Capital cricket bowled over as star names take to crease
The Scotland captain, a former rugby union internationalist, an ex-New Zealand Test bowler and the man who took ten wickets in a match last season are amongst the new faces set to be turning out for local top-flight cricket clubs in 2016.
The CSL Eastern Premiership gets under way this Saturday with reigning champions Mazars Grange, Carlton, Watsonians and Heriot’s all involved.
Having won the Premiership and Grand Final double last year, Grange lost key players George Munsey, Tom Sole and Caiden Lang over the winter.
Munsey and Sole are on Northants’ books now, while South African wicketkeeper Lang has returned home.
However, the Stockbridge side have strengthened well with the acquisition of Scotland skipper Preston Mommsen from Carlton and wicketkeeper Alex Baum from Greenock.
Looking ahead to the campaign, Grange captain Andrew Brock said: “We cannot wait to get started. We had a good run out in a friendly against East Kilbride last week, while a number of us played regional cricket on Sunday.
“We know that George, Tom and Caiden were big players for us in 2015, but to be able to bring someone of Preston’s quality in is brilliant.
“He has already made a big impression around the club and his work ethic is something that all the young players can learn from.
“We are looking forward to the first match at Falkland on Saturday.”
Carlton finished third last term and have lost firepower in the shape of Mommsen, Tom Freshwater and Hamish Gardiner.
They have managed to bring in the likes Arun Pillai from Grange, who is set to open the batting, South African Mario Olivier, all-rounder Hugo Southwell and Sean Olivier, who is returning to the club.
Southwell’s name jumps out of the list because he used to play full-back for Scotland at rugby union, earning 59 caps between 2004 and 2011.
When he was younger, Southwell, now 35, was on the books of Sussex county cricket club and having relocated to the Capital was keen to get back into the sport.
Carlton captain Steve Gilmour said: “We are looking forward to the season and once again we have a good blend of youth and experience in and around the first team squad.
“I am looking forward to taking over the captaincy and the opener against Heriot’s will be interesting.”
Watsonians, who finished seventh in 2015, travel to Aberdeenshire on Saturday with Ewan Chalmers still as captain and new boys Andy McKay and Henk Conradie set to debut.
McKay, 36, has international experience previously with New Zealand and famously took the wicket of Indian great Sachin Tendulkar in a Test match.
Watsonians seam bowler Dewald Nel said: “We have had a god pre-season and the new guys have fitted in well.
“In the last couple of years we have got off to slow starts and we have to try and get some wins under our belts in the opening weeks.”
Heriot’s finished eighth last year, but have recruited well.
Hayes van der Berg, who scored a decent amount of runs for Aberdeenshire last term, has moved to Goldenacre and is set to bat at three.
And earlier this week they secured the services of seam bowler Adrian Neill, the man who took 10 wickets for Aberdeenshire against Watsonians last summer.
Captain Keith Morton said: “We had two good friendly wins last weekend and getting Adrian on board is a bonus.
“He will give a focal point to our bowling attack and keep things tight early on and we feel we have a good balance to our squad this time around.”
Elsewhere on the opening weekend Arbroath, who finished second last year and won the Scottish Cup, host Stoneywood-Dyce and new boys Glenrothes are at Forfarshire.
On the opening day of the Baillie Gifