CSL Grand Final Preview - Clydesdale v Grange
Clydesdale will tomorrow (Sat) attempt to become the first Western Union side to win the Grand Final when they take on Eastern Premier champions Grange in an eagerly anticipated clash at Bothwell Castle Policies.
The Titwood side have been the dominant force in the west this summer, securing the title with relative ease, but they know a bigger challenge awaits in the form of a Grange team who had to dig deep before seeing off Carlton and Arbroath, the latter on the final day of the campaign.
It is ,though, a test which Clydesdale are relishing and for which they seem prepared following a run of impressive wins in the second half of the season.
Con de Lange, a quietly influential player-coach, declared: “The team has become much more consistent this season and that is one of the factors that allowed us to win the league.
“Last year we lost too many games that we should have won but this year we have coped better with the pressure.
“That is because we have practised better and developed game skills – it is the practise and the development of these skills that allow you to deal with the pressure when it comes.
“We know there is still room for improvement and I am excited about taking the club to the next level.”
Along with skipper Majid Haq and Scotland all-rounder Richie Berrington, de Lange is one of three obvious star turns in the Dale ranks but the player-coach derives great pleasure that his team’s Union success was achieved with all three unavailable for significant spells.
De Lange added: “Our more established players didn’t always have to deliver match-winning performances and, for me, that is very important.
“We truly do have a good squad including a group of teenagers who have contributed to the first team and then benefited when they have returned to age-group cricket.
“It’s massively satisfying for me to see the development within the squad but it isn’t all about the players or the coach – there are people putting in a power of work throughout the club to bring success.
“Our Chairman of Cricket Colin Mitchell is a perfect example as he puts in so much effort both on the playing side and elsewhere in the club.”
De Lange is well aware that their place in history as the first Union side to prevail in the end-of-season showpiece will have to be earned.
“Grange is a tough one for us and I expect a helluva battle with them,” he said.
“They are an exciting young side and obviously have a winning mentality to come out top in a very competitive league.
“But we have developed our own winning brand of cricket and we are determined to do the west proud.”
Meanwhile Grange player-coach John Blain is one of several key performers missing from the Eastern Premier side’s line-up.
Blain has work commitments at Loretto School while fellow new-ball bowler Raj Routray is injured and George Munsey is on trial with Northants.
However, Grange have the strength in depth that allows them to field a formidable line-up and Blain believes his men can overcome the loss of a significant trio.
First, though, they must put behind them the disappointment of their Scottish Cup final defeat to Arbroath a fortnight ago.
He said: “I think the guys put so much effort into winning the league that we simply ran out of steam a bit in the cup final.
“Even when I first joined the club at the start of the year it was stressed that winning the league was the priority.
“But the Grand Final brings another challenge and it was one we relish to represent our league and hopefully win another trophy.”
It is not all doom and gloom for the Stockbridge troops since they are able to welcome back skipper Andrew Brock who missed the cup final through injury while the Sole brothers, Chris and Tom, are also likely to be fit.
When you factor in three former Scotland caps in Neil McCallum, Ryan Flannigan and Gordon Goudie, it is immediately apparent that Grange have plenty of potential match-winners in their ranks.
Blain added: “I’m really disappointed not to be involved in such a big occasion but work commitments have to come first and the school have been extremely understanding to me since I started the job there.
“I think we have played an exciting style of cricket this year and we have shown we can win matches from tight situations.
“There is good experience and I’ve got a feeling one of our top order batters is due a big score.
“Losing Raj and myself is a blow to the bowling department but Chris Sole has been bowling really fast in the nets – as close to 90mph as anyone I’ve seen in Scotland this season – and Tom is emerging as a very talented spinner.
“If the lads perform on the day they are capable of winning the match.”
Since the introduction of the Grand Final in 2012 there have been relatively comfortable wins for Watsonians, Arbroath and Aberdeenshire but this one looks like being the closest yet.