Domestic Preview - Week 12
Cricket Media preview the twelth week of domestic action in the Eastern and Western Premier Divisions.
It is tight at the top of the Eastern Premier division and Arbroath are determined to make it tighter still by sending champions Grange to a third consecutive league defeat.
The Lochlands men travel to the capital on a promising run which has seen them win four of their last five matches while Grange have lost their previous two completed games.
Victory today would see Arbroath leapfrog their hosts and bring the top three within their sights.
Skipper Marc Petrie, whose team are back in Edinburgh for a Scottish Cup semi-final at Carlton tomorrow (Sun), declared: “It’s a massive weekend for us and quite possibly a 'season defining' one.
“We just have to take it week-by-week in the league and keep winning games to stay with the leading pack.
“In some ways we have nothing to lose in our position because we are coming from behind and the focus is on other teams.
“We will be underdogs but that's a tag we often embrace. The pressure will be on Grange but, despite their result last weekend, they are still a very strong side who themselves will be itching to stay close to the rival title contenders.”
Arbroath are close to full strength with Harris Carnegie and leading wicket-taker Craig Ramsay returning though Greig Peal is unavailable and youngster Jack Waller steps in.
Despite last week’s defeat, Grange are likely to name an unchanged side as they bid to keep their title hopes alive.
Elsewhere, Forfarshire are hoping to get the chance to kick-start their campaign after several frustrating weeks.
Since their last victory against Stoneywood-Dyce on June 11, Craig Wallace’s men have had two games rained-off and lost the other two.
Yet, they remain handily poised in third place and victory over Falkland at Forthill would set them up nicely for the run-in.
The Broughty Ferry men go into action without leading wicket-taker Liam Sweeney and facing a Falkland side buoyed by an important win over Glenrothes.
An interesting contest-within-a-contest takes places between Forfarshire’s player-coach Graeme Beghin, the league’s leading run scorer, and Falkland’s Scotland bowler Safyaan Sharif who boasts the most wickets.
Glenrothes suffered a setback to their survival hopes with that defeat to Falkland but avenged it in the Fife Cup final in midweek and today they have the chance to claim another morale-boosting win when they host an understrength Carlton side at Gilvenbank Park.
The visitors are without former Scotland duo Fraser Watts and Gordon Drummond while Omar Ahmad is also missing.
Heriot’s, having slipped up at Arbroath a week ago, must beat Aberdeenshire at Goldenacre to stay in touch with the leading bunch though the visitors have their own agenda in seeking to pull away from the wrong end of the table.
Brendan O’Connell returns for leaders Watsonians who start strong favourites against rock-bottom Stoneywood-Dyce.
Ferguslie, the Western Premier leaders, face a potentially crucial twenty-four hours that could shape the remainder of their season.
The Paisley men, having suffered a surprise defeat at Ayr a week ago, must first get their league campaign back on track when they welcome improving Uddingston to Meikleriggs this afternoon.
A win would help keep second placed Clydesdale at bay before the top two clash in a mouth-watering Scottish Cup semi-final, also at Meikleriggs, tomorrow.
Despite last week’s blip and the disappointment of a Rowan Cup final defeat to East Kilbride in midweek, Ferguslie skipper Gregor Preston-Jones remains upbeat about his team’s prospects.
He said: “It’s another massive weekend for us and we are looking forward to the challenge.
“We don’t really have a priority as we look on both the league and cup as competitions we are aiming to win.
“Uddingston seem to have hit some form at the right time so we will not under-estimate them.
“As everyone saw last week, there are no easy games in this league so it'll be back to basics for us and hopefully we can bounce back.
“We’re desperate to get back out there and get another win under our belts. We are a talented team and if we play to our potential Uddingston will find it tough to beat us.
“As far as the cup goes it is always special for the lads facing Clydesdale who are an excellent team.
“When you look at their team man-for-man, I’d say there aren't many better teams in Scotland.
“But playing at Meikleriggs is an advantage for us - we have been excellent at home all season and we expect to have a large crowd backing us.
“We will just try to replicate our league performances and hopefully the rub of the green goes our way.”
Clydesdale skipper Majid Haq, meanwhile, is itching to get back into action in a weekend of equal importance to his side.
Rain has kept the Titwood men idle for the last two weeks but they remain in hot pursuit of the leaders.
Dale travel to Drumpellier today and Haq would be content to replicate his match-winning 7-10 in the corresponding fixture last season before tomorrow attempting to lead his team into their second cup final in three seasons.
He said: “It’s a big weekend for the club as a whole. We need to take care of a very dangerous Drumpellier side in what will be our first win since a fantastic team win against Grange in the cup.
“After that we can focus on the Ferguslie match to see who plays in the final of Scotland’s premier cup competition.”
Ferguslie are without the injured Taimoor Ahmad but Alistair Preston-Jones returns while Clydesdale are at full strength.
Elsewhere it may now only be a battle for third place but it is sure to be keenly contested when East Kilbride entertain Kelburne at Torrance House.
Kelburne have already felt the full force of Ross Lyons’ bat this season, the former Scotland man having hit a rapid century – albeit in a losing cause – in the corresponding fixture at Whitehaugh.
Lyons remains one of the league’s form players as he demonstrated with an unbeaten half-century in his side’s Rowan Cup triumph on Thursday evening.
Dumfries, having lost five in a row, have the chance to arrest that decline when they host Prestwick while Ayr aim to build on their victory over Ferguslie by winning at Stenhousemuir.