change to what we were seeing last year, so we’re trying to bowl a bit tighter and more to the plans we are setting,” said Ross. “Maybe before you didn’t have to do that as much: the red ball gave you a bit of swing and made it a bit more of a bowler’s game, but we’re really having to think about that now.
“Even in those games where we’ve gone for 240 or 250 – Prestwick took us for 270, which was probably a bit too much – we’re playing on flat decks with a pink ball, and you’re going out to chase thinking, we’ve got a chance here. You want to restrict it as much as possible of course, but that has been a real factor, and if you look at the stats and the wickets between Division One and the Premier, there are fewer wickets being taken. The pink ball is definitely a massive factor, and it’s levelling the game out between the batters and the bowlers. It’s a real battle, and from our point of view, we’ve got a lot of swing bowlers who have previously bowled with the red ball, so they’re having to work a bit harder, myself included.”
Having broken their duck for the season, Saturday’s game at Whitehaugh provides a chance for Kelburne to consolidate their position against an Uddingston side that is still to find its feet in the league thus far.
“That’s exactly what we spoke about after last week’s game,” said Ross. “We got a massive win, but we can’t just stop there, we need to take that into Saturday now. We know we’ve got a team that can compete with most of the teams in the league, and what everyone will see at Kelburne is a team that is pulling in the same direction and knowing what it wants to achieve, which is to get better with every fixture.
“Uddy are a very strong side with lots of very good players, but, looking at the table, something isn’t clicking just yet, so it is a massive opportunity for us to build on last week’s performance and push on to where we think we can go.”
Their opponents make one change from last week, with Fergus Clarke returning to the team in place of Gavin Bradley, while at Titwood, Clydesdale make two changes to their eleven ahead of the visit of Ayr, for whom Andi McElnea plays instead of Hamza Tahir. Fourth takes on third at Nunholm, where Chris Bellwood and Thomas McBride come into the Dumfries side that will face the in-form West of Scotland: skipper Chris McCutcheon will undergo a late fitness test after picking up a hamstring injury in last week’s loss to Prestwick.
At the Henry Thow Oval, Jake Stafford returns for the league leaders in place of captain Fraser Macdonald, while Fergus Martin comes in for the visitors, SM Cricket Stirling County. Langside, who fell just short in a last-over thriller against Ayr last week, will be without Mo Afzal and Asad Khan for their trip to Meikleriggs: Ferguslie bring in Anup Vejandla and Craig Glassford in place of Gregor Preston-Jones and Hamid Mahmood.
Western Premier Division – 11 June 2022
Your Move Dumfries v McCrea FS West of Scotland (at Nunholm)
Calero Kelburne v Tunnock’s Uddingston (at Whitehaugh)
M8 Driving Ferguslie v Langside (at Meikleriggs)
Clydesdale v Ayr (at Titwood)
Prestwick v SM Cricket Stirling County (at Henry Thow Oval)
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.