THERE were hints on Saturday that Ayr skipper Andi McElnea’s pre-season wish may be granted during the weeks and months ahead.
McElnea had called on his side to end several years of under-achievement by playing to their full potential and an opening day victory over champions Uddingston was a good way to start.
Given the accent the Alloway club has placed on youth in recent times it is perhaps inevitable that consistency has proved elusive but there are encouraging signs that a crop of promising youngsters may be ready to realise their potential. “Youth will again be a key feature of our season,” insisted McElnea. “We will provide opportunities for our young players to continue their development.
“I just want my team to start producing the performances that we are capable of and show other teams in the west that we are moving in the right direction.”
It was fitting that it was two of the emerging stars who featured most prominently with the bat, Elliot Speirs top-scoring with 44 while Neil Smith, whose talent has been recognised by the Reivers, stroked 42.
These contributions, along with useful knocks from the skipper and Sikander Raza Butt, helped Ayr post a challenging 191 for seven in a match reduced to 45 overs.
Uddingston would still have backed themselves for a successful chase especially when Andrew Umeed was in full flow, marking his league debut for the club with an accomplished 80 from 109 balls.
However, when Umeed offered a return catch to Sikander, the visitors fell away and McElnea did the bulk of the damage with four for 38 to seal an 18-run win.
If there was disappointment for one Lanarkshire side there was abject despair for county neighbours Drumpellier who let slip a golden chance to open their campaign with victory over Renfrew at Langloan.
Muhammad Ramzan and Abdul Sabri, who both went on to claim four wickets, struck early for Drumps to reduce Renfrew to apparent tatters at 37 for six. However, Imran Adrees, who left the Coatbridge club during the winter, returned to haunt his old colleagues with a defiant half-century.
Adrees stroked six boundaries in his 69-ball 61, his effort hoisting the team’s tally to an improbable 154 and raising a few doubts in the home camp.
Any jitters appeared to have been eased when Ramzan and Graeme McLaren both struck 33 but they returned with a vengeance when Shahid Abbasi struck with a hat-trick to remove Zaheer Mohammed, Sabri and Irfan Sajjad.
A position of comfort for Drumpellier was suddenly transferred to one of genuine danger and Abbasi went on to complete a five-wicket haul in a remarkable five-run win.
East Kilbride marked their debut in the top flight with a D/L victory over Dumfries at Torrance House.
Okera Bascome top-scored with 39, including six boundaries, in East Kilbride’s total of 148 while Scotland Under-19 pace bowler Niall Alexander claimed four for 24 for the visitors.
Dumfries’ target kept changing in the wake of several rain interruptions and, in hitting out, they lost too many wickets and fell seven runs short.
The match of the day between West of Scotland and Clydesdale failed to produce a result despite the efforts of both teams and umpires to beat the weather at Hamilton Crescent.
Grange sink leaders in difficult conditions
GRANGE vice-captain Andrew Brock believes his side were able to snuff out the challenge of Falkland because the bowlers and fielders were good at handling a bar of soap!
The hosts had gone into battle at Scroggie Park as unbeaten league leaders, but it was Brock and his boys who underlined their potential as championship contenders.
He said: “It was a good, solid win in difficult conditions. The wicket wasn’t the best we have played on, so chasing 159 was a demanding task. Our seamers had performed pretty well when you consider they had to bowl with what was effectively a bar of soap for the last 25 overs.
“The batsmen then went out with a positive attitude – and Flannigan and Angellini took us over the line after we had been in a sticky patch, needing 40. Falkland is not an easy place to get a result, so we are delighted.” Brock added: “It is now a case of trying to gather momentum and find consistency. In this league, anyone is capable of beating the others on the day and it will be a long, tough campaign. We just want to be up there and in the shake-up going into the last few decisive weeks.”
Two Grange bowlers at opposite ends of the experience spectrum, Gregor Maiden and Chris Sole, inflicted the initial damage by sharing a six-wicket haul. Maiden’s successful lbw shout to remove in-form Scotland star Safyaan Sharif was probably the most important breakthrough.
The most clinical display of the weekend was produced by Forfarshire, who completed a quickfire demolition job on SMRH at Inverleith.
Giant paceman Dale Sweeney bagged four for 11 to send the hosts hurtling to 69 all out – leaving the Broughty Ferry brigade to surge to the target in only six overs and without loss.
Shire all rounder Umair Mohammed confirmed the manner of the victory was reflected by the stats. He said: “It was emphatic. We have such a well-balanced attack with lots of different options and everyone seems to be putting his hand up when asked to do a job. It helped that the conditions played in our favour early on, but there was no taking away the quality of bowling.
“Dale was aggressive and quick and at 6ft 7in, he can be a real handful. Put it this way, I am glad he is in my team. Batting-wise, our openers ooze class. In Craig Wallace and Matty Parker we have guys who still have Scotland credentials. But the most important thing is we all very much enjoy playing together – we are like one big family.”
Greig Peal and Fraser Burnett emerged as the heroes for champions Arbroath at Lochlands as Heriot’s also surrendered their 100 per cent record.
Peal snatched the limelight by hitting 84 not out to help the home troops rack up an impressive 245 for five – Burnett making 68. Peal then ripped through the Heriot’s top order to claim five for 43 as the Goldenacre outfit plunged to 122 all out. Calvin Burnett weighed in for three wickets, with no visiting batsman able to reach the 30-mark. Aberdeenshire recovered from the loss of two early wickets to former Kent bowler Dewald Nel to post 227 enroute to victory over Watsonians at Mannofield.
Chris Venske maintained his prolific start to the season by top-scoring for the Dons with 62, featuring nine boundaries and two sixes.
There was also a half-century for Harsha Cooray, while Callum Martin’s run-a-ball 41 kept the hosts on top despite Ewan Chalmers’ five wickets.
The ’Sonians skipper did not fare so well with the bat, removed for a duck by opposite number Tyler Buchan, though it was Tony McKenna, a former Watsonians player, who did the bulk of the early damage with three wickets. Andrew Fraser-Harris hit a defiant 64 in a 76-run stand for the eighth wicket with Fraser Sands, but Aberdeenshire sealed victory by 72 runs.
Carlton were in trouble on 14 for three against Stoneywood-Dyce at Grange Loan, but youngster Ruari Macpherson led the recovery with a composed 43no to push their total to 178 –enough for a 34-run win.
Freuchie stalwarts rack up runs to put Holy Cross to the sword
FREUCHIE’S batting old guard were to the fore as the Fifers powered to a convincing Eastern Championship triumph over Holy Cross.
Having lost the toss at Muir Road, the pressure was on the hosts in the early stages on a moist surface. However, they made light of the conditions to rattle up an impressive 200 for seven. The experience of Robbie Birrell (83), Allan Wallace (43) and Scott Gourley (43) was underlined as they mixed watchfulness and aggression.
It was a target that proved well beyond the reach of the capital side and they were all out for 175 in the final over.
There was an even more emphatic home success in another Fife v Edinburgh encounter – Glenrothes demolishing Edinburgh South.
Robbie Wright provided the platform with a solid unbeaten 72, which helped the Glens post a tally of 198 for seven.
South failed to get their pursuit up and running and they were skittled out for just 57, with no fewer than seven lbw dismissals.
West Lothian saw their plight deepen as they crashed by 27 runs away to MDAFS, while Giles Holmes top scored with 57 not out to help Grange 2nds beat Penicuik at Raeburn Place, despite 58 from Keith Morton.
But the performance of the day was produced by Oasmaan Malik, who smashed 98 not out as RHC secured a comfortable home victory over Carlton by 152 runs.