The sixteen-game race for the Western Premier Division reaches its halfway point this weekend, as the main contenders vie for supremacy in the ninth round of matches. It has been a fascinating contest thus far, and with plenty more cricket still to be played there are a number of teams who will still fancy their chances.
Clydesdale remains top after an important victory over fifth-placed Stirling County. Their previous outing, against Ferguslie, had brought their first defeat of the season, but Paddy Barbour’s men bounced back with a strong performance, bowling out their opponents for 194, 17 runs short of their total of 211 for 9. In a season which has seldom seen them at full strength, Clydesdale’s resilience has been remarkable, and they remain the team to beat as the competition moves into its second phase.
Hot on their heels, though, are Ferguslie, who recorded their fourth successive win with a 218-run demolition of Poloc, while Prestwick, too, are still very much in contention, Fraser Macdonald’s 62 and Azeem Akbar’s 4 for 30 seeing them to a 28-run win over West of Scotland. But the form team at the moment is undoubtedly Uddingston, who have put their dreadful start behind them with five straight wins, the most recent a thumping 228-run triumph over Greenock. Mo Awais’s 164 last weekend took him to 555 runs for the season, a total that includes the 217 he scored in the abandoned game at Poloc; with Ross Lyons and Niall Alexander in consistent form, too, the reigning champions are by no means out of the hunt.
It is Uddingston who are involved in the tie of the round, as they visit New Williamfield to take on the side lying just behind them in the table. Stirling County have not enjoyed much luck since they hit the heights of second place a few weeks ago, with a dominant start against Dumfries cancelled out by the weather and an agonisingly close loss at Hamilton Crescent, but with the likes of Brandon McMullen, Harry Booker and Akram Shakoor firing, Matthew Tweedie’s side can beat anyone on its day.
So too West of Scotland, whose sixth place in the standings reflects an up-and-down sort of season so far. Three good wins have been tempered by five disappointing defeats, but in James Fennah the team has a captain who leads from the front, while Andy Hislop, Ian Young and Callum Dutia are all riding high in the averages too. An overall percentage of 49.50 places them solidly mid-table just now, but if they can regain the consistency they found earlier in the campaign, they may still have a part to play in its outcome.
Equally intriguing is the league-within-a-league that is playing out below them. Langside took a massive step towards safety with a breathless nine-run win over Dumfries last week, skipper Sameer Zia taking 5 for 20 as the visitors went from 114 for 5 to 129 all out. The result saw the two swap places in the table, and while both have difficult assignments this weekend, against West and Ferguslie respectively, it is the Albert Park side who go into their game breathing a little easier. A bit more patience – Langside is still to bat out a full fifty overs – and their top-flight status for another season will be even further assured.
After taking two wins from their first four games Dumfries has now lost three in a row, and will be glancing nervously downwards towards Poloc and Greenock. The month of August will be pivotal, as all three play each other for the second time: by the end of that, the situation at the bottom of the table, at least, is likely to be all but settled.
Western Premier Division – 31 July 2021
Greenock v Prestwick (at Glenpark)
McCrea FS West of Scotland v Langside (at Hamilton Crescent)
Poloc v Clydesdale (at Shawholm)
SM Cricket Stirling County v Tunnock’s Uddingston (at New Williamfield)
Your Move Dumfries v M8 Driving Ferguslie (at Nunholm)
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