Cricket: Andy Tennant expects young guns to fire

ANDY Tennant is backing a new generation of cricketers to make their mark in this season’s Regional Series.

The competition, seen as a stepping stone between club and international level, gets under way today when Eastern Knights entertain Western Warriors at Goldenacre.

Preston Mommsen’s Knights, with eight full caps, start favourites to end Caley Highlanders’ two-year reign as champions.

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However, Tennant, Cricket Scotland’s head of performance, believes the established stars can come under pressure from aspiring ones.

The Highlanders have led the way by bringing through players such as Matty Parker, Marc Petrie and Calvin Burnett, who have gone on to earn Saltires recognition.

Neil MacRae, the Caley coach whose side enter the fray against the Warriors next weekend, expects several more of his side to soon be knocking on the door to international recognition.

And it appears as if their rivals are ready to follow suit, with Warriors today handing debuts to under-19 pair Scott McElnea, the young Ayr seam bowler, and Greenock wicket-keeper Alex Baum. The Knights are also introducing a new player in the shape of pace bowler Omer Ahmad, Carlton’s top wicket-taker last season.

Tennant said: “One of the purposes of the Series is to let younger guys test themselves at a higher level and it’s great to see some new faces get their chance.”

The Warriors have lost Saltires bowlers Safy Sharif and Neil Laidlaw to injury and the Knights are also a bowler short after Ali Evans signed a deal with Derbyshire.

Meanwhile the club season gets under way on Saturday with a re-formatted Scottish Cup. Eight groups of four teams will play home-and-away before the knockout stages later in the season.