CSL Round Up
West of Scotland have endured a difficult season but the Hamilton Crescent side, sometimes referred to as a sleeping giant, are awakening in time to have a major say at both ends of the Western Union table.
Saturday’s victory at Renfrew was not only sufficient to take West off bottom spot for the first time this season, it also effectively put Ayr in a near impregnable position at the top while ending Renfrew’s race.
A further sixteen points from their remaining three matches will seal the title for Ayr but the Cambusdoon side’s next assignment is a trip to face in-form West.
John Blain, West’s player-coach, said: “Ayr have had a great season and are up there on merit but that doesn’t mean we can’t beat them.
“We’ll certainly be giving it a go and if the wicket is hard I think our attack can make it difficult for them.”
Blain is, of course, an integral part of that attack and the former Scotland, Northants and Yorkshire pace bowler was in the wickets again as his side secured a 28-run win at King George V Playing Fields.
West were forced to dig deep to post a challenging total, early contributions from Gregg Watson (42) and Ed Clarke (38) in danger of being undermined when the middle order collapsed to 135-7.
However, Dave McNulty dug in for a run-a-ball 43 that hoisted the tally to 186-9, giving Blain and his fellow bowlers something to defend despite a six-wicket haul from Imran Adrees.
A half-century from Abdul Shakoor put Renfrew in contention but Blain’s 5-32 proved decisive as the hosts slipped to 158 all out.
“We’re playing more consistently for longer periods than we were earlier in the season and hopefully we can keep this going for the remainder of the season,” added Blain.
Meanwhile Ayr survived a scare before maintaining their excellent unbeaten run with a tense two-wicket win over East Kilbride at Cambusdoon.
Only Craig Smith, with 58, offered sustained resistance to the home attack for whom Scott McElnea excelled with 5-26 and Shujaa Khan 3-19.
Steve Liburd then marked his debut with a hard-hitting 48, the Leeward Islander scoring 40 of them in boundaries as Ayr motored towards their target.
There was little hint of the drama to follow when they reached 98-5 but a Moneeb Iqbal hat-trick suddenly left them needing 18 more runs with just two wickets remaining.
Callum Leck then proved himself the man for a crisis with a calming 16no to secure the win that means the title is within touching distance.
Clydesdale are the only side with a mathematical chance of catching the leaders, the Titwood side looking impressive in their eight-wicket demolition of Dumfries at Nunholm.
Majid Haq claimed 6-28 as Dumfries were dismissed for 145 despite Scott Beveridge and Alan Davidson contributing 90 between them.
Con de Lange’s hard-hitting 47 put Dale on course before Richie Berrington (38no) and Sam Page (37) completed the job.
Ricky Bawa claimed 5-23 as Uddingston successfully defended 140 to win the Lanarkshire derby against Drumpellier by 51 runs at Bothwell Castle.
GRANGE may be out of contention in the scramble to earn the mantle of Eastern Premiership champions, however Arbroath batsman Fraser Burnett believes the Edinburgh outfit can play a significant part in the destiny of the honours.
Former skipper Burnett issued his verdict after the Lochlands men had romped to an emphatic home triumph over struggling SMRH and leaders Aberdeenshire had seized Granite City derby revenge against Stoneywood-Dyce.
So, to retain their title, second-place Arbroath must hope that the Dons stumble over the last fortnight of the campaign - and Burnett believes this coming Saturday will be the crunch.
He explained: “It is going to be a very interesting day for everyone.
“Aberdeen will be heading for Raeburn Place to take on Grange and that is one of the toughest possible tasks in this league.
“At the same time, we will have ground advantage when we face Watsonians.
“They are also a hard side to play against, but I believe we can do the job because we are starting to produce some very good cricket and we are showing why we were champions last year.
“Whatever happens, the fact that we have come up with such a strong challenge again is a great achievement by the club and I am very proud to be part of it.”
The outcome at Lochlands was never in doubt after Arbroath rattled up 302 for five, with three men hitting half centuries and one falling a single short.
Hamish Bartlett led the charge with 71, Greig Peal (59 not out) and Calvin Burnett (52) providing the main support.
Paceman Max Parker then rocked SMRH back on their heels by removing danger man Cedric English for only six.
The spinners then got to work, Craig Ramsay and Ross McLean sharing eight wickets to send the visitors slithering to 110 all out.
Aberdeenshire’s win at Peoples Park was almost as convincing, the margin being seven wickets following SD’s demise for 108.
Chris Venske guided the Mannofield men to victory with a calm unbeaten 45.
Forfarshire’s shaky run continued as they were swept aside by Grange at Broughty Ferry.
Gordon Goudie (43) and Andrew Brock (34) carried the visitors to 232 for nine, which proved far too many for the hosts to deal with.
Raj Routray’s cheap three-wicket burst ruled out any prospect of a fightback and shire crumbled to 101 all out.
A fine all-round performance by Scotland prospect Mark Watt set up Heriot’s for an easy success at the expense of Falkland at Goldenacre.
First, Watt struck 52 not out and then bagged four for 14 as the Fifers capitulated to 63 all out in pursuit of 173.
Fraser Watts continued his remarkable run of form by smashing another century, which inspired Carlton to glory against neighbours Watsonians at Grange Loan.
* * *
GLENROTHES batsman Greig Hopcroft rejected the notion that Saturday’s defeat by chief challengers Corstorphine will induce panic in the camp during the closing stages of the Eastern Championship title race.
While the Fifers are still in the driving seat, the outcome gave the hosts a whiff of hope.
However Hopcroft insisted: “We are not regarding the defeat as any kind of wake-up call.
“In many respects we were the architects out our own downfall. Catches win matches and we spilled several easy chances, which allowed Corstorphine to amass far too many runs.
“Then in the chase we were well in control, only to lose four wickets in quick succession.
“This put extra pressure on the guys further down the order.
“Another factor was that NINE of us were dismissed by catches, and that reflected the number of loose shots.
“All credit to Corstorphine for making the most of their opportunity, but we will move on. Our destiny is still within our own control.”
Glenrothes finish their programme by taking on Grange Seconds on home turf and Penicuik at Kirkhill.
Corstorphine will be buoyed up by the fact they are at home against Freuchie and MDAFS, though it is hard to imagine that Glens will crash and burn.