Regional Series Preview
Caledonin Highlanders face a crunch twenty-four hours in their bid for success in the CS T20 Blitz and Pro50 competitions.
Graeme Beghin’s side are first in action in the shorter format when they entertain high-flying Eastern Knights at Forthill on Sunday.
The Broughty Ferry ground is also the venue for the visit of Western Warriors for a Bank Holiday clash which will be contested over fifty overs.
Coach Beghin’s men opened their T20 campaign in convincing fashion when a blistering Craig Wallace century put the Warriors to the sword at the start of the month.
However, the Knights entered the fray earlier this week and were equally impressive in also getting the better of the men from the west.
It all adds up to what should be a keenly contested affair and one which could go a long way to deciding which of the two sides will go on to emerge as T20 Blitz champions when these sides clash again in the tournament’s finale late next month.
Either way, as the tournaments reach the halfway stage, the new regional structure has already earned the thumbs-up from Cricket Scotland performance director Andy Tennant who said: “We’re pleased with what we’ve seen so far.
“The players have committed to their respective teams and there have been several standout performances.
“Probably the Eastern Knights have played the best and most consistent cricket and that’s perhaps to be expected as they appear to have the most experience in their team.
“But the Highlanders have had some great moments and Craig Wallace’s century was certainly something the national selectors have taken note of.
“I expect a good competitive game on Sunday.”
The Highlanders have drafted in Arbroath’s Ross McLean in place of Chris Venske at the top of the order and will again look to Wallace to provide the platform for a big total.
Meanwhile, the Knights travel north without Monday’s hero Tom Sole who, having smashed an unbeaten 79 and taken three wickets, has returned to the Northants Academy.
However, the Knights still appear to have plenty of firepower with both bat and ball.
Victory on Monday is equally important for the Highlanders as they bid to rekindle their Pro50 campaign after a heavy defeat to the Knights last month.
However, they will encounter a Warriors side who are desperate not to play the role of tournament whipping boys.
The Warriors are seeking their first win in either format but Tennant, himself a former representative of the Western district, remains optimistic about the talent pool in his home region.
He added: “It’s fair to say that the Warriors have taken a conscious decision to go with a group of younger players who I believe will grow together.
“Guys like Ihtisham Malik and Owais Shah are still only about 17 while you can’t buy the sort of experience Mitchell Rao had last Monday when he bowled at Tom Beaton, a player who has played in Australia’s Big Bash.
“With the best will in the world club cricket can’t consistently provide the sort of challenges the players are getting in the regional tournaments.”
Player-coach Con de Lange has named a 15-man squad which includes in-form Dumfries pace bowler Niall Alexander.
Caley Highlanders: C Wallace capt, R MacLean, C Greaves, M Petrie, R Brown, B Wilkinson, S Sharif, B Ditchmen, Cameron, D Sweeney, C Robertson, A Neill.
Eastern Knights: A Brock capt, N Farrar, M Watt, T Beaton, P Mommsen, J Hearn, A Baum, H Aslam, A Evans, C Sole, C Gosain, R Routray.
Western Warriors: C de Lange, M Awais, R Berrington, M English, C Young, F Jawad, N Smith, A Shahzad, M Rao, H Tahir, A Sabri, O Shah, I Malik, S McElnea, N Alexander.
By Cricket Media, Photos Ian Potts