Sunday 22nd April saw Grange CC host the conclusion of the 2017 Cricket Scotland U18 Club Championship – and, given the recent weather, enormous credit should go to the groundstaff for preparing a wicket which saw the batters dominate.
The poor weather towards the end of the 2017 season had resulted in one semi-final (Clydesdale CC v Forfarshire CC) being carried over – with Carlton CC awaiting the winners in the final. In the semi-final, Clydesdale won the toss and elected to bowl first. Despite just 1 coming from the first over, Forfarshire then took control of the early exchanges – with Rory Johnston taking the attack to the bowlers, as the score reached 37/0 off 4 overs.
Ihtisham Malik struck in the 5th over, having Callum Garden caught and bowled, before Johnston and Will Hardie then put on 88 for the 2nd wicket. Johnston continued to be the aggressor, reaching a well-deserved half century, playing some innovative shots and finishing his high-quality innings 84* (off 61 deliveries). Malik was the pick of the Clydesdale bowlers, finishing with 4-1-14-1, as Forfarshire reached 159/2 off their 20 overs.
The Clydesdale reply started a little more sedately – however, skipper Kallum Dhami and Ross Heginbottom built an important partnership and they gradually increased their scoring rate. The partnership passed 100, before Heginbottom (49) was bowled just short of what would have been a well-deserved half century, in the 14th over. Jawad Khan and Dhami kept the scoreboard ticking over, with Dhami reaching his half-century. Although both were dismissed, Zain Ashraf (18*) and Daniel Cairns (7*) saw their side home, with 3 deliveries to spare – despite Johnston adding 4-0-22-1 to his earlier runs.
Clydesdale won the toss in the final and once again elected to bowl first. Keeping with the theme of the day, the Carlton openers built a very useful opening partnership – with Murray Whitaker (36) and Peter Gill putting on 57 for the first wicket.
The partnership was broken by an excellent slower ball from Zain Muhammad. A few overs later Muhammad then bowled Gill for 26 – but that would be the final success for the Clydesdale bowlers. Tom Simpson (33*) and Gregor McIntyre (38*, including two sixes in one over) took the Carlton total up to 142/2 from their 20 overs – with Muhammad (4-0-23-2) being given good support by both left-arm seamers Khan and Malik (both 4-0-21-0).
Clydesdale’s top three all made starts (Dhami 17, Heginbottom 21 and Asad Khan 14). However, two wickets in two deliveries left the match well poised – with Clydesdale 73/4 off 11 overs. A 15-ball cameo (of 23) from Jawad Khan took some of the pressure off – and allowed Ashraf to settle into his innings. When Khan was dismissed, Clydesdale still needed 25 off 20 deliveries. However, Ashraf and David Sturgess calmly chipped away and, despite a run out in the final over, Ashraf sealed Clydesdale’s victory with a reverse sweep for 4. Clydesdale 144/6, with 2 deliveries to spare – despite Murray Johnson’s 4-0-19-1.
It was a great effort from the Clydesdale batters to see their side home, in two tough chases. However, the effort of all three teams and the support from their coaching staff and spectators must be recognised – as the two matches were hugely competitive, with plenty of momentum swings, and were very exciting for any neutrals who were present to watch. Thanks, again, must also go to the Grange CC groundstaff – and to umpires Ronnie Gilliland and Billy McPate who stood in both matches.