THE Granite City derby took centre stage on Saturday and, as so often this summer, Michael Leask emerged as the star turn.
Whether he is flaying England’s bowling order in Saltires colours or spearheading the Highlanders’ North Sea Pro Series success, Leask has already stated his case as being a potential player of the season.
However, despite his emergence as a fully-fledged international performer, the 23-year-old remains committed to his role as a club cricketer with Stoneywood-Dyce.
Indeed, having been handed the captaincy, Leask has responded with a series of eye-catching performances which have taken him towards the top end of both the bowling and batting charts in the highly competitive Eastern Premier division.
Both aspects of his game were on display as the men from Dyce travelled across the city to Mannofield and registered a convincing win over local rivals Aberdeenshire.
Leask first claimed four wickets, including the key one of the league’s top scorer Chris Venske, as the hosts were dismissed for 156 despite a half-century from their young South African amateur Hayes van der Berg.
The Stoneywood-Dyce skipper then made batting look absurdly easy, scoring 55 from only 33 deliveries, on a day when most struggled. He was eventually outscored by Schalk Conradie, who carried his bat for a cautiously compiled 65 from 124 balls as victory was achieved with more than ten overs to spare.
The seven-wicket success was sufficient to move Stoneywood-Dyce up a place in the league at the expense of a ’Shire side who plummeted from the summit to seventh place.
Player-coach Jan Stander lavished praise on Leask, saying: “Michael has developed over the last 12 months into a real class player.
“He is doing the business consistently with both bat and ball and he’s helping the other players around him, not only with his performances but also his leadership.
“But Michael would be the first to admit it is not all about him. We’ve got a lot of other guys who are contributing big performances.
“Schalk’s innings was crucial in providing the platform and Ali Gill (3-22) bowled really well.”
Victory was especially sweet for Stander who, in 11 years in the city – four of them with Aberdeenshire – had never witnessed a Stoneywood-Dyce win in a league match.
But it was also tinged with sadness following the sudden death during the week of team-mate Scott Redhead’s mother, Eleanor.
“We put the black armbands on and at half-time we had a talk about getting a win for Scott and dedicating it to his mum.” He added: “There is always a lot of emotion in the derby game and I think in the past it has got to us but we’re delighted to get such an important win today.
“The league is really tight this year and if we can get a win over SMRH next week it would set us up nicely. There has always been one strong team in the north-east – Aberdeenshire – but there are now two strong teams and, looking at the bigger picture, that is good for cricket in this region.”