Domestic Preview - Week 5
Cricket Media preview week 5 of the action in the East and Western Premier Divisions
Arbroath skipper Marc Petrie couldn’t disguise his excitement as he stepped up preparations for today’s Eastern Premiership showdown with Angus rivals Forfarshire.
The all-Tayside fixture has in the past sparked well-documented fireworks of a verbal nature, but Petrie insisted his troops will be be concentrating on letting their cricket skills do the talking at Lochlands.
Both sides earned major confidence boosts last weekend, Arbroath delivering the latest blow to newly-promoted Glenrothes and Shire stepping up to the plate to take the scalp of hitherto league pacesetters Carlton.
Petrie declared: “We are all massively looking forward to this weekend’s big game and our aim is to kick on from the victory over Glens.
“We are probably going into the tussle as underdogs, given the results so far this season - but we all know that form counts for little in derby meetings.
“We always have spicy encounters with the lads from Broughty Ferry and we all know one another pretty well - this time round will be no different.
“My job is to ensure that we are fully focussed on the task and that we are not too wound up - we play our best cricket when we are relaxed.”
The Lichties are boosted by the return of top-order Brendan Ford, who is fit to face his old club after shaking off the effects of a groin strain.
They are, however, still without Elton Willemse, while Ryan Camerson keeps his place in the wake of a string of impressive performances.
Forfarshire batsman Graeme Beghin insisted the success over Carlton won’t go to the players’ heads when they take the field.
He said: “The fact is that Carlton were not at full strength and we did just enough to get the win.
“We are not reading too much into the outcome or getting ahead of ourselves.
“The Arbroath match is always an occasion and everyone gets a lift from the experience.
“We will continue doing what works best for us in the hope of putting together an effective all-round team display.”
Shire welcome back Graeme Black and Aman Bailwal.
With Aberdeenshire going through a sticky spell of their own, basement boys Glenrothes will sense the chance to break their duck at Mannofield, and Falkland will be gearing up to deal with a Carlton backlash in the capital.
Elsewhere, new leaders Watsonians ought to bolster their position at the expense of Heriot’s in the Edinburgh derby at Myreside.
And Grange will be aiming to slap down the challenge of ailing Stoneywood-Dyce up north.
FERGUSLIE may be flying high atop the Western Premier table with four straight wins, including last week’s defeat of champions Clydesdale, but skipper Gregor Preston-Jones has his feet firmly on the ground.
Already the Meikleriggs men are being touted as potential champions and the captain is rightly proud of what his team have achieved thus far.
However, with more than three-quarters of the season remaining, Preston-Jones is not looking further ahead than today’s potentially tricky trip down the Ayrshire coast.
Prestwick provide the next challenge for the leaders and it may be a formidable one from a side who have managed two victories in their first four games in the top flight.
Preston-Jones declared: “It’s been an encouraging start and I think last week was one of the most pleasing victories we have had while I've been captain.
“However, there is a long way to go and we have to maintain our form.
“We are playing some excellent cricket at the moment which is very pleasing but we have to concentrate on the next test.”
Ferguslie’s key performers to date have been South African professional Mishkal Ramsaroop, the top all-rounder in the league so far, and home-grown spinner Hamza Tahir whose eleven wickets have been instrumental in the team’s winning start.
The captain said: “Mishkal has settled in really well and has made a huge contribution and we’ve known for a while that Hamza is a special talent.
“It must be a matter of time before he's playing for the national team. He has been a good, consistent performer for the last few years and always stands up in the big games.”
Prestwick, though, have their own potential match-winners in Hamza’s Western Warriors’ team-mates Mitchell Rao and Fazal Jawad along with the evergreen Gavin Pitt.
Ferguslie’s Paisley neighbours Kelburne are bidding to bounce back from a disappointing week that saw them lose their unbeaten league record at Dumfries before a heart-breaking last-ball derby defeat in the West League Cup in midweek.
Qasim Sheikh’s team, who were on the right end of a similarly close Rowan Cup encounter with Greenock on Thursday, entertain a Drumpellier team who have their tails up after breaking their duck at Prestwick’s expense.
Having lost their two games on the road, champions Clydesdale will be happy to be back at Titwood against a similarly inconsistent Ayr team who have been dismissed for 81 and 82 already this season as well as posting a record 346-2.
Dale skipper Majid Haq, who hands a debut to 14 year-old wicket-keeper Angus Guy, is looking for a reaction following his team’s reverse at Ferguslie.
He said: “I’m backing a big showing this weekend especially from our batting line-up. It’s important to kick-start our season heading into June.”
The Titwood side are boosted by the return of Calum Drummond and Scotland all-rounder Richie Berrington.
Ayr, who are still without the suspended Andi McElnea, draft in Ross Mitchell and Matthew McClymont for Shujaa Khan and Dougie Johnstone.
Uddingston, Ayr’s tormentors last week, will start favourites against Stenhousemuir who are yet to savour a Premier division victory though The Tryst side were boosted by a midweek win over East Kilbride.
The Bothwell troops are going through a re-building phase and skipper Bryan Clarke wants to see his side build on last week’s success at Cambusdoon.
He said: “We’ve had a couple of tough years since winning the title in 2013 and lost players no club could afford to lose. But we’ve stuck to our guns and it’s great to see some young guys coming through.
“It’s important we kick on after our performance against Ayr and put a run together.”
East Kilbride, having won for the first time last week, entertain a Dumfries side who, with three wins from four, have designs on a title challenge.