The CS T20 Blitz for 2020 got off to a thrilling start on Sunday, excellent bowling setting up the Caledonian Highlanders for an eight wicket triumph in match one and then 385 runs being scored in match two as the Eastern Knights got home by 11 runs.
Top performers over the day at Forfarshire’s Forthill ground were Highlanders duo Scott Cameron and Chris Greaves (five wickets apiece) with the ball and Knights Oli Hairs (63 runs in match two from 20 balls) and Highlanders Kyle Coetzer (92 runs over the two matches) with the bat.
There were also some cracking catches from both teams and the standard of play on show leaves everyone excited about the remainder of the tournament.
In match one the Highlanders bowlers were on form from ball one after they won the toss.
Scotland man Safyaan Sharif bowled the first over and had Knights key man Hairs caught at slip by skipper Michael Leask for a duck.
Fellow seamer Adrian Neill then joined the party and had Knights young wicketkeeper/batsman Tom Mackintosh caught by Jack Hogarth for two to leave the visitors on 10-2.
Opener Mike Carson and captain Dylan Budge added 13 runs for the third wicket before the former (14) was caught by Scotland skipper Coetzer off the bowling of Cameron.
Budge and Fin McCreath put on 26 for the fourth wicket as they tried to rebuild the innings.
Just as the team was approaching 50, Neill grabbed his second wicket – Greaves taking the catch – with McCreath out for 16.
That was in the 13th over and the Knights had some work to do to reach three figures and give themselves something tangible to bowl at.
Two overs later, Mark Watt was caught and bowled by Greaves and it was the start of a purple patch for the spinner.
He followed it up with the scalps of Budge (30), Ali Evans (0) and Joe Kinghorn-Gray (0) to put the Knights on 86-8.
All-rounder James Dickinson made 21 before he was caught behind by player/head coach Craig Wallace and Jamie Cairns – bowled by Cameron – was last man out in the 20th over as the Knights posted 97.
The Highlanders used seven bowlers and four of them took wickets, Greaves leading the way with 4-18 and Sharif, Neill and Cameron all taking two wickets apiece.
The Knights needed early wickets in the ‘second half’, but the Highlanders batsmen had other ideas.
Rory Johnston hit four fours and made 22 off just nine balls before he was caught by Elliot Ruthven off the bowling of seamer Ali Evans.
The score at that stage was 25-1 and then Coetzer and Wallace took things up to 65 in just the 8th over. The latter was then caught for six by young Cairns off the bowling of Budge, but the hosts had broken the back of the run chase and were in total control.
The Knights tried six bowlers in a bit to somehow get back into things, but Coetzer and batting partner Leask saw their team home in the 12th over to win by eight wickets.
Coetzer finished on 49 not out from 38 balls including seven fours and one six with his regional skipper Leask (23 not out) hitting three fours and one six.
The Knights won the toss ahead of match two and decided to bat.
And, having made a duck earlier in the day, Hairs was on the attack from the first over, the visitors racing to 67 in just the fourth over with the Scotland player smashing the ball to all parts.
Neill managed to stem the tide somewhat by having the other opener, Carson, caught by Greaves for 12, but Hairs carried on.
He raced to his 50 and, well supported by Mackintosh, the team reached three figures and were on 111 by just the eighth over.
Hairs was then bowled by Cameron going for one shot too many, but his 63 had given his side a great platform, included 11 boundaries and came off just 20 balls.
Mackintosh (24) became spinner Ryan Brown’s first scalp of the day soon after, but with five overs to go the Knights were well set on 169-5.
The two wickets to fall after Mackintosh were Budge (10) and McCreath (21) to Greaves and Leask.
In the last few overs Watt made 20 and Evans hit a big six in his eight as they posted 198-9.
The Highlanders gave away 30 extras – including 18 wides – making Cameron’s figures of 3-19 sound even more impressive.
To chase a bit victory target such as 199, the Highlanders knew they needed a decent opening partnership – and they got one.
Coetzer and Johnston moved nicely along to 71 in just the sixth over before Watt managed to get the big scalp of the former.
He had him caught by Hairs at point just as he was looking like motoring on and adding to his 43 from just 22 balls.
Only 10 more runs were added before Johnston (23) was bowled by Cairns.
Watt and Ruthven then picked up the big wickets of Leask and Wallace leaving the hosts on 105-4 off 11 overs and needing another 94 to win from 54 balls.
With Callum Garden and Greaves at the crease they had a couple of big overs and had move to 132-4 before Garden was caught by Watt off the bowling of Evans for 28 from 15 balls.
Greaves and Sharif continued things ticking along nicely, one six from the former rattling the pavilion windows until he was run out on 24 pushing for a second run and they were 164-6.
They needed 31 runs from the last three overs and when Sharif and Cameron made 12 off the 18th over they were still in with a shout.
When Sharif was expertly caught and bowled by Watt in the penultimate over for 20 things started to wobble and Cameron soon followed.
Sixteen runs were needed off the last over, but the experienced Evans held his nerve. He took the wicket of Brown and conceded just four runs as the Knights got revenge for match one.
The tournament runs until September 27 and next up is two matches between the Western Warriors and the Highlanders on Sunday, September 20 at Clydesdale’s Titwood ground.
Results & Scorecards:
Umpires: Ryan Milne, Gary Nicholl, Stephen Scott
Scores: Tom Bruce, Gary Wicksted
Match & COVID Manager: Paul Macari
Caledonian Highlanders 101-2 (Coetzer 49 not out) defeated Eastern Knights 97 all out (Budge 30; Greaves 4-18, Neill 2-10) by eight wickets.
Eastern Knights 198-8 (Hairs 63; Cameron 3-19) defeated Caledonian Highlanders 187-9 (Coetzer 43; Watt 4-28, Evans 2-48) by 11 runs.