Clydesdale worthy champions after a season to remember

Jake Perry looks back over an unforgettable season in the Western Premier Division.

Jake Perry @CricketScotland
September 24, 2021 3 years

After a season like no other both on and off the field, Clydesdale have been crowned champions of the Western Premier Division. Their remarkable backs-to-the-wall victory over second-placed Ferguslie in Saturday’s title-decider at Meikleriggs put the seal onto a campaign marked throughout by its resilience; whether coping with the pressure of injury, unavailability or an opponent giving it everything, the sheer will to win of Paddy Barbour’s side was the story of the summer.

A glance at the final statistics is revealing. Richie Berrington top-scored for Clydesdale and Zeeshan Bashir took most wickets, but no single player dominated with either bat or with ball. Contributions came from throughout a team that featured 21 different players over the course of the campaign: as that breathless day in Paisley proved again, it was that that was key to the champions’ success in the end.

“Going into the last game there was a lot of talk about who wasn’t here in both teams, and there’s no doubt that on paper Ferguslie probably felt that, being at home with the buoyant crowd that’s always here, they had their noses in front,” said Clydesdale manager Colin Mitchell as the celebrations began. “But this team knows how to find a way to win the games, even when everyone is thinking it’s time to pack up and get out. And they’ve done it again.

“They’ve shown incredible resilience: for amateur club cricketers to show the mettle and the determination to just find a way to win the game, they deserve the success today. I’ve seen a lot of tight wins in club cricket and I’ve won things with the club, but this is the best I’ve seen. Not necessarily the best cricket or the best league, but getting across the line under intense pressure, everyone believing and backing themselves: this is what a team is, and they deserve great credit.”

That team spirit was tested by some significant absences: of Berrington, through injury, isolation and Scotland duty, and Craig Young, who suffered a season-ending injury at New Williamfield in July. But someone was always there to step up when required: from Imran Mughal’s chase-steadying 42 in the opener against Uddingston, through Arun Krishna and Calum Drummond’s 57-run stand against Prestwick in game three to Drummond and Ibrahim Faisal’s cool-headed heroics last weekend, Clydesdale’s winning habit was well-earned, and their 17th WDCU title richly deserved.      

Pushing them all the way was a Ferguslie team that played some sparkling cricket of their own, not least on Saturday. Riyaad Henry’s fourth league century took him to 728 runs for the summer: with 11 wickets and some crucial catches, too, the talismanic skipper could have done nothing more to get his side over the line. Adil Ghaffar, Taimoor Ahmad and Haroon Tahir were outstanding over the course of the season as well, while Omer Hussain showed his class with 203 runs at 40.60 after moving up the order to open for the last five games of the campaign. While Ferguslie’s disappointment will be acute just now, a first Rowan Cup since 1960 will provide at least some consolation to a team that came so close to taking the league crown for themselves.

Prestwick and Uddingston both stayed in the fight until its latter stages, the former until the third-last weekend of the season. It was the Saturday before that really scuppered their chances, however, as rain robbed them of the chance to avenge their loss to Clydesdale back in June; with their title bid now relying on results elsewhere, defeat at Meikleriggs the following week ended their hopes for good.

Spin twins Sachin Choudhary and Majid Haq were Prestwick’s stars, adding over 800 runs to their combined tally of 63 wickets, but topping the batting chart was Uddingston’s Mo Awais, whose 778 runs included scores of 164 and 217, the latter coming as Uddy racked up a mammoth 329 for 6 against Poloc. Bryan Clarke’s men had come roaring back from a nightmare start which had seen them lose their first two games, but after a run of six straight wins brought them back into contention, a second loss to Prestwick left them with too much ground to make up on the leaders. Niall Alexander, Ross Lyons and Aamir Gul all claimed 20 wickets or more, but the outgoing champions had to settle for a fourth-placed finish at the end.

Stirling County and West of Scotland occupied the mid-table positions after some good but ultimately inconsistent performances. Stirling County started well, beating Ferguslie then Poloc to move to second place in the table, but couldn’t sustain a lasting challenge, a narrow loss on Duckworth/Lewis at Hamilton Crescent being particularly deflating. Brandon McMullen was outstanding all the same, scoring 767 runs at 63.92 – only Richie Berrington came close to equalling that average – and finishing as his side’s leading wicket-taker despite being unable to bowl at the back-end of the season because of injury. Matthew Tweedie and Harry Booker had good summers, too, while for West James Fennah led from the front with 374 runs and 19 wickets, ably supported by John Oliver, Andy Hislop and 20-plus wicket pair Gavin Smith and Callum Dutia.

Langside finished their first season in the top flight in seventh, Muh Khan’s 348 runs and 24 wickets keeping Sameer Zia’s side clear of trouble: their thrilling defence of 138 against Dumfries on a dusty pitch at Albert Park showed a spirit seen again as they gave first Clydesdale then Ferguslie a fright as the season moved into September. By then Greenock had already been relegated and, despite Imran Adrees’ 33 wickets, Poloc were about to follow them: Dumfries had a nervy end to their season, but finished a win ahead of Poloc in the end.

Ayr and Kelburne will be replacing the relegated duo in 2022, when all will hope for a uninterrupted season after COVID restrictions delayed the start by a fortnight this time around. After the frustrations of 2020, any cricket at all felt welcome: that the summer of 2021 provided such a contest, settled only in the final over of its final game, is something that will live very long in the memory.

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