CSL East and West Review - 17 August
Arbroath skipper Marc Petrie hailed the performance of Elton Willemse after he demolished Angus rivals Forfarshire to keep the club on course to regain the Eastern Premiership champions mantle.
With second-placed Grange also enjoying a clinical victory over holders Aberdeenshire, the stage is set for an intriguing final chapter of the campaign on Saturday.
If Arbroath slip up against an improving Watsonians outfit at Myreside, it would allow Grange to earn the glory - as long as the fend off the challenge of neighbours Heriot’s at Raeburn Place.
Willemse, who has had a solid first season at Lochlands since switching from Stoneywood-Dyce, snapped up seven cheap wickets to slap down the Broughty Ferry brigade.
And an admiring Petrie declared: “Elton has been consistent with the ball all summer, chipping in with two or three wickets on a regular basis - on this occasion he was outstanding.
“To bowl a 13 over spell the way he did was a fantastic effort.
“Every delivery was asking questions of the batsmen, forcing them into false shots - and he was backed up brilliantly by the fielders.
“There were some special catches taken in what was our best fielding display of the season.
“In the first innings we did well to reach 199 on a very difficult wicket after losing the toss.
“Calvin Burnett batting excellently for an important unbeaten half century, supported well by Elton and Blair Carnegie.
“The team spirit and togetherness we have at the moment gets us through some difficult times in matches, and as a captain, it's delightful to see and to be a part of.
“We must now continue in the same vein next weekend, both against Watsonians and in the Scottish Cup Final at Stirling against Grange.”
Forfarshire’s Michael Leask and ex-Arbroath man Matty Parker had built strong foundations for required 200 with an impressive half-century partnership.
But when the scalps of Leask, Graeme Beghin and Rory Johnston were claimed in quick succession by Willemse, the contest was well and truly swinging in the home side’s direction.
They gained more momentum as the lethal Willemse removed Parker with the total on 99.
There was no way back for Shire and they limped to 137 all out.
Earlier, Scott Cameron had made an early breakthrough for the visitors as he uprooted the leg stump of Jack Waller.
Beghin was next to strike, prompting Brendon Ford to lob a drive into the hands of Liam Sweeney at mid off with the tally on 20 in the eighth over.
Arbroath’s jitters continued when Scott removed dangerman Fraser Burnett, who was trapped in front nine runs later.
The next home setback came as Harris Carnegie edged Andrew Wallace to Leask as slip.
Willemse and Calvin Burnett steadied the ship for Arbroath with a stand of 46 before the latter was run out for 45.
He was left stranded when a brilliant pick up and throw by Umair Mohammed flew straight into the gloves of Craig Wallace above the bails.
And even worse was to come for the hosts with Petrie perishing immediately afterwards with Leask pouching a simple return catch.
The younger of the Burnetts kept up the battle after the departure of Willemse (45), bringing up his half century with a huge six on his way to a fine unbeaten 62.
Meanwhile at Raeburn Place, Grange made light work of reaching their target of 188 - thanks mainly to a top-notch century by Ryan Flannigan.
Ewan Chalmers smashed 131 not out to inspire Sonians to a remarkable 245-run victory over Stoneywood-Dyce at Myreside.
There were also comfortable wins for Carlton at the expense of Falkland and Heriot’s over RH Corstorphine.
ARITHMETICALLY Clydesdale are not quite Western Union champions yet but there is no doubt that the title is heading to Titwood.
Detailed calculations show that Majid Haq’s side still require 0.66666 of a point to ensure they cannot be caught.
In other words Clydesdale would have to lose heavily to both Renfrew and Dumfries in their remaining two matches while failing to garner a single point.
A further part of the equation would require East Kilbride to take maximum points from their last two games.
Yet, if rain, a fairly persistent opponent to this cricket season, should return Clydesdale could be champions without bowling a further ball in anger.
There was therefore qualified celebration at Cambusdoon on Saturday evening after Clydesdale saw off the challenge of Ayr, fittingly enough the side whose crown they will take.
After a relatively routine five-wicket win, Clydesdale manager Colin Mitchell declared: “There was a bit of confusion on Saturday evening but we got confirmation from the WDCU that we still need a point to be champions.
“By my reckoning that means we just need to take one wicket in our remaining two games so we’ve got to be pretty confident but we acknowledge that we will only be champions when no-one can catch us.”
Clydesdale produced a typically no-nonsense display to take that tantalising step closer.
Ayr had moved smoothly to 50-2 before Basit Ali struck to remove the dangerous Lenert van Wyk.
The South African’s departure proved crucial as Clydesdale suddenly took a grip on proceedings with Haq going through Ayr’s lower order to claim 4-15 as the hosts fell away to 107 all out.
Haq made 46 in Dale’s reply but his departure left the champions-elect teetering on 74-5 and in need of a steadying partnership.
It was provided by Paddy Barbour and Sam Page who calmly saw their team over the winning line.
Mitchell added: “That game was in many ways a microcosm of our season and the most pleasing thing was the Page/Barbour partnership – a couple of non-headline grabbers getting the job done.
“It really hasn’t been all about our big-name players - though they have contributed. It has been about the team effort though we will talk a bit more about that once we’ve got that vital one point more!”
Elsewhere, East Kilbride replaced Ferguslie as the only side with that improbable chance of denying Clydesdale, Josh Johnston’s side beating the Paisley men by three wickets at Torrance House.
Batting first, Ferguslie were indebted to skipper Gregor Preston-Jones for giving them a fighting chance.
Preston-Jones’ battling 50 and 37 from Taimoor Ahmed hoisted the tally to 180, a total which might have been enough but for Moneeb Iqbal’s controlled unbeaten 71 which included seven boundaries and two maximums.
Kelburne bounced back from their defeat at Clydesdale seven days earlier to beat the 2013 champions Uddingston at Whitehaugh.
Qasim Sheikh’s half-century saw the Paisley side reach 192-8 before Scott Hamilton and Dougie Wylie shared six wickets to help dismiss Uddingston for 170.
Renfrew produced their best batting display of the season to secure their first win of the campaign and leapfrog victims West of Scotland.
Laxman Popli’s 88 had propelled West to 227-8 before Renfrew fought back to win by six wickets. However, relegation still looms for both teams.
It was also high-scoring fare at Nunholm where Josh Forsyth and Scott Beveridge scored half-centuries as Dumfries rattled-up 261-7 against Drumpellier who fell just nine runs short.