After a round of fixtures which brought significant results at both ends of the table, the Western Premier Division continues in similar vein this weekend. Poloc have the chance to build on the win over West of Scotland which moved them out of the relegation zone against rock bottom Greenock, while Dumfries, the side that has replaced them in the bottom two, will be looking to repeat their rival’s feat on home soil at Nunholm. But it is to Titwood that many eyes will be drawn, as leaders Clydesdale take on third-placed Prestwick.
Last Saturday’s win over a similarly in-form Uddingston was Prestwick’s fifth in succession, and captain Fraser Macdonald is pleased that his team’s title ambitions have remained intact.
“It was a really tough, dogged match, but I felt like we controlled the vast majority of the game,” he said. “We were reasonably comfortable in the end, and I’m certainly delighted with the win.”
Only Clydesdale and Ferguslie have got the better of Prestwick this season, and only then after two monumental performances from the first- and second-placed sides. A tenth-wicket stand of 57 between Arun Krishna and Calum Drummond proved decisive in Clydesdale’s 23-run win in Round Three back in June, while centuries from Riyaad Henry and Taimoor Ahmad in an unbroken partnership of 240 took Ferguslie to an eight-wicket victory in early July. But while the former ended Prestwick’s unbeaten start to the season and the latter saw them lose further ground to the top two, Fraser is confident that his team has come back all the stronger for the experience.
“First of all, total kudos to Ferguslie for chasing down 250,” he said. “It was one of the best, if not the best, partnerships I’ve ever witnessed. They played brilliantly, with fantastic strike rotation.
“But it did teach us a wee bit about how to stop and save the single, not necessarily by doing anything other than reading the game, so we have guys that have definitely improved as a result of it. We’re certainly looking forward to playing Clydesdale again, too,” he added. “They are top of the league, so we’re really desperate to play them.”
Key to Prestwick’s chances at Titwood will be the twin threat of Sachin Chaudhary and Majid Haq, both of whom continue to ride high in both the batting and bowling averages.
“Maj is a very quiet guy but every single ball is an event with him,” said Fraser. “He demands absolutely everything to be on point – fielding positions, game plans – which is fantastic.
“And Sachin has been a star with the ball ever since we signed him,” he continued. “I would still say he’s the best bowler in the league. He bowls at difficult times, and I don’t know what’s happened over the last year but he just looks a different batsman this season, as if the weight of the world is off his shoulders. He’s absolutely creaming the ball, hitting it so crisply.
“He’s taken belief from some of his more attacking innings, and on Saturday he had the confidence to score a slow thirty and take the singles when he could to win us the match.
“The two of them couldn’t be doing much more,” he added. “If anything, the reason that we’re not higher in the league has been guys who we expect to perform year in, year out – ie myself and Tom Fleet – have been a bit poor this year, so Majid and Sachin have in some ways carried the batting quite a bit.
“But I still think there’s a lot of good players in our line-up, and that we can start to post bigger scores and bat teams out of the game.”
And what better time to do it than against the long-time league leaders? Saturday evening could see three teams on a two-defeat record for the season, and with Ferguslie still to face both Prestwick and Clydesdale, too, the race for the title is still wide open.
“After eleven, twelve games the table doesn’t lie,” said Fraser, “and Clydesdale obviously deserve to be on top. But we’re excited to play them,” he went on. “They’ve got a big wicket in Richie [Berrington], who, if he has a day out and gets 160, could win the match on his own. But I’m well aware of the other players, too, especially Fazal Jawad, who I know well after playing with him for four years – he’s a phenomenal batsman when he gets going.
“But if we can show the attitude, the energy and the grit that we showed last week, I’m very confident that we can get something from the game.”
Western Premier Division – 21 August 2021
Clydesdale v Prestwick (at Titwood)
Greenock v Poloc (at Glenpark)
Langside v Tunnock’s Uddingston (at Albert Park)
SM Cricket Stirling County v M8 Driving Ferguslie (at New Williamfield)
Your Move Dumfries v McCrea FS West of Scotland (at Nunholm)
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