True grit puts John Blain in frame for Scotland

John Blain successfully appeals for the wicket of Andy Learmonth in the 74 all out demolition of Watsonians. Picture: Neil Hanna

John Blain successfully appeals for the wicket of Andy Learmonth in the 74 all out demolition of Watsonians. Picture: Neil Hanna

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CRICKET followers the world over are often heard to insist there is no substitute for experience.

The efforts of Ryan Watson, John Blain and Wayne Sullivan for Forfarshire, Grange and Falkland respectively would certainly have backed up that notion – although Arbroath fans might beg to differ in the wake of their side’s stunning triumph over title rivals Carlton.

Step forward spinners Ross McLean and Craig Ramsay, whose bowling in tandem propelled the Lochlands men to glory in the capital.

But even their combined success couldn’t hold a candle to the eight-wicket demolition job embarked upon by Blain against Watsonians, which again begged the question: How long can the Scotland selectors ignore him?

With the bat, Blain’s former Saltires colleague and skipper Watson blasted his second league century on the trot to snuff out the challenge of Heriot’s. And, at the ripe old age of 48, Sullivan produced one of the knocks of his life as Falkland delivered a huge body blow to Aberdeenshire’s quest to retain the championship.

Falkland captain Safyaan Sharif, who also played a major role by claiming five Dons’ scalps at Mannofield, said: “Sully was fantastic.

“He is a wise old head and he used his savvy to guide us past the post.

“It was another superb away win, coming so soon after the one against Grange.

“I had told the guys to keep things simple and stick to the basics. That is exactly what they did – and it worked.”

Sharif’s five for 33 pegged Aberdeenshire to 114 all out before Sullivan (44 not out), kept his cool to complete the job.

Blain bagged his best ever figures of eight for 32 as Sonians crashed to 74 all out in pursuit of Grange’s shaky 130 at Myreside. He said: “I remember taking eight for Rotherham eleven years ago, but I gave away more runs that time.

“As regards a Scotland return, I am still very keen for that to happen.”

Meanwhile at Foothill, Watson ended up undefeated on exactly 100 as the Broughty Ferry brigade eased past the 220 target set by Heriot’s.

He was given stout support by Michael Leask (63), while Liam Sweeney took four for 57. Not for the first time this season, Arbroath – now second in the table behind Grange – were indebted to the young McLean-Ramsay combo.

Marc Petrie and Bryce Carnegie each made 66 to carry them to 222 for nine on enemy territory.

It was sweet revenge for the opening-day loss for McLean (four for 17) and Ramsay (four for 38) as Carlton were routed on their own patch for 123.

Elsewhere, RH Corstorphine’s hopes of breaking their duck were dashed by Stoneywood-Dyce.

Jan Stander and Shaun Coetzer shared five wickets at Inverleith to curb the hosts to 179 for nine.

Hank Conrad then produced a watchful 95 to make sure RHC’s sequence of misery in the top flight continues.

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