This weekend sees the biggest game of the Western Premier Division season so far, as the only two teams left unbeaten after its first four rounds go head to head at Titwood. Both Clydesdale and Prestwick have been impressive in building their 100 per cent records thus far, but Saturday’s game gives an early opportunity for one of them to open up a bit of distance on their rivals.
After a campaign which started strongly then faded last time out, Prestwick captain Fraser Macdonald is relishing the chance for his side to test itself again against the reigning champions.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the start we’ve had,” he said. “The Western Premier is going to be a fantastic league this year, and although we’ve not played any of the so-called ‘bigger’ teams as yet, all three of our matches have been proper contests against very well organised teams who were well in it, especially first up when we were in a lot of trouble [at 47/5 chasing 116] against West of Scotland.
“Fletcher Rao has been doing a very good job with the ball, Gurupreet Singh as well, he’s been very reliable, and Azeem Akbar has picked up from where he left off last year and is bowling very, very well. Donovan Du Randt has blown a little bit hot and cold so far: he’s obviously a big, tall bowler with a long run-up, a lot of moving parts, so it’s understandable that things don’t always go right every time, but when he gets it right he’s very effective indeed.”
One of the most striking features of Prestwick’s success thus far has been the way in which contributions have come from throughout the team. While Du Randt, with eight wickets to his name, and Sachin Choudhary, with seven, have led the way, the sharing of responsibility throughout the team has been, says Fraser, a crucial advancement from last year.
“If you look back on Prestwick’s stats from last season, it was really Sachin and Majid [Haq] with the ball, Sachin and Majid with the bat, and the contributions around that were pretty grim,” he said. “But I’m delighted to see how things have started off this year, With the bat, I’d expect Tom Fleet to be scoring 400 runs – he’s a good player – and I’d expect a bit more from myself and others as well, but, yeah, I’m very pleased with how it’s been going.”
After finishing third in 2021, a season in which Prestwick’s only league defeats were to the top two, Fraser is keen for the club to absorb the other lessons from that experience.
“I would almost [look at Prestwick] as a new team last year,” he said. “We had Inderjit Singh, for example, a stellar performer for Irvine for years as a good medium-pacer who really crunched the ball with the bat, but he’d never played at that slightly higher level before, where the out-cricket is far more important: even as a standard ring-fielder, [learning] how you’re going to save singles over the fifty overs, or how you’re going to retain strike and hold tight during pressure points in matches [is key]. Guys like Indy and Azeem hadn’t been tested that much in those situations, bowling under pressure or creating and building pressure, so they and a couple of others new to the first eleven had a lot of learning to do. We were found wanting in the field a bit sometimes, so that’s probably been the biggest lesson for the team.
“Batting wise, it was quite hard work at the Henry Thow Oval last year on slow, low wickets. But we had a lot of starts when we were two down in the first ten overs, which means you’re heaping all the pressure onto your middle order: that’s a lesson learnt as well.”
The first real examination of that learning will come at Titwood, where Prestwick will meet an unchanged Clydesdale side that has conceded only 249 runs in the league so far.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Fraser. “I think the fifth bowler will play a big part for both teams if the game goes deep. But hopefully the weather will stay dry, we get a bit of heat, and we get a good contest.”
Elsewhere, Robbie Walsh and Puskar Bhandari replace Callum Leck and Andi McElnea in the Ayr eleven for the visit of Calero Kelburne, who welcome back Jak O’Connell and Reiss Wylie. Both McCrea FS West of Scotland and M8 Driving Ferguslie are unchanged for their meeting at Hamilton Crescent, while Mo Ali comes into the Langside team for their trip to New Williamfield. Your Move Dumfries make two changes, with Chris McCutcheon and Robert McBride returning: Tunnock’s Uddingston bring Ben Willmott into their team in place of Zeeshan Azhar.
Western Premier Division – 28 May 2022
SM Cricket Stirling County v Langside (at New Williamfield)
Your Move Dumfries v Tunnock’s Uddingston (at Nunholm)
Clydesdale v Prestwick (at Titwood)
McCrea FS West of Scotland v M8 Driving Ferguslie (at Hamilton Crescent)
Ayr v Calero Kelburne (at New Cambusdoon)
The Cricket Scotland Podcast will include a round-up of the men’s and women’s league action from across the country every Tuesday, with player interviews from our featured games. Follow @ScotlandPod on Twitter for all the latest information.