Stirling County 1st XI suffered their first competitive defeat of 2017 on Sunday against a strong and efficient Clydesdale team. The result sees Stirling knocked out of the Scottish Cup in the first round.
Going into the match, the 'County Dawgs' knew they had their work cut out if they were to avoid a repeat of the comprehensive cup defeat suffered last year at the hands of the 2016 Grand finalists. There was one possible glimmer of hope in the shape of an off-season exodus from Clydesdale, with the likes of former Scotland player Majid Haq leaving for pastures new. However, Clydesdale could still boast some fine players, including Scotland stars Con de Lange and Richie Berrington. Both these players would ultimately play important roles in the visitor's relatively comfortable 5-wicket victory.
It can be argued that the main difference between the two teams - Scotland stars aside - was the accuracy and consistency of the two sets of bowlers on display. The accuracy from the Clydesdale bowlers showed throughout most of Stirling's innings and the home side struggled to maintain a decent run rate and would often fail to capitalise on any bad balls that did come their way (a criticism that could not be levelled at the Clydesdale batsmen). The only time that the Stirling innings showed any real promise of blossoming into something that could present Clydesdale with a challenging target was when County veteran Gavin Anderson and new recruit Akash Rawal put on just under 50 for the 4th wicket. Both batsmen seemed to be quite comfortable at the crease and were the only County batsmen during the match to display the ability to manoeuvre the ball into gaps and keep the scoreboard ticking over.
However, both batsmen failed to convert their good starts into the big scores that their team so desperately needed. And with Anderson and Rawal back in the pavilion, the Clydesdale bowlers proceeded to squeeze the life out of the remainder of the home team's innings, with de Lange being particularly miserly in going for only 22 from his 10 overs (and picking up two wickets in the process). In the end, Stirling could only manage to limp to a rather tame (but not completely disastrous) 160 all out.
While the Clydesdale bowlers clearly displayed the greater control and accuracy, it could be argued that the home team's attack contained the greater threat and potency. And with the premier league outfit reeling at 25 for 3, thanks to a blistering opening spell from Ali Mubarak, the possibility of a major upset started to seem like a real possibility. The often capricious Mubarak bowled with real pace and fire to collect three quick wickets (including the prized scalp of Scotland captain de Lange) and send the yet-to-bat Clydesdale players scrambling for their pads.
This panic didn't last long, however, with Berrington steadying the ship (after riding his luck somewhat) and eventually guiding his team to a seemingly comfortable 5-wicket victory that that in reality belied the somewhat precarious situation his team was in at the start of the innings. Berrington finished on 55 not out and was ably supported by, first, K Farid (27) and then, latterly, by B Ali (25 not out). Ali Mubarak finished with figures of 3 for 44 and probably deserved better figures, such was the intensity and threat with which he bowled.
In the Western Union Division One, Stirling County 1st XI are riding high with a 100% win record from their first two games (this weekend's league match against Irvine was abandoned after just 20 overs of cricket).
In the first match of the season Stirling ran out comfortable winners at Drumpellier, beating the Coatbridge outfit by 7 wickets. Evergreen Jonathon Bowes and young leg spin talent Tom Jones starred with ball (taking four and three wickets respectively), helping the away side restrict Drumps to 80 all out. The run chase was made a lot easier than it perhaps could have been, thanks to the steady batting of captain Matthew Tweedie (31 not out) and some dashing strokeplay from the aforementioned Jones, who made a quick-fire 23 before needlessly throwing his wicket away with just 3 runs remaining for victory.
It was another 7-wicket victory when Stirling travelled to newly promoted GHK. Farcically, the game didn't begin until nearly two hours after the scheduled start time of 12noon. This was due to the ground being used for school cricket and is an issue that GHK will surely have to sort out, lest they run the risk of a default if a game doesn't begin by 2pm. When proceedings did get underway, County took a firm grip of the game from the very beginning and didn't relinquish it for the rest of the match. OSA Kevin Loggenberg starred with the ball - taking 5 for 17 - in an effort that helped to reduce the home side to 112 all out. Tom Jones again chipped in with three valuable wickets. In reply Stirling were never in trouble and coasted to victory with more than 30 overs still to be bowled. Jones was the main contributor with the bat, scoring 44 not out, while wicketkeeper Graeme Taylor posted a quick-fire 28 at the top of the order.
