Cricket returns to the Western Union
Cricket in the west returns tomorrow following the Commonwealth Games-enforced two-week break and Ayr will attempt to pick up where they left off on what looks like an inexorable march towards Western Union glory.
The Alloway side completed the first segment of the season unbeaten and with a tied finish against Renfrew as the only blemish on their record.
Now, with just four games remaining, they are almost within touching distance of the title.
However, such tantalising thoughts are forbidden around Cambusdoon as Andi McElnea, the captain, keeps his side fully focused on the job in hand.
“We have to concentrate on maintaining our standards and continue to play good cricket as we did before the break,” said McElnea.
Ayr have a new face on board for today’s visit of East Kilbride, the Leeward Islands all-rounder Steve Liburd having arrived as replacement professional for Sikander Raza, the Zimbabwe Test player who departed on international duty before the break.
The new man has big boots to fill since Raza was not only Ayr’s top run scorer with 428 but also their leading wicket-taker, having dismissed seventeen opposition batsmen.
Liburd, a hard-hitting batsman who boasts a highest first-class score of 116, also bowls off-spin which will change the balance of the Alloway team’s attack after Raza’s pace.
Ayr’s closest rivals are still Renfrew and, while they have not given up the chase, captain Sai Majeed admits his team are running out of time.
“It is a long shot now and we can only focus on winning our last four games to keep the pressure on Ayr while hoping they slip up.
“Our last game before the break was against Ayr and was not completed due to the weather. That was one we really needed to win but we will keep going and try to end the season on a positive note.”
Majeed expects a tough encounter from today’s visitors West of Scotland who are showing signs of improvement following a difficult season.
West still prop up the table but won their last match against Dumfries and player-coach John Blain declared: “We enjoyed some consistent individual performances before the break which in turn brought about better team results.
“Hopefully the guys who found form can continue where they left off.”
Adil Hussain returns for Renfrew after recovering from a back injury while West welcome back Ian Young to keep wicket and bat in the top order but Jon Newell and Stewart Leggat are unavailable.
For once the Lanarkshire derby has been relegated from top billing but the action will be as competitive as ever when Uddingston entertain Drumpellier at Bothwell Castle.
Third placed Clydesdale may only have the slightest chance of overhauling the top two while Dumfries are comfortable in mid-table but both sides will attempt to take maximum points from their Nunholm encounter before turning their attentions to tomorrow’s Murgitroyd T20 Cup finals day at Shawholm when they will meet again in the semi-finals.