EASTERN Knights are poised to launch the defence of their Pro50 title with a Bank Holiday weekend double header against their two regional rivals.
A new sponsor is in place in the shape of the Tilney Group but Knights coach Steve Gilmour hopes it will be business as usual as his star-studded squad aim to secure a third successive title.
Prior to that, Caley Highlanders had dominated the 50-over competition with five wins in a row and it is the Brought Ferry-based outfit who provide the Knights with their first test on Sunday at Forthill before Gilmour’s men entertain Western Warriors at The Grange twenty-four hours later.
Having been preparing since the start of the year, the champions are ready for the challenge and Gilmour said: “There’s no doubt it will be a tough competition with three strong squads but our players are looking forward to it.
“We’ve been training well since January and we have a lot of boys in good form.
“The players are focused and are determined to retain the title.”
Gilmour’s assertion that the Knights have players in form cannot be disputed with batsmen George Munsey and Dylan Budge each recording big centuries in Scotland A’s impressive win over Durham 2nd XI last week.
In the bowling department, Elliot Ruthven continues to develop into a genuine pace bowler and will share the new-ball with the vastly experienced Ali Evans though the Knights are without two of their Scotland contracted players for the opening jousts, the Sole brothers Chris and Tom having county commitments.
In terms of “in-form” players, Caley have their own formidable quota, skipper Kyle Coetzer leading the way following a string of excellent performances for the national side in recent times.
The same might be said of Safyaan Sharif whose brilliant delivery to dismiss Chris Gayle at the World Cup Qualifier will be remembered for as long as the wretched umpiring decision which ultimately cost Scotland a place at next year’s global showpiece.
Caley have another potential match-winner in Michael Leask, a third batsman to have already posted a century for Scotland A this season while youngsters like Callum Garden and Christian Robertson will attempt to use the Regional Series as the final step on the pathway to full international honours.
The Warriors enter the fray on Monday, boosted by the return of Calum MacLeod from the Knights and the arrival of Scotland wicket-keeper Matthew Cross.
They are further lifted by the return as coach of Andy Tennant who will hope that his players have more luck with the weather than last year when they completed just one of a scheduled four matches. Gavin Main and Michael Jones are unavailable for the Warriors’ opening match.
Caley Highlanders – Kyle Coetzer, Chris Venske, Callum Garden, Chris Greaves, Craig Wallace, Michael Leask, Safyaan Sharif, Scott Cameron, Brock Ditchmen, Umair Mohammed, Christian Robertson, Ryan Brown.
Eastern Knights – Andrew Brock, George Munsey, Elliot Ruthven, Nick Farrar, Tom Foulds, Mike Carson, Dylan Budge, Mark Watt, James Dickinson, Joe Kinghorn-Gray, Gordon Goudie,
Preston Mommsen, Peter Ross, Ali Evans.
Western Warriors – Mo Awais, Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Michael English, Riyadh Henry, Ross Lyons, Calum MacLeod, Ihtisham Malik, Scott McElnea, Mitchell Rao, Adil Raza, Hamza Tahir.