CSL East and West previews - 20 June
BEFORE a ball had been bowled in this chilly 2015 season, they set their sights on finishing in the top three and Kelburne and East Kilbride are on course to meet their ambitious targets.
Sitting in joint second place, the pair have comfortably held their own against more fancied sides, Kelburne in their first season in the top flight, East Kilbride having been promoted a year earlier.
Today one of them will emerge from their Whitehaugh clash as the principle challengers to leaders Clydesdale and it is the hosts who hold the psychological advantage following a Scottish Cup win against their rivals earlier in the month.
However, Qasim Sheikh, the Kelburne captain, will take nothing for granted and warned: “I am very aware of the challenge presented by EK and so are the lads. They have more than enough talent in their side to turn over anyone in this league on their day.
“But our lads are in good spirits and we are confident going into the game.
“I believe we can repeat the Scottish Cup victory but at the same time expect it to be a very tough game and we will need to play our best cricket.”
There were equally bullish noises from Sheikh’s EK counterpart Josh Johnston who declared: “Every game is a big one for us at the moment and we are loving it.
“I'm confident we can win as we have almost a totally different team from last time.
“If we take our chances with the ball then we will win.”
Kelburne have two enforced changes with talented youngster Jak O’Connell on holiday and Matt McMillan injured.
However, Sheikh has faith in replacements Alex Glimore and Ryan Morrow who have been starring for the second eleven in recent weeks.
East Kilbride are without former Saltires star Ross Lyons through injury but Harmanjit Singh returns to bolster the top order while Johnston is looking to Moneeb Iqbal to repeat the bowling heroics which saw him claim six wickets in the last week’s win over Ferguslie.
Elswehere, top entertains bottom at Titwood where Clydesdale will be on their guard against a Renfrew side seeking their first win.
The leaders are without Richie Berrington who is on duty with Scotland but player-coach Con de Lange, statistically the leading bowler in the Union this season, has returned from the T20 series in Ireland to take part in the match.
Renfrew skipper Sai Majeed will be looking for his home-based stars to provide more support to professional Ahmad Said who scored almost half his side’s runs in last week’s defeat to West of Scotland.
West themselves are aiming to build on that first success when they welcome Dumfries to Hamilton Crescent.
That, though, will be no easy task against a Nunholm outfit who are beginning to show glimpses of the form that carried them to the title three seasons ago.
Ferguslie have named an unchanged team for the visit to Langloan as they bid to bounce back from last week’s defeat to East Kilbride against a Drumpellier side who are also on the rebound from defeat after going down to Dumfries.
It is a similar story at Bothwell Castle where the 2013 champions Uddingston entertain Ayr, the team who claimed their title last season.
Bryan Clarke, the home captain, has admitted that his side have under-performed and is looking for the vital spark to kick-start their season.
CSL Eastern Premiership
Falkland are hoping to use their triumph in the Scottish zonal final of the British Village Cup as a springboard to an Eastern Premiership recovery.
The Fifers were on the wrong end of a fearful hammering at the hands of Carlton a week ago, however they salvaged a pile of pride by staving off the challenge of Meigle to enter the nationwide stage of the competition, famously won by neighbours Freuchie at Lord’s in 1985.
But in the meantime, all their focus is on today’s tussle with tabletoppers Grange at Raeburn Place.
Spokesman Ryan Hepburn admitted: “There is no getting away from the fact that last Saturday was a real low point for the club.
“It was a great boost for the guys to come back so strongly 24 hours later - a pattern which, I suppose, has summed up our season.
“It has been a real roller-coaster ride over the past few weeks and we know we need to apply ourselves to putting big runs on the board.”
Falkland’s daunting quest in Edinburgh will not be made any easier by the absence of skipper Safyaan Sharif, who is on duty with the Scotland T20 squad in Ireland.
Arbroath should continue their revival at the expense of Stoneywood-Dyce at Lochlands - with Elton Willemse sure to relish the challenge of facing his old team.
Forfarshire ought to kick-start their campaign with success in the capital against RH Corstorphine, who have still to get off the mark in their first season after promotion.
Carlton, slayers of Falkland, are unlikely to be stretched in the derby encounter with Watsonians at Myreside.
And Heriot’s will be banking on home advantage to count when they square up to faltering champions Aberdeenshire.
There is no doubt about the identity of the match of the day in the Championship as unbeaten leaders Glenrothes host second-placed Carlton seconds.
Glens are aiming for their third 10-wicket triumph on the trot.
Meanwhile, having come up just short at Clydesdale a week ago, Ayr know they can ill-afford another defeat if they are to have any chance of a successful title defence.