CSL Preview - 27 June
The Western Union reaches the halfway stage today with Clydesdale in pole position but with a clutch of clubs well placed to turn the second half of the campaign into a genuinely fascinating contest.
Dumfries are among the group giving chase and the 2012 champions play host to the leaders at Nunholm this afternoon in what looks like a potentially key fixture.
Certainly Dumfries, the only side to have completed all eight of their scheduled fixtures, are acutely aware of its significance.
Club spokesman Mark Irwin declared: “Tomorrow’s game is important in the context of the season especially since we are the only team in the competition who have yet to have a game abandoned.
“Our home grown talent has led the way for us this year – not having a professional to rely on every week puts us in a position where every member of the team needs to be counted and contribute.
“Each week someone different has stood up and tomorrow we hope this attitude will take us over the line.”
While the team ethic has undoubtedly played its part for Dumfries, there have been consistent individual performers, no more so than Alan Davidson who, with 251 runs and thirteen wickets, is among the top all-rounders in the Union.
Dumfries can count both the 2013 and 2014 champions, Uddingston and Ayr, among their victims this season though the three defeats they have suffered could yet prove costly.
Irwin noted: “Our position on the table doesn't reflect our potential and we hope to show that this weekend.”
Dumfries expect to be at full strength while Clydesdale, in high spirits after having posted the highest team total of the season in last week’s win over Renfrew, are boosted by the return of Scotland all-rounder Richie Berrington.
The Titwood side may also benefit from the fact that their captain Majid Haq this week had his Cricket Scotland suspension lifted and is determined to deliver the sort of performances that could earn a return to the national side.
Ayr and Kelburne, who clash at Cambusdoon, will have more than a passing interest in events at Nunholm since victory for the former could see their hopes of a successful title defence rekindled while Kelburne would go top of the table should they win and Clydesdale lose.
In Lenart van Wyk, Ayr have the most prolific batsman in the country, the South African having taken his tally beyond the 1,000 mark in all competitions with a midweek century against Greenock in the West League Cup.
Removing van Wyk cheaply will be an obvious priority for Kelburne who tomorrow visit Carlton in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup.
“It is a crunch weekend in our season,” said skipper Qasim Sheikh who is thrilled to welcome the former Scotland A spinner Zeeshan Bashir who has
joined from Clydesdale.
Paisley neighbours Ferguslie are also in action in both competitions, hosting West of Scotland today before travelling to Arbroath twenty-four hours later.
The Meikleriggs side shows one change from the team that beat Drumpellier a week ago, Alistair Preston-Jones replacing Fraser Proud.
Following defeat at Kelburne a week ago, East Kilbride will attempt to get their title bid back on track when they host Drumpellier while Renfrew seek an elusive first win at home to an Uddingston side who discovered their true form in beating Ayr last week.
First Division title chasers Poloc face the biggest weekend of their season when they first attempt to end Stenhousemuir’s 100% record at The Tryst and then host Eastern Premier outfit Forfarshire in the cup.
Defiant and determined Arbroath skipper Marc Petrie has warned Carlton his side are no longer the soft touch they were at the start of the Eastern Premiership campaign.
With the competition at the half-way stage, the Lochlands men head for the capital with the intention of making amends for the home-turf defeat by the same opponents on the opening day.
And while Petrie is loathe to use the term “revenge mission,” there is no doubt that his squad members will see the fixture in that light.
He declared: “After losing the first couple of games, we are now extremely happy to have recovered to the extent we are in a challenging position.
“We never lost our confidence and that self-belief has been underlined in subsequent matches.
“We have played some good, consistent cricket over the past few weeks and are carrying a lot of momentum into this weekend.
“We feel that the next two weeks will define our season.
“Not only do we have Carlton and Grange in the league, we also have a Scottish Cup quarter final on Sunday.
“We aren't thinking about revenge as such, it is more a case of continuing to prove we are capable of challenging for honours.b
“We were outplayed by Carlton at our place, but we have improved a lot since then and if we play at our best, it will take a lot to beat us.”
Arbroath are boosted by the return of Calvin Burnett in place of Elton Willemse, who is unavailable all weekend.
In addition, Jack Waller has finished school and comes in to replace Craig Cameron.”
Veteran Carlton and former Scotland batsman Fraser Watts stated: “It's an important stage of the season for everyone.
“Arbroath are always a tough team to beat and will be gunning for revenge, I'm sure.
“We have a pretty much full strength side out so will be looking to repeat what we did at the start of the campaign.”
Having claimed the scalp of pacesetters Grange last week, Falkland now aim to inflict the same fate on champions Aberdeenshire at Mannofield.
And Forfarshire, with Michael Leask back in the fold, will fancy their chances of taking the points off Heriot’s at Broughty Ferry.
Grange ought to get back on tracks when they square up to Watsonians at Myreside, while winless basement boys RH Corstorphine welcome Stoneywood-Dyce.