Western Warriors v Caledonian Highlanders, Sunday 27 May
A stunning Craig Wallace century and a brilliant six-wicket haul from Scott Cameron were the highlights as Caley Highlanders kickstarted their Tilney Group Pro50 campaign in style against Western Warriors.
Coach Ryan Watson had asked for an improved display following his team’s opening defeat to the Eastern Knights and Watson got the response he was looking for in the Cambusdoon sunshine as Caley romped to a 121-run success.
Sent in to bat, the Highlanders shrugged-off the loss of openers Chris Greaves and Hayden Laing to effectively blunt the home attack.
Warriors tails had been up when Ihtesham Malik and Richie Berrington picked-up a wicket each to leave the visitors wobbling on 49-2.
However, Scotland duo Wallace and Michael Leask rose to the challenge with a match-changing 110 run partnership.
Hard-hitting Leask was first to reach 50 and faced just 61 balls for his 72, stroking nine boundaries and two maximums before falling to Hamza Tahir.
Tahir, Warriors top bowler with 2-33, struck again to bowl Safyaan Sharif but Wallace continued to move relentlessly towards three figures.
He reached the landmark from 116 balls, sweeping Ross Lyons to the rope at square-leg for one of ten boundaries in a final tally of 121no.
The Forfarshire batsman had good late support from club-mate Cameron who plundered 29 rapid runs as Caley closed on a healthy 287-6.
However, Cameron’s main contribution to his side’s cause was yet to come as a devastating spell of seam bowling wrecked the Warriors hopes of a successful chase.
After Sharif had trapped Michael English for 5, Cameron ripped through the top and middle order, accounting for Calum MacLeod and Mo Awais in the space of four balls as the hosts slumped to 53-3 after Awais had raced to 42 from only 24 balls.
Cameron then had Riyaad Henry for a duck and Fazal Jawad as the Warriors reeled on 74-5.
A half-century from Richie Berrington merely delayed the inevitable and when Scotland’s record cap holder was caught in the deep by Leask off Umair Mohammed, Cameron returned to mop up the tail, claiming 6-40 from 8.4 overs.
Western Warriors v Eastern Knights, Monday 28 May
Sunday’s defeat left the Warriors desperate to bounce back on Bank Holiday Monday when they lined-up against Eastern Knights.
Yet, despite an improved display with the bat, there was more suffering in the sun for Andy Tennant’s side as Dylan Budge played himself into contention to face England next month with the best innings to date of this season’s Pro50 competition.
The former Wisden Schools’ Cricketer of the Year showed his class with a superb knock of 143, propelling the Knights to an impressive 288-7.
Budge benefited from the solid start provided by Mike Carson (16) and George Munsey after Andrew Brock had elected to bat first on a glorious Alloway morning.
Munsey reached a half-century at almost a run-a-ball before being trapped by Haroon Tahir but his departure merely paved the way for Budge to take charge.
The former Durham player showed no mercy on any of the Warriors bowlers, moving smoothly to his century before stepping on the gas to reach 143 before being caught by MacLeod on the deep mid-wicket boundary off Berrington in the final over.
He faced 134 balls, stroking nine boundaries and five majestic maximums.
There were cameos from Preston Mommsen (29) and Peter Ross (34no) while Haroon Tahir and Ross Lyons stemmed the flow of runs, each claiming 2-43.
After the early loss of Michael English, Mo Awais got the board ticking for the Warriors with a run-a-ball 31 before becoming the first of Michael Castle’s three victims.
A stand of 83 between MacLeod and skipper Berrington provided the backbone of the innings but, amidst tight bowling and the regular fall of wickets, the run-rate began to increase beyond manageable levels.
Neither Berrington, caught for 46 off Ali Evans, or MacLeod who top-scored with 73 were able to find the extra gear that would have given the home side a realistic chance.
That said, there was still some spirited late hitting especially from Fazal Jawad who made 44 from just 30 balls with two fours and two maximums and the excellent Ross Lyons.
Batting at No8, it was pretty much a lost cause for the Uddingston all-rounder but he surely once again caught the eye of the selectors, facing just thirteen deliveries for his wonderfully inventive 33no which included three sixes.
The Warriors, though, fell 20 runs short meaning the Knights are in pole position to lift the title when the competition resumes in August.