GRANGE may have taken a significant step closer to becoming Eastern Premier champions on Saturday but John Blain, their player-coach, is counting no chickens.
Blain claimed four wickets as his team fought back from a sticky start at Scroggie Park to beat a plucky Falkland outfit by 37 runs.
At the same time, closest challengers Arbroath suffered frustration when their encounter with Stoneywood-Dyce at Peoples Park was cancelled due to an unfit pitch.
The day got even better for Grange when third-top Carlton were upset by derby rivals Watsonians at Grange Loan.
However, despite seeing his side consolidate their position at the top, Blain is taking nothing for granted and is wary of the threat still posed by Arbroath, in particular.
The former Scotland bowler said: “Saturday’s win was important but it is only another win.
“People will say we are strong favourites, especially with what happened elsewhere, but there is a lot of cricket still to be played.
“Arbroath are a team I admire a lot and there is no way they are out of it. They have a strong batting line-up, who might prosper on good wickets in the second half of the season.
“They also have a good team ethic and will keep fighting to the end.
“I think Carlton have been harder hit by international call-offs but they are still in it too and will be stronger when they get their big players back.”
Grange were given a testing examination in difficult conditions at a Scroggie Park, which had been lashed by wind and rain during the previous 24 hours.
The visitors certainly found the going tough when they slumped to 40-5 and 60-7, as Ryan Hepburn spearheaded the Falkland attack to claim 5-37.
Ryan Flannigan and Ian Worth were the top Grange batsmen with 30 and 28 but the last-wicket partnership of 30 between Blain and Raj Routray was to prove vital in taking the game out of Falkland’s reach.
Routray compiled 14 not out, while Blain, who had only arrived back in the country the previous evening following a school trip to the Caribbean, was unbeaten on 12 as the visitors posted 141-9.
Blain was then the key bowler in reducing the Falkland innings to tatters with 4-28.
It was to the home side’s credit that they recovered from 61-9 to reach 104 with a late flurry by Yadav Umesh (20) and Hepburn (16 not out).
Blain added: Batting was really difficult for both sides and it was important to dig in and get as many runs as possible.
“Falkland made a real game of it, as we knew they would because they are the only team to have beaten us in the league this season.”
Elsewhere, Carlton were ultimately punished for failing to bat their full allocation of overs, bowled out for 205 as Dewald Nel and Brendan O’Connell took three wickets each for Watsonians.
Former Scotland batsman Ewan Chalmers then led his side’s run chase with an unbeaten 52.
Ryan Watson came agonisingly close to a third consecutive league century as Forfarshire overcame bottom-of-the-table Corstorphine at Forthill.
Watson started his hot streak last month, scoring 116 not out in the corresponding clash with the Edinburgh side and following up with exactly 100 against Heriot’s the following week.
However, he was out for 99 on Saturday, though his dismissal did not affect the outcome, Graeme Beghin stealing the limelight with 110 not out as Forfarshire posted 263-4.
Corstorphine made a real fight of it, with Dan Payne producing the innings of the day to hit 125 not out, but three wickets each for the Sweeneys – Dale and Liam – sealed a 24-run win for the Broughty Ferry team.
Aberdeenshire’s clash with Heriot’s was abandoned without a ball bowled.