Grange must play waiting game without class act Hairs

UNBEATEN Grange are without the talented Oli Hairs and have an anxious wait on the availability of two other key players as they get ready to head to Clydesdale in the SNCL Premier Division this afternoon.

Opening batsman Hairs, who is still at school and has 192 league runs to his name this summer, has been told he must play cricket for Merchiston Castle against Gordonstoun.

Meanwhile, the club were waiting to hear whether wicketkeeper Simon Smith had been released by Cricket Scotland to return to the side after a back injury or whether he is to be given extra recovery time ahead of next week's trip with Scotland to the Netherlands for the Intercontinental Cup match in Deventer.

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Additionally, batsman Mike Powell's wife is ready to give birth, meaning that the former England A player's availability could change at any moment.

Despite the uncertainties, though, the Grange team will still be a strong one with Gregor Maiden and Neil McCallum returning to strengthen the batting and, if required, the bowling.

"I have been really pleased with the start to the season. With injury to our proposed pro (Warren McSkimming] and perceived bowling problems, not many expected us to win six from six, but we have dug in well, especially last week against West. We are looking forward to making sure the run continues," said captain Sanjay Patel.

Clydesdale have lost their last three top-flight matches, but have Scotland duo Majid Haq and Omer Hussain back to bolster their middle order. Haq's spin will also come in handy with youngster Lyle Hill and Andrew Scobie dropping out for the Titwood clash.

In-form Carlton, meanwhile, head for Broughty Ferry to play Forfarshire without batsman Bryn Lockie, who has called time on his first XI career. The former Scotland cap has scored nearly 4,000 runs since the beginning of the SNCL in 1998, but will now step down to the second XI to allow younger players to progress. The Edinburgh side will head north filled with confidence, having defeated Watsonians with the penultimate ball by one wicket in their Murgitroyd Masterton Trophy quarter-final at Grange Loan on Thursday night.

Gordon Drummond was the hero with 55 not out in that match and he is joined in today's side by Scotland colleague Ross Lyons and exciting seam duo Ali Evans and Charles Legget who are now free from university commitments. Second-placed Forfarshire make just one change ahead of the intriguing contest with Graeme Black coming in for Tony Weed.

Fifth placed Watsonians host Aberdeenshire with young batsman Ewan Chalmers on a high after 77 off just 47 balls against Greenock last week followed by a call-up to the Scotland squad for the World Cricket League in the Netherlands later this month and early July. Captain Steve Paige and wicketkeeper Euan Stubbs return.

For Aberdeenshire, Craig Anderson comes into the bowling unit with Willie Gavera again struggling with injury. Neil Macrae and his troops will then face a Scottish Cup tie at Heriot's tomorrow. Bottom club Greenock head to Hamilton Crescent to take on second-bottom McCrea FS West with key man Richie Berrington back in the team. The Glenpark outfit have lost their first five matches and were defeated by Renfrew off the last ball in their West League Cup match on Thursday night. McCrea FS West will have taken heart from last week's close loss to Grange and will be looking for their first league win since the opening day.

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Uddingston welcome Dunfermline Knights to Bothwell Castle with both sides looking to bounce back. The hosts went down to the National Academy last Sunday, while the Knights suffered a thumping loss at Carlton the previous day.