West Premier cricket: Dale aim to maintain late run

They are now widely touted as champions elect. New frontrunners Clydesdale have timed their run to the top with perfection, leapfrogging previous leaders Dumfries last weekend with just five games to go. But today they face a tricky trip to Ayr, historically an unhappy hunting ground for the Titwood men.

“The circumstances of last week’s win spoke volumes,” enthused Dale spokesman Colin Mitchell. “We were seriously understrength, with only skipper Zeeshan Bashir available of our five regular frontline bowlers. Our four missing bowlers, Haq, Sharif, Afzal, and Iqbal are all back to face Ayr, and will further boost our batting. But we’ll need to improve on last week’s abject fielding display.” 16-year-old Amin Chaudry keeps wicket in the absence of Kasim Farid.

Fourth-placed Ayr will look to prolific pro Craig Thyssen to supply the big runs. Youngsters Calum Gordon and Luke Speirs come in for unavailable Richard Borland and Ross Mitchell.

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Deposed Dumfries are unchanged and desperate to get back on track for the visit of Stirling County. “We should have won at Clydesdale last week,” admitted keeper Stuart Corbett-Byers. “We need to be playing more clever cricket.” Seasoned Aussie Phil Rees takes over the captaincy for County, who are now fighting for their Premier League lives. Young spinner Chris Morton and Sri Lankan all-rounder Ruckman Hewage step up, replacing Obaid Hameed and Vassu Reddy.

Third-placed West of Scotland seek to remount their title challenge at home to regalvanised Drumpellier. Successive victories have swiftly moved the Langloan men off the bottom up to fifth, and they’re hungry for more: “We go into this game with a very positive mindset,” said skipper Graeme McLaren. 15-year-old Nic Pyne replaces Craig McDonald for Drumps, while West, still without Scotland U19 starlets Anjun Luthra and Andrew Umeed, took much from last week’s Dougie Lockhart-inspired win against Uddingston.

Relegation-threatened Greenock, with just one league win back on 2 June, know they must immediately fashion a couple of victories to have any chance of maintaining Premier League status. They host sixth-placed Uddingston, who have influential skipper Saltire Calum Macleod back.