CSL East and West Previews
Forfarshire all-rounder Aman Bailwal is looking forward to seeing his skipper, Craig Wallace, maintain his remarkable run of form with the bat when the Broughty Ferry brigade take on Stoneywood-Dyce today.
Wicketkeeper Wallace has boosted his prospects of a Scotland recall with his string of superb knocks, which has featured three centuries - including one in the midweek Pro-Series opener.
And Baliwal admitted it is a thrill to be playing alongside him.
He said: “It has been great to see Craig in such tremendous nick, not just for the club, but also for the Highlanders.
“If he carries on like that he will win Eastern Premiership matches for us and hopefully put him back into national squad contention.”
Baleful and Co feel they should have taken the scalp of champions Aberdeenshire at Mannofield last weekend - and they will be doubly-determined to make no mistakes when they welcome the other Granite City outfit.
He added: “Like ourselves, Stoneywood have won once and lost once, so it will be crucial encounter.”
Forfarshire will be without groin-strain victim Michael Leask, who had been looking forward to taking on his former club.
Falkland’s confidence was boosted by their success over Watsonians at Myreside - and they will be brimming with self-belief when they go into battle with former champions Arbroath.
The Angus troops have made a stumbling start to their campaign, losing both outings.
And if they stutter again at Scroggie Park, there will be mounting doubts about their ability to compete for honours without overseas assistance.
Aberdeenshire should make it three on the trot at the expense of Sonians in the capital.
And there will be little to choose between the sides when leaders Carlton tackle Heriot’s at Goldenacre.
Also in Edinburgh, Grange will be hot favourites to account for RH Corstorphine on home turf.
KELBURNE and their captain Qasim Sheikh have been absent from the higher echelons of club cricket for too long.
Since the formation of the old National League format in 1998 the Paisley club have never performed in the top flight while not since leaving Clydesdale five years ago has Sheikh graced the domestic game’s showpiece stage.
However, last week they made their return to the CS Western Union premier division and did so in some style with a comfortable win against Renfrew, the team that finished third last season.
Sheikh, the former Scotland batsman, believes those who wrote Kelburne off as no-hopers may already be preparing to munch on a slice of humble pie.
“We saw a prediction in one of the papers that we would finish eighth,” noted the 30 year-old who has not given up hope of resurrecting an international career that many believe was brought to an end far too soon.
“That really fired the boys up and we’ve decided to use it to motivate us throughout the season.
“We know it’s a big jump from where we were last year but we have a lot of experienced guys in the team who can help the younger lads make the step up.
“I’m not interested in being in the Premier division to make up the numbers or talking about surviving in the top flight.
“We should be aiming to win the title and if we can’t do that we should certainly have our sights on the top three.
“I’d regard anything less than that as not being a successful season.”
It is bullish talk from the man who boasts three first-class centuries – two of them for Scotland and one during a season in Pakistan’s highly competitive domestic structure.
He last played for his country five years ago before falling foul of officialdom for publicly criticising former national coach Pete Steindl.
However, with a busy summer of representative cricket ahead and new Scotland coach Grant Bradburn likely to adopt a horses-for-courses selection policy over the three formats of the game, Sheikh may yet have a part to play.
“To be honest I’m not thinking about Scotland and deep down I don’t really expect to get a recall.
“But, there is no doubt that playing in the Western Union premier division gives all of the guys a higher profile.
“We’ve already seen (opening bowler) Ross McLean given a call-up to the Reivers squad and I expect a couple of our other guys could catch the eye of the selectors.
“From my own point of view my best plan is just to score as many runs as I can for Kelburne and see what happens.”
Kelburne make their home debut in the top flight when they face Dumfries at Whitehaugh this afternoon.
The Nunholm men also made a winning start and are boosted by the return of former Scotland U19 pace bowler Niall Alexander while the Paisley side are unchanged.
Champions Ayr, having beaten East Kilbride a week ago, are aiming to make it two-in-a-row when they host Renfrew though they are again without overseas amateur Heynrych Nel who is yet to arrive in the country.
Clydesdale are still without the suspended Majid Haq for the visit of Drumpellier while youngster Zain Ashraf replaces Kasim Farid who is unavailable.
Both teams were victorious last week and Clydesdale manager Colin Mitchell said: “The most pleasing thing is that we won pretty convincingly against Ferguslie without playing at our best.
“Zain has earned his place in the team and will bring some much-needed energy in the field.”
Mitchell is also looking forward to seeing how new signing Abdul Sabri performs against his old Drumpellier team-mates but is wary of the Lanarkshire side’s overseas duo Sudesh Fernando and Louis Venter.
Elsewhere, East Kilbride and West of Scotland are bidding for a first win when they clash at Torrance House as are Uddingston and Ferguslie who meet at Bothwell Castle.