2018: The Season so Far Part 1 – The 1st XI
Now that we've passed the half-way point in a roller coaster 2018 cricket season that has given us plenty of excitement, joy, heartache, some tense finishes and, amazingly, plenty of that rarest of beasts: the Scottish sun! I’m sure most have been keeping up with this season’s exciting events via our Twitter feed and Facebook page, but for those who haven’t been following events too closely, we have provided a brief summary of the season’s events so far. This first article will cover the exploits of the club’s 1st XI, with a subsequent article to follow which will bring everyone up to date with how the rest of the club has fared in 2018.
First XI – League
There were many questions facing the 1st XI as they returned to the top flight of the Western Union for the first time for half a decade. Not least of these concerned the newly promoted side’s ability to compete with the stronger opposition found in the Premier League and some may have harboured serious doubts concerning the team’s chances of avoiding immediate relegation back down to the division from which they battled so hard to escape. With one game of the current season’s second half now played, and with Stirling occupying 5th place on 60%, we can now definitively say that the County players can more than compete at this level, while any doubts about their ability to avoid relegation seem, at this stage at least, completely unfounded!
The 1st XI began their 2018 campaign with what could only be described as a shock victory over last year’s grand final winners Prestwick. Since this stunning opening victory, the ‘County Dogs’ have had a slightly turbulent time of it. Three disappointing and heavy defeats (to runaway league leaders Ferguslie, Clydesdale and Poloc respectively) have been offset by three vital victories against Ayr, West of Scotland and, most recently, against Prestwick for a second time.
Undoubtedly the most exciting league game of 2018 for Stirling was the home tie against Dumfries. Seemingly cruising to Dumfries’s target of 237, the County run chase was halted by Mother Nature, with the players first being forced off the field due to lightening before a heavy downpour further delayed the game. When play was eventually resumed, Stirling was set a revised target of over 70 runs from just 10 overs. With wickets falling at regular intervals as the County batsmen tried, seemingly in vain, to keep up with the rate, all seemed lost. All seemed lost, that is, until Tom Jones brought Stirling back from the brink with some ferocious hitting that made possible a most unlikely of victories. Unfortunately, a Stirling win was not to be as, needing just one run for victory off the final ball, Rukman Hewage missed a wide delivery to ensure that honours were shared after a remarkable day of cricket.
All this means that the team are well placed in the league and, with the threat of relegation all but extinguished, it now remains to be seen whether or not Stirling can build on their promising 1st half of the season. While a tilt at the league title is likely beyond the realms of the possible, there is no reason why the boys from New Williamfield can’t look to consolidate their position in the top half and maybe even push for a top 3 finish.
First XI – Cups
Plenty of excitement was to be found in the first XI’s various cup adventures in 2018. In the Scottish Cup Stirling followed a comfortable first round win at Edinburgh Academicals with a one-sided home defeat to East League big boys Heriots. Batting first, Heriots were in desperate trouble and looked likely to post an easily reachable target. However, some gritty and determined lower order batting allowed the visitors to reach 217 all out. Stirling never looked like reaching this target once the Heriots openers blew away the Stirling top and middle order and were eventually bowled out for the meager total of 82. Louis Ware was the only Stirling batsmen to reach double figures, scoring an impressively gritty 39.
If Stirling’s form in the league and Scottish Cup has been up and down, their form in the Rowan T20 cup has been anything but. Stirling made serene progress through the first three rounds, with the 40-run victory over perennial rivals Ayr – in which the County batsmen blasted 181 runs in their innings – a particular highlight. In the next round, a semi-final tie away to the always dangerous Uddingston, Stirling managed to sneak over the line when chasing the home side’s modest total of 97. A late order collapse, during which the visitors managed to lose 5 wickets after the runs required was whittled down to under 10, certainly didn’t help the nerves of the Stirling players and supporters, but the underdogs eventually emerged victorious by the solitary wicket and, in doing so, booked their place in the final. This match will be played at Shawholm on July 12th against Kelbourne, with the winner getting a chance to place in the grand final at the end of the season!