Gary Heatly previews the Men’s Regional Pro Series which starts this weekend
The international and domestic seasons have got underway over the last few weeks – and now the Cricket Scotland Men’s Regional Pro Series will join the party this Sunday.
In previous years the 50-over-a-side competition has included the Eastern Knights, the Caledonian Highlanders and the Western Warriors and this year a Performance Academy side has been added to the mix, meaning four strong outfits will be battling it out between June 6 and July 2 to see who comes out on top.
The competition will give Scotland men’s head coach Shane Burger a chance to look at more players from across the country and beyond who are looking to force their way into his plans for the future.
On Sunday, the Knights are due to host the Highlanders at Gen!us Grange’s Portgower Place ground.
Over the last few seasons the Knights have been the region to beat and head coach Steve Gilmour and his troops will look to keep it that way.
They certainly have good strength in depth and will be led by Heriot’s Mark Watt with Grange’s Dylan Budge as his vice-captain.
They have some power hitters to call upon such as RH Corstorphine’s George Munsey and Watsonians duo Oli Hairs and Mike Carson while Carlton’s Ali Evans looks set to lead a bowling attack that has good variety in it.
Scotland men’s assistant coach Craig Wright is acting as the Highlanders head coach this year and he said: “I am looking forward to seeing the team in action.
“A number of the guys have started this season well whether that be with Scotland or with their clubs and that means that we should have a strong XI available to take to the field on Sunday in the opener.
“We have quite a bit of experience available to us while we also hope to blood some up-and-coming youngsters alongside them.
“We know that the Knights are a good side, but I think it will be a good match this weekend.”
Like the Knights, the Highlanders have some very good batters led by Kyle Coetzer and ion8 Forfarshire duo Craig Wallace and Michael Leask while Safyaan Sharif may well lead the bowling attack.
The other game on Sunday sees the Warriors hosting the Performance Academy at Ayr’s New Cambusdoon ground.
Warriors head coach Andy Tennant has picked a 13-man squad for the encounter and said: “We will be missing Scotland batter Calum MacLeod this weekend, but we still have a good squad available to us and the great thing for me is that there are other players from the region knocking on the door to get involved and I am sure that competition for places will only grow when the leagues in the west get underway this weekend.
“Richie Berrington will captain the side while Matt Cross will be behind the stumps and we know we will need to play well to defeat a Performance Academy side full of exciting young talent.”
Two bowlers to watch out for in the Warriors set-up could be Heriot’s seamer Gavin Main and spinner Hamza Tahir.
The Performance Academy’s involvement in this tournament will expose some of the best young male cricketers around to a good level of competition and ones to watch out for could be Grange/Durham Academy wicketkeeper/batter Tom Mackintosh, Taimoor Ahmed from Ferguslie and Rory Johnston from Forfarshire.
“It is great to get this group of players involved in something like this, they will be up against more experienced players, but there are some very good cricketers in the Performance Academy squad and they will want to show people what they can do,” their head coach Toby Bailey said.
Live scoring from both matches will be available on the Cricket Scotland Live platform.
Warriors v Performance Academy starts at 11am. Knights v Highlanders starts at midday.
Spectators will not be allowed in the grounds due to current COVID-19 guidance
The full fixture list for the series can be viewed HERE.