The next match at New Williamfield sees the 1st XI take on Glasgow Accies on Saturday May 20th.
A hat-trick of pre-season weekends concluded this past Saturday, following three fixtures for the First XI and a single run out for the Second XI.
The talk of the club is that these three weekends proved valuable in the build up to this coming weekend's league openers, and some of the performances would certainly point to that.
The first game of pre-season saw the First XI take on Marchmont at New Williamfield in a well-matched encounter between two sides in equivalent leagues in the East and West of the country. The wicket was, as to be expected, a bowler friendly one but that didn't stop the skipper, Matthew Tweedie, leading the way in the innings with a determined 66. At one point the First XI had been reduced to 41-6, but a good partnership from Matthew and the returning Paul Bielby (28*) carried them up to 126-7 from their 40 over innings. In reply, the bowlers of County showed how difficult the wicket was to bat on as all chipped in with wickets to skittle the Edinburgh side for 83 and secure an opening victory by 43 runs.
The second game pitted the 1s against Ayr in a match for the Irvin Iffla Trophy. Originally scheduled to take place at New Cambusdoon, the match was switched to New Williamfield at short notice but the pitch was a lot easier to bat on than it had been the previous week. Following early contributions from Graeme Taylor (34) and Gavin Anderson (33), newcomers Tom Jones and Akash Rawal put together a phenomenal partnership that carried the First XI up to a big total. Akash made his first half century for the Club, while Tom went one better reaching his maiden century in a well-compiled knock. The 1s ended up posting 276-7 and, although the Ayrshire side threatened to get going on a few occassions, regular wickets insured that the total was always going to be enough. Following up on his century, TJ helped himself to 4-32 while a controlled spell from Rukman Hewage, returning to the Club this season, of 3-28 sealed a 104 run victory and the retention of the Iffla Trophy.
The final pre-season match for the First XI was their biggest test, as a full strength Ferguslie side travelled to New Williamfield. Having batted first in both previous games, Matthew Tweedie opted to bowl first in this contest. There were a few cobwebs in the bowling attack and, although there were wickets falling, runs were flowing. Ali Mubarak, in his first run out of the pre-season, will have been happy to finish with figures of 3-57 and, although wicketless, Andrew Paterson got through a fine spell of 0-27 in an innings that eventually produced a score of 274-9. The 1s reply never really got going as they collpased from 60-2 to 75-8. Brief resistance from the lower order in Ross Macgarvie and Ali Mubarak helped steer the First XI up to 138 all out, with Tweeds proving the star of the innings carrying his bat for 73.
The Second XI's one match was a Test-style t20 match with Ferguslie 2nd XI, in which a depleted but spirited side went down by 154 runs in Paisley. Iain Wilkinson, the captain for the day, made contributions of 36 in the first innings and 25 in the second innings but Ferguslie were ultimately too strong for the 2s as well.
Following all that action, focus now switches to the first games of the season. The First XI kick off their campaign away to Drumpellier, who were demoted from the WDCU Premier Division last season. Following the decision to allow promotion and relegation between the Reserve Leagues last season, the Second XI will be at home to Greenock 2s, as Drumpellier 2s were not relegated from the Premier Reserve League. Our Sunday XI also begin life in the Strathmore and Perthshire Cricket Union this weekend as they host Callander.
The Club is delighted to announce that we are a centre for All Stars Cricket!
Aimed at 5-8 year olds, it is eight sessions of cricketing fun for both girls and boys.
You will develop cricketing skills and get some great gear thrown in to the bargain.
Our sessions start on Friday 19th May at New Williamfield between 6.00-7.00pm. They will be led by Gavin Anderson and Chris Geddes, guaranteeing loads of fun and maximum participation.
If you or anyone you know will be interested, then click on the ECB link below to sign up.
Who knows; this could be the first step to becoming a future Scotland All Star!