GRANGE captain Neil McCallum paid tribute to his Scottish Cup specialists after they successfully defended the trophy to hold it for a record eighth time with a 38-run win over Clydesdale.
Ex-Saltires star McCallum (55) shared in a 130-run stand with man-of-the-match Ryan Flannigan (84) as Zeeshan Bashir’s six wickets proved in vain for Dale.
McCallum said: “It’s never easy to defend a trophy but I thought the lads were outstanding. Clydesdale made it very difficult for us, especially their spin bowlers who kept things very tight.
“But we dug in and Ryan’s innings proved decisive. It’s a really proud moment for me and the club and our success is tribute not just to the players but all the guys who put in so much effort behind the scenes.”
Bashir appeared to have put Clydesdale in with a chance of winning the trophy for the first time since 1988, his spell restricting Grange to 222-8 after they had been cruising on 185-2.
But the Titwood side’s run chase looked doomed from the moment former Northants all-rounder Con de Lange fell to Raj Routray in the second over. It got worse when Paddy Barbour and Sam Page departed in quick succession to leave the Western Union side teetering on 33-3.
However, Richie Berrington and skipper Majid Haq set about repairing the damage with an excellent stand but the Clydesdale captain’s day ended in controversial circumstances when he was adjudged lbw to Arun Pillai. The Scotland star, convinced he had edged the ball, briefly stood his ground before thumping his bat on the turf in frustration.
It proved a crucial breakthrough for Grange who took another two wickets in quick succession to have their rivals reeling on 136-6. While Berrington remained unbeaten, Clydesdale still had hope. But sadly for the former Greenock player, he continued to run out of partners and was eventually second last out for a fine 69, striking a Tom Sole delivery to Nick Farrar at extra cover. It signalled the end for Clydesdale who were all out for 184 when Sole claimed his fourth wicket.
Earlier Grange had batted themselves into a strong position only to be halted by Bashir’s wicket-taking heroics.
Recent Scotland recruit George Munsey and former U19 batsman Farrar established a platform, although the former was trapped in front attempting a reverse sweep off Haq and departed for 29, while Farrar holed out to de Lange for 22.
The partnership between Flannigan and McCallum then claimed the initiative for the Edinburgh side, as they accumulated runs with a mixture of good running between the wickets and the occasional boundary.
McCallum reached his 50 from 61 deliveries with six fours and a maximum. Having advanced to 55, the skipper attempted another six but picked out Kasim Farid on the boundary to give Bashir his first wicket.
Flannigan had reached 84 before being caught by Mo Awais off Bashir. The spinner then removed three batsmen in one over and five in ten deliveries. The collapse meant that the holders had to be content with 222-8, but it was to prove more than enough.