Cricket: Deadly duo hold key to Capital derby

SCOTTISH Premiership cricket's two most effective strike bowlers go head-to-head in a crucial Capital derby at Grange Loan tomorrow.

Something will have to give when second place Watsonians visit third placed Carlton – they share the same percentage points and are separated only by run-rate – and the decisive factor could be Omer Ahmad versus Steve Paige.

Carlton seamer Ahmad will be back on home soil for the first time since achieving figures of 6-12 against Dunfermline a fortnight ago, while Paige, the only other bowler to have claimed half a dozen victims in an innings this season, captains Watsonians.

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Paige finished with figures of 6-20 as Watsonians shot out champions Aberdeenshire and is hoping his team can build on that success. "I got a bit of help from the conditions but it was still satisfying to get my best wicket haul since moving to Scotland three years ago," said Cricket Scotland's head of the community game.

Paige added: "One aspect was that we were able to keep our spin attack, including Ross Paxton and Craig Wright, under wraps for a match that promises to be exceptionally tight."

A foretaste was provided by a recent Murgitroyd Masterton Twenty20 tie between the clubs on the same ground when Carlton won off the last ball.

However, while Watsonians, are unchanged Carlton have been badly hit by representative calls based on the Netherlands v Scotland match while wicketkeeper Jamie Kerr is unavailable and two more internationalists, Bryn Lockie and Ali Evans, are newly retired and have university commitments.

Standing in for Kerr will be Fraser Boyd fresh from a maiden club century at second team level and with a vote of confidence from skipper Fraser Watts.

Says Watts, who is without current caps Preston Mommsen, Gordon Drummond and Ross Lyons in looking to Oli Tame, Ani Majumdar, Tom Barratt and Tom Clarke in addition to Boyd: "Fraser got his maiden club century last weekend (against Boroughmuir) and it was brilliant to see him achieve that.

"He has worked very hard at his game over the winter and it is pleasing to see him get his rewards. Both his batting and his keeping have come on leaps and bounds and the fact that he made his ton from coming in when his side were 60-4 makes it even more special.

"He has also made other important scores earlier in the year but this is the one that gets noticed and even with a damaged finger his keeping is top quality. Fraser has done a fair amount of work with Simon Smith (Scotland keeper and cricket development officer) as well as Jamie Kerr and you can see the quality coming through. He has a very good attitude, is keen to learn and a testimony to our youth section where his dad, John, is convenor.

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"In addition to him 17-year-old Nick Martin made 91 off 60 balls for the thirds and three of our 14-year-olds – Kyle McPherson, Craig Everett (14) and Cheeky Gosain – have been excelling in various teams.

"Also, another of our players, Rajan Bhopal, recently made over 90 for the East Academy."

Remarkably, Carlton provide half the batsmen in the league's top ten run-makers after completing their fourth straight win at Forfarshire last week, but only Cedric English and Fraser Watts are present tomorrow.

Elsewhere, leaders Grange hope to bounce back from a first league defeat when they entertain Uddingston. They recall Giles Holmes for the first time since April after the all-rounder suffered a knee injury. Also back are Oliver Hairs, Chris Murphy and Simon Taylor with Neil McCallum, Gregor Maiden and Simon Smith on Scotland duty.

Division One pacesetters Heriot's are at NVT Poloc and the absence of Antony Edington, Raja Javed, Qasim Ashraf and skipper Steve Knox means opportunities for youngsters including Johnny White, a hard -hitting all rounder. Also, Calum McDougall gets the chance to build on a good bowling display in Heriot's' recent Twenty20 quarter-final defeat by Grange.

In Division Two, SMRH await Dumfries while there are trips for Imans Edinburgh and RH Corstorphine to, respectively, Weirs and West Lothian.