IN THE Eastern Premier title race, one of the losing teams bizarrely became the outright pacesetters.
Champions Arbroath grabbed a dramatic win over Aberdeenshire at Lochlands but the two points salvaged by the Dons enabled them to overtake previous leaders Grange, who were humbled by local rivals Heriot’s.
Stoneywood-Dyce upset Forfarshire – while Falkland powered past Carlton to prove their early-season successes were no flukes. And Falkland bowler Ryan Hepburn was quick to forecast a tense finish to the campaign in August, with no obvious favourites for glory. He said: “This league is wide open and my view is that every team is in with a shout.”
Only four points separate the seven top clubs and Hepburn added: “We are delighted with the result [beating Carlton] after going through a wee shaky spell.
“We had been very disappointed after the previous week’s defeat but skipper Bruce Ditchmen worked hard with us on the basics. He stressed the importance of the batsmen building partnerships and the bowlers sticking to the right areas.”
At the tea break, Hepburn doubted whether the Falkland tally of 179 for nine would be enough, but when Safyaan Sharif struck four times, the balance tilted in favour of the Fifers and they clinched it by 13 runs. The final stages were equally, if not more, dramatic at Lochlands, where Arbroath prevailed by only four runs – thanks mainly to spinner Craig Ramsay’s five-wicket haul.
Hamish Bartlett (67) and skipper Marc Petrie (41) had propelled the hosts to 205 for eight and Aberdeenshire appeared to be chasing comfortably at 109 for two until Ramsay entered the attack. The last five visitors perished with the addition of just 24 – Calvin Burnett with the crucial last wicket.
Forfarshire couldn’t recover from the early loss of Craig Wallace and Aman Bailwal at Peoples Park as they slid to 133 all out, and the vagaries of the track were underlined when Stoneywood limped over the line with only two wickets to spare.
Stoneywood’s Michael Leask and the visitors’ Liam Sweeney snapped up nine scalps between them. Forfarshire’s Liam Gough was the only batsman to pass the 50 mark.
The other two fixtures were also low-scoring affairs.
In spite of posting a mere 129 at Goldenacre, Grange looked on course to beat Heriot’s – who were indebted to player-coach Steve Knox. No fewer than five run-outs had handed the initiative back to the visitors but the streetwise Knox thumped a six to seal a one-wicket win. His unbeaten 30 was the highest score of the tussle.
Along the road at Inverleith, Watsonians strolled to victory by nine wickets after skittling SMRH for 68, with Dewald Nel hitting a quickfire 48 not out.
Clydesdale play it low key despite rout of champions
CLYDESDALE had just beaten champions Uddingston on their own patch – the sort of result that might once have sparked raucous celebrations – yet the away dressing room was strangely muted in the wake of an eight-wicket demolition job.
The Titwood side may well be on the march but each step is being cautiously plotted.
There is a steely determination in the ranks represented off-field by chairman of cricket Colin Mitchell, carried onto it by player-coach Con de Lange and spread throughout the team by captain Majid Haq.
The latter two were hugely influential on Saturday, conceding a combined 43 runs from 25 overs of spin as well as contributing with the bat.
“We are very much a work in progress and no-one is getting carried away,” said Mitchell. “There are some very encouraging signs and there has been a definite ground shift in attitude.
“The guys are training really hard and showing a lot more discipline and I think Con takes a lot of credit for that. He is a very focused cricketer and his approach is extremely professional. That is rubbing off on everyone around him.”
While Haq bowled the majority of overs – 15 in all – and claimed 3-19, de Lange caught the eye with his smooth action. The South African also bagged the key wickets of Uddingston professional Matt McEwan, in-form Sammy Zia and top scorer Gavin Bradley.
The Villagers’ 132-9 was never going to trouble Clydesdale especially when 31 runs came from the first two overs of their reply. De Lange top-scored with 44no from only 36 balls while Richie Berrington hit five boundaries in his 35no.
Meanwhile, West of Scotland came a poor second at Dumfries, where the hosts’ 201 was far too many for the visitors, who slumped to 70 all out.
Ayr rattled-up 338-5 in their win over Drumpellier at Langloan, Sikander Raza top-scoring with 89 before Drumps slid to 137 all out.
Kamran Saeed top-scored again for Renfrew with 71 in a 22-run win over East Kilbride.
In the Western First Division, Ferguslie amassed 386-2 against Greenock with Keith Dabengwa hitting 184 – more than a century of them in boundaries.
Grange cruise into last eight
HOLDERS Grange yesterday moved smoothly into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup with a comfortable win over Forfarshire at Forthill.
Batting first, the Edinburgh side had George Munsey to thank most for reaching an imposing 237-8, as he top-scored with 89.
Forfarshire’s reply was punctuated by the regular fall of wickets and they were eventually all out for 151.
Falkland converted their impressive league form to the cup competition with an excellent win over Eastern Premier champions Arbroath at Scroggie Park.
Wayne Sullivan claimed five wickets as the visitors were dismissed for 123. Arbroath refused to throw in the towel and had the Fifers briefly concerned before Safyaan Sharif’s unbeaten 49 clinched a four-wicket win.
Aberdeenshire were the day’s big scorers with 306-8 en route to victory over Stirling at Mannofield. Hayes van der Berg, their young South African amateur, was the star of the show with 104, after Chris Venske had got the Dons off to a flier with 75.
Another South African, Stirling’s Brad Williams was in the runs only for his day to end in frustration. Williams had reached 99no and could only look on in dismay as home skipper Tyler Buchan finished the match with a hat-trick to seal a 121-run success.
Watsonians skipper Ewan Chalmers scored a half-century and claimed four wickets in his side’s 50-run victory over Poloc.