After the late-spring weather brought a frustrating end to round one of the Western Premier Division, the competition resumes this weekend with five more intriguing ties. Tunnock’s Uddingston, whose innings at home to Prestwick stood at 92/2 when the rain swept in at Bothwell Castle Policies, travel to New Williamfield, while their erstwhile opponents take on McCrea West of Scotland, who were on the field for only half an hour in their season’s opener against Clydesdale. The champions welcome Calero Kelburne to Titwood, while Langside entertain Your Move Dumfries at Albert Park, the venue of that unforgettable victory for the home side in the corresponding fixture last year.
But the match of the day could well be at New Cambusdoon, where 2021 First Division winners Ayr host WPD runners-up M8 Driving Ferguslie. The promoted side had racked up a mammoth 349/4 by the time their game at Nunholm was called off last week, and skipper Andi McElnea is looking for his team to continue in similar vein as it settles into life in the top flight once more.
“It’s been a two-year plan to get back to where we were, so we’re really excited about the season ahead,” he said. “We’ve got a strong squad that can hopefully compete with the top four or five sides in the league, so there’s a lot of excitement about the club on and off the field for that.
“We’re really lucky at the moment in that we have so many potential match-winners,” he went on. “You’d obviously look at Michael English and Hamza Tahir, but then there are the likes of Neil Flack, Scott McElnea and our amateur Duanne Grobler as well. We’ve made some strong additions to what was an already pretty strong first XI team.”
In Dumfries that strength was exemplified by the performance of English, whose 133-ball 180, well supported by a half-century from opening partner Lloyd Jefferson, helped his side put down a marker in a league which saw the three-hundred barrier breached only four times in the whole of last season. Ayr’s promotion campaign was near-faultless, their only blemish a loss to Kelburne once their place in the Premier Division had been confirmed: their task now is to make the most of that reinforced squad and build some fresh momentum to take into the summer ahead.
“Our biggest challenge is going to be finding consistency in both disciplines,” said Andi, “with bat and with ball. It’s amateur sport: we know that you can lose a game of cricket in a mad half hour, so we need to be right on it.
“Focus and concentration is something we’ve talked about a lot: the importance of standing up and really switching on in the tough moments and not letting the game pass you by.”
That mindset is sure to be tested this weekend. Ferguslie’s game against SM Cricket Stirling County was the only one abandoned without a ball being bowled, and after coming so close in 2021, the men from Paisley will be keen to make a statement of their own. Andi, though, is relishing the task to come.
“We’ve super-excited to take on a massive club like Ferguslie again on our own ground,” he said. “These are the occasions we look forward to, and it’s a huge test for us to see where we’re actually at. I think it’s probably going to be our biggest game of the season, because it’s the first opportunity we have to compete against really good, top-flight opposition.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” Andi concluded. “If we can get a good result, confidence will build, belief will build, and you just never know what’s ahead.”
Western Premier Division – 7 May 2022
SM Cricket Stirling County v Tunnock’s Uddingston (at New Williamfield)
Langside v Your Move Dumfries (at Albert Park)
Clydesdale v Calero Kelburne (at Titwood)
Prestwick v McCrea FS West of Scotland (at Henry Thow Oval)
Ayr v M8 Driving Ferguslie (at New Cambusdoon)
Credit to Dumfries Cricket Club for the image.
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