Knights out to shine at top level

SNCL Premier Division new boys Dunfermline Knights are looking forward to taking on reigning champions Aberdeenshire in their season opener at McKane Park this afternoon.

The Fifers had a remarkable season in 2009 – only losing two matches in 50-over cricket in league and cup – and it has been quite a rise for a team who were playing Second Division just two seasons ago.

One of those losses last term came against today's opponents as the men from Mannofield clinched the double by winning the Scottish Cup final. And Knights skipper Gowtham Rai and his troops are eager to get their 2010 campaign off to a good start.

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He said: "We are looking forward to playing in the Premier Division and we could not have been given a better start than by taking on Aberdeenshire at home. We have a good team spirit and everyone around the club is positive ahead of the season. Hopefully we can take the confidence we built up last term into the coming weeks."

Rai has South African pro Alistair Gray, who scored 893 runs in the First Division last term, at his disposal once again along with Australian overseas amateur Marshall Bunting, who looks set to open the bowling.

Wicket-keeper Abby Shakoor has been brought in from Renfrew to offset the loss of last season's gloveman Sanjay Rakshit to Stenhousemuir, while there are high hopes for spinner Aparajit Singh. He took 37 wickets in the Second Division last summer for Falkland and will be a useful addition to Rai's bowling options.

Meanwhile, Wayne Sullivan, who was a prolific runs-scorer for the club in the 1990s, has returned from Australia and will open the batting and Amir Shahzad plays after moving from Stenhousemuir.

Aberdeenshire, once again under the leadership of Neil MacRae, start the campaign with a double header. After today's match they host the National Academy tomorrow.

Elsewhere today, McCrea FS West will have Scotland cap Moneeb Iqbal in their side as they host Uddingston at Hamilton Crescent.

The 24-year-old all-rounder has joined from Greenock and will be in the team along with New Zealander Leighton Burtt, a fast bowler from Canterbury Wizard who plays with former McCrea FS West pro Andy Ellis.

For Uddingston, new Sri Lankan pro Rasika Priyadarshana will bolster both their batting and bowling.

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At Grange Loan, Carlton look set to give seamer Mohammed Habib a debut along with Scotland Lions' cap Preston Mommsen. The home side take on Edinburgh rivals Grange with the latter having been handed a blow yesterday with the confirmation of the news that New Zealander Warren McSkimming will not be joining the club. He has suffered a stress fracture in his back and is ruled out for a long spell, while former England A batsman Mike Powell is unavailable, as is skipper Sanjay Patel.

After just avoiding the drop last term, Greenock's new skipper Kevin McLaren has challenged his side's young players to grasp their opportunity. They will be in the top team following the departure of a number of high- profile players.

They host Clydesdale at Glenpark with talented wicket-keeper Andy Hislop set to open the batting for Greenock against his former side. Clydesdale will be keen to bounce back from last week's loss to the National Academy, but Qasim Sheikh is struggling with a shoulder injury.

Finally, promoted Forfarshire host Watsonians at Forthill. Robert Cannon has been in fine pre-season batting form for the hosts – hitting centuries against Dundee HSFP and Falkland in recent weeks – while Craig Wallace and Matthew Parker will be looking forward to testing themselves in the top flight.

The visitors have been busy over the winter and hand debuts to pro Tim Weston, Craig Wright, Stuart Chalmers and teenager Paddy Sadler who is set to feature after a broken thumb.