ARBROATH cracked open the champagne last night after being crowned Eastern Premiership champions – thanks to a tense and nerve-jangling triumph over challengers Carlton.
The hosts needed to win to take the head-to-head race down to the wire next weekend but the Lochlands lads staved off the jitters to snatch a five-run success.
Brendon Ford emerged as the main hero, hitting a century at Grange Loan and producing a tight stint of bowling at an important stage of an absorbing match.
Arbroath skipper Marc Petrie said: “I can’t praise the guys highly enough. We have had the odd setback but the character of this side has shone through.”
Carlton have another trophy-winning quest today when they square up to capital rivals Grange in the Scottish Cup Final at New Williamfield in Stirling. It will take huge resolve to bounce back after last night’s so-near, yet so-far outcome.
The Carlton reply to 227 for nine began in solid fashion with Kyle Macpherson and Hamish Gardiner combining in a half-century stand. Then, with the tally on 52, the former departed for 24, having struck Calvin Burnett straight to point. Burnett was back in the spotlight in the 22nd over to get rid of Gardiner, held at slip for 44, leaving them in reasonable shape at 88 for two.
Fraser Watts quelled the jitters and going into the crucial last 20 overs the Edinburgh outfit needed 104 with eight wickets in hand.
The streetwise Watts used all his guile to keep up the momentum, reaching his 50 in the 36th over. However, just one run later, he fell victim to Craig Ramsay.
Wickets began to tumble at regular intervals, leading to the nailbiiting finale. With two overs remaining, Carlton required 18 with only two men up their sleeve. The 49th over yielded only four runs, putting Arbroath back in pole position.
It all boiled down to the last ball, with Carlton needing a six, but it wasn’t to be. Earlier, Ford had proved to be the dominant figure in the Arbroath occupation of the crease. He had lost opening partner Ross McLean at 74 before Hamish Bartlett was snapped up by Gordon Drummond off Rob Thornton 11 runs later.
When Arbroath’s in-form Fraser Burnett was dismissed cheaply, Carlton had their tails up. And it was left to Ford and Calvin Burnett to consolidate in the middle portion of the innings. The alarm bells rang when Carlton captured three prized scalps in quick order. The younger Burnett skied Drummond to Cheeky Gossein for 32 – then Darren Spink was also pouched by Drummond off the nagging Thornton for 12.
Worse was to come for the Angus men when captain Petrie was lured out of his ground by Gossein second ball, leaving Jamie Kerr to complete the slick stumping.
That left Arbroath in a shaky state on 174 for six – but Ford shepherded the tail, while also taking his tally to 112 before perishing in the last over.
Meanwhile, Uddingston beat Ayr to keep their noses in front of Clydesdale in the duel for the Western Premiership title.
The bowling performance of the day was produced by Alan Davidson of Dumfries. His return of seven for nine was instrumental in the tense win against West of Scotland in a low-scoring affair at Nunholm.
East Kilbride took another big step towards the Western Zone top flight by demolishing Kelburne at Whitehaugh.
Tom Batters bagged five for 21 to set up an easy success for Greenock on home turf against Weirs, who were shot out for 65. Batters then battered 32 not out to steer his side to glory by 10 wickets in the 11th over.