Premiership: Aberdeenshire look for three on the trot as key trio return

Aberdeenshire welcome back three key players as they look to record their third league win on the trot when they take on Ayr at Mannofield this afternoon.

The 2009 top-flight champions include Neil MacRae after a stint coaching Austria, while Iain Brand returns and former Scotland age-grade cap Richie Lamb is back from university.

And with South African pro Gerry Strydom now finding his feet in the north east after 279 runs last weekend - 54 in the league against Drumpellier and an amazing 225 against Penicuik in the Scottish Cup - captain Tyler Buchan is confident.

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He said: "It is great to have the three guys back in the team and it is probably the strongest line-up we could have named. It was great to see Gerry getting among the runs last weekend, digging in on a tough wicket on Saturday and then filling his boots on Sunday and hopefully he will continue in that way."

Buchan and opening bowling partner Chris West have also been key to Aberdeenshire winning four out of six league matches so far, taking 26 wickets between them.

They will be tested to the full today against Kiwi Michael Papps, though, the pro having scored 412 league runs already for Ayr in 2011.

He also scored 108 not out in their confidence-boosting Scottish Cup win over West Lothian six days ago.

Heriot's captain Steve Knox is touch and go to make this afternoon's clash away to Arbroath after a long-standing back injury flared up again this week.

The former Scotland cap has battled through the pain barrier over the last few weeks as the Goldenacre men have moved up to fourth in the table and had a physio appointment last night in a bid to lead his team out at Lochlands.

Whether opening batsmen Knox makes it or not the Heriot's players will travel determined for revenge after losing to the same opponents in the Scottish Cup six days ago.

They also lost twice to Fraser Burnett's men in the old First Division last year and Knox said: "We have been chasing every time against Arbroath in our last three encounters, and lost, and that is something we need to put right this time around.

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"When we lost last Sunday we were missing a couple of key players, but when we have our strongest team available I am confident we can give most teams a game."

The Heriot's side sees just one change from the one that defeated Greenock last time out, the experienced Gavin McIntyre replacing Qasim Ashraf in the middle order.

Scotland cap Calvin Burnett will be a danger for the hosts after his first top team century for the club in the cup match, while former skipper Greig Peal has also been in fine form with the ball, having taken nine league scalps already.

Carlton will be without captain Fraser Watts who is at a wedding when they entertain struggling Stirling County at Grange Loan. Teenager Nik Hunt replaces the Scotland man.

Second-placed Forfarshire have captain Ryan Watson back as they prepare to welcome Dunfermline Knights to Broughty Ferry and it will be interesting to see if Matthew Parker continues to open with Brendan Ford after a useful partnership against Watsonians last week. Greenock are still without pro Tim McIntosh and are toying with the idea of opening the batting with Willie Rowan as they head for Stoneywood-Dyce.Watsonians have Indian spinner Chetan Dhingra in their line-up to travel to Uddingston after the overseas amateur arrived in the country this week.

In the remaining fixtures Clydesdale host Grange and Drumpellier make the short trip to West of Scotland.