MAJID Haq saved his best for last as champions Clydesdale ended a triumphant Western Union campaign in style with victory over Dumfries at Titwood on Saturday.
Scotland’s most capped player and record wicket-taker claimed 8-20 from 15 overs, eclipsing his 7-10 achieved against Drumpellier earlier in the season.
Clydesdale needed their captain to demonstrate his spin-bowling prowess after Stuart Corbett-Byers’ 60 had helped the visitors move sedately to 93-0.
Haq had looked on course for all ten wickets until Mo Ali claimed the ninth and a run-out ended the Dumfries innings on 156.
Haq then provided the platform for his side’s chase with 48, while Sam Page hit a sparkling unbeaten 60 as Clydesdale won by five wickets ahead of Saturday’s Grand Final against Grange.
Manager Colin Mitchell said: “Dumfries went off like a train but Maj bowled with great control and his figures say it all. He then gave us a solid base, as he has done all season, while Sam batted with real flair.
“It was nice to finish a season which has been blighted by the weather in sunshine and with the trophy being presented.”
It is not the only silverware to land in the Titwood trophy cabinet this year – the club’s second eleven won the Western Union Reserve League, while the U15s were triumphant in the Scottish Cup and Mitchell paid tribute to the role of coach Con de Lange.
“Con has played a big part in our top-to-bottom improvement, bringing much-needed discipline, structure and quality to our collective approach.”
The season appears to be ending at just the wrong time for Drumpellier and their top order batsman Graeme McLaren.
After a difficult summer which saw the Coatbridge side dice with danger near the foot of the table, they have rallied to win four of their last five matches, ending comfortably above the bottom two and level on percentage with last season’s champions Ayr.
If last Sunday’s win in a high-scoring encounter at Ayr owed most to overseas duo Louis Venter and Sudesh Fernando, Saturday’s success against East Kilbride at Langloan was in complete contrast.
Rather than defending 300 as they had done six days earlier, Drumps found themselves chasing a modest 130 and McLaren was to be their local hero.
At 106-9, though, it looked certain that their season would end on a losing note as East Kilbride, for whom Moneeb Iqbal claimed four key wickets, closed in on victory.
However, McLaren had other ideas and found the form which had eluded him for much of the campaign to mastermind a wonderfully controlled run-chase.
The former Reivers player watched a succession of team-mates depart but retained his composure to hit a superb unbeaten 73 from 130 balls with three boundaries and one six.
It spoke volumes about McLaren’s skill in testing conditions that the only other home batsman to reach double figures was Asad Mohammad with 20.
McLaren said: “It’s been a tough season for me personally and at times I questioned my ability. But today’s effort means everything to me on one of the trickiest pitches to bat on. It’s a great way to finish the season.”
With East Kilbride slipping up, the stage was clear for Kelburne to claim second place and the Whitehaugh club, one of the success stories of the summer, made no mistake with victory over Ayr.
This was also a thrilling one-wicket affair, Kelburne first restricting Ayr to 167-8 before reaching the target with their last pair at the crease, the match having appeared to be slipping away when Scott McElnea picked up his fourth wicket to dismiss top scorer Omer Hussain for 44.
There was no happy ending for relegated West of Scotland, who went down by nine wickets at Hamilton Crescent as Ferguslie clinched third place, while Uddingston’s clash with Renfrew was cancelled.
Meanwhile, Vasu Reddy believes Glenrothes will be strong enough to compete with the best when they go into the Eastern Premiership fray.
He confidently issued his verdict after the Fifers clinched promotion to the top flight with a crushing nine-wicket triumph over Strathmore Union champions Gordonians at Freuchie.
This season’s elevated side, RH Corstorphine, struggled to cope with the demands of the upper grade, failing to win a single match. However, Reddy insisted Glens will be better equipped to adapt to the challenge.
He said: “I have already played at Premier level during my time with Dunfermline and I am sure Glenrothes will not be in the same boat as RHC.
“I think we will cope – though the lesson from this year is that there is a big step up in ability.”
Reddy added: “Personally, this is one of the highlights of my career – I am part of club with cricket as its first priority.
Reddy was backed up by Glenrothes spokesman Edward Gibbs, who stated: “Now the hard work begins. But I am confident we’ll put together a squad capable of competing.”