Chris Venske hails Aberdeenshire’s win as ‘simply the best’

Heriots batsman Sean Weeraratna is clean bowled as home side Mazars Grange prevailed at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean

Heriots batsman Sean Weeraratna is clean bowled as home side Mazars Grange prevailed at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean

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Rival skippers Chris Venske and Umair Mohammed joined forces to label Aberdeenshire’s remarkable Eastern Premiership opening-day victory over Forfarshire a classic.

The Broughty Ferry brigade had gone into the battle of the Shires at Forthill as favourites.

However, in a high-scoring tussle, it was Venske’s visitors who completed a stunning run-chase.

Venske was dismissed a run short of a century, but the spotlight was grabbed by new South African pro Chris Ngoepe, who hit an unbeaten 109 as the Manno­field men passed the target of 342 with more than four overs to spare.

The victorious captain said: “It was quite simply the best game of cricket I’ve ever been involved in.

“I had thought we gave them maybe 30-50 runs too many, but we have a new way of thinking at the club this season under David Cox as coach. We’re all about positive cricket, and believing we can beat any team on our day.

“Kenny Reid and I got the pursuit off to a flier and we were 175 without loss after 23 overs, which just set us up for the mammoth chase.

“Chris Ngoepe then played spectacularly to lead us home, winning it with a six.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to win a game like that. It was a special game of cricket.”

Debut centurion Ngoepe said: “The stand from our openers was the ideal platform. Their efforts took some pressure off me coming in when we needed to go at seven an over. I knew if we had wickets in hand we would chase it down comfortably.”

Mohammed was far from deflated in spite of the loss. “It was an unbelievable game to involved in,” he said. “To produce such an outstanding pitch, credit must first go to the Forthill ground staff. We are lucky to have one of the best pitches in Scotland.

“Of course the outcome was disappointing, but we will take positives from it. The batting displays of 17-year-old Calum Garden and 18-year-old Rory Johnston were the best I have seen in that age group since Kyle Coetzer and Qasim Sheikh – two of the classiest players Scotland have produced.

“We are a very young side with a number of potential international stars, so they need to play in games like this to become better.”

Garden (90), Matty Parker (87) and Johnston (68 not out) took Forfarshire to 340 for four. But Ngoepe, Venske and Reed (69) turned it into a stroll.

Elsewhere, Glenrothes surged to success against champions Carlton at Gilvenbank. Fred Culley emerged as the main home-turf hero with a fine knock of 91.

In the capital derbies, a century by Mark Watt couldn’t prevent Heriot’s being toppled by Grange at Raeburn Place.

Neil McCallum led the chase with 80, while Dylan Budge ground out a crucial 52 not out to guide the hosts over the line.

At Inverleith, Ewan Chalmers (81) and George Munsey (41) were Watsonians’ mainstays in their win over SMRH.

Arbroath avoided a banana skin as they repelled Falkland’s challenge at Lochlands.

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