CSL Eastern Premier Division new boys SMRH face a tough opener against Carlton at Grange Loan this afternoon, but the Inverleith club are looking forward to the tests that lie ahead in the coming months.
Since the fixture list was released earlier in the year the SMRH players have been eagerly waiting for this day, none more so than their skipper and director of cricket Cedric English.
Former Scotland all-rounder English served today’s opponents with much distinction over the years before moving clubs at the start of last season to take up a new challenge. And, although he is set to turn 40 at the end of this campaign, his drive and determination have not been dimmed, and he is likely to have a big part to play if SMRH are to compete in this division.
SMRH’s biggest move of the off-season was to convince Australian youngster Braydon Tracey to return for a third successive season. Last term he hit the headlines when he hit four centuries in quick succession and Tracey, English and Martin Speirs will have to weigh in with their fair share of runs this summer.
Ahead of today’s match, vice-captain Greg Bissett said: “We are looking forward to being involved in the top flight. It has been good to get two cup wins under our belt already, although we were disappointed we didn’t push Clydesdale a bit closer.
“We know Carlton will give us a stern test and we will need to be at our best to win, but we just need to get off to a solid start to the match and see how we get on.”
Greg Ruthven returns to the SMRH starting line-up in place of Thomas Beattie.
Carlton head into this one after three Scottish Cup wins, and captain Preston Mommsen, Gordon Drummond, Rob Thornton and Ahmed Shah are brought into the XI.
Elsewhere reigning champions Watsonians are boosted by the return of seamer Paddy Sadler and batsman Andrew Chalmers as they open up against Arbroath at Myreside.
Sadler, who was in the extended Saltires squad for last week’s match at Hampshire, is back from Cambridge University while Chalmers has recovered from a broken collarbone sustained playing rugby.
Arbroath make the trip to the capital with new seamer Alvin Pollard in their bowling attack. He is in the armed forces and is now stationed in Arbroath while youngster Mark Fleming also comes into the team led by Marc Petrie.
Barclays Grange finished second in 2012 and start off today against Aberdeenshire at Portgower Place.
Gordon Goudie and Simon Smith miss out for the hosts while Henry Edwards is back from Oxford University.
Experienced duo Neil Macrae and Ian Brand return for Aberdeenshire.
Heriot’s host Stoneywood-Dyce with both clubs having won three from three in the Scottish Cup. Craig Adams has split the webbing on his hand and is replaced by Colin Thomson for the home side, with Eddie Steinson and Martin Reid coming in for Stoneywood-Dyce.
Div 1 round-up
THERE is a big Tayside and Fife presence in race for honours in the Eastern First Division, with Freuchie and Glenrothes in particular aiming to shake off their rocky Scottish Cup form.
Freuchie open their league account on home turf against Corstorphine and veteran David Cowan believes there will be a big improvement following last weekend’s hammering at the hands of Drumpellier. He said: “The crossover point between the football and cricket seasons was always going to be a challenge. Now we have the footballers back, we can field a more competitive line-up.”
Forfarshire’s quest to return to the top flight at the first time of asking begins with a tussle with old rivals West Lothian at Broughty Ferry – and they will be hoping to be as competent with the bat as they were with the clubs last week when they won the three-way golf match with Arbroath and Dundee HSFP at Alyth. Dundee will be seeking to consolidate in this division after their promotion. They will, however, be underdogs when they head across the bridge to Falkland.
And Glenrothes will fancy their chances of a positive result at Penicuik.
In the Western First Division, East Kilbride spokesman Brian Kampman insisted his side will have no fears about taking on Greenock at Torrance House. He said: “We will be inspired by the last time we played them in a cup match when we beat them when they had many star turns.”
There are two intriguing local derbies with Kelburne at home to Ferguslie and Poloc welcoming Weirs to Shawholm. Stenousemuir will be fancied to grab success at Prestwick.
Western Premier: Nearly men Clydesdale await champions
CLYDESDALE will launch their bid to atone for several seasons of self-confessed under-achievement when they host champions Dumfries today in a mouthwatering start to the Western Premier Division season.
This time last year, the Glasgow team lost at Dumfries in a result which at once lifted the Nunholm side and appeared to spark self-doubt in the Dale ranks. That said, the Titwood men still took last season’s title race to the final day and, having been boosted by the arrival of Shoaib Khan from Pakistan, they will be among the front-runners again this term.
Clydesdale have also installed Majid Haq as captain, and the Saltires player has already made his mark in the build-up to the new season. Club president Colin Mitchell said: “Majid has tackled his new role with great enthusiasm and that is rubbing off on the rest of the guys.
“I’ve been very impressed with the professionalism Majid has introduced in the way they’ve gone about pre-season training.
“There is little doubt that we have under-performed as a club in recent times but hopefully this will be a successful season.”
Dumfries also have a new man at the helm, Scott Beveridge replacing Stuart Corbett-Byers, who retired after last year’s success. Defeats to Ferguslie and Heriot’s in early Scottish Cup jousts do not augur well for the Nunholm side but they remain resilient.
Having been in contention until the final Saturday last summer, West of Scotland also start among the favourites to be in the running for honours again, especially since a clutch of youngsters are a year older and more experienced.
Led again by player-coach John Blain, who has signed a new three-year deal, the Partick men have the chance to make a flying start against a Renfrew side who are competing at the top level for the first time.
However, Blain has warned his players to take nothing for granted against a team who are boosted for the seventh season running by Pakistani professional Ahmed Said.
Ayr and Drumpellier, who clash at New Cambusdoon, might both be regarded as dark horses to mount a challenge.
The home side have been strengthened by the arrival of New Zealanders Neale Parlane and Michael Schofield while the appointment of Andi McElnea as captain looks shrewd.
Drumpellier have already claimed the scalp of Eastern Premier champions Watsonians in the Scottish Cup as Muhammed Ramzan, the new player-coach, made an early impression.
Youngsters like Abdul Sabri and Asid Mohammed give further cause for optimism in Coatbridge.
The division’s other Lanarkshire club, Uddingston, start favourites to make a winning start at the expense of Stirling.
Uddingston will miss former Saltires all-rounder Paul Hoffmann, who has returned to Australia, but they welcome back Sri Lankan Ras Priyadarshana for a fourth season.
The visitors, having staved-off relegation last summer, may face another tough season especially since Josh Edwards has left to join Grange. However, the emergence of young talent like Scotland U19 batsman Nick Farrar, recently promoted to the Lions, offers hope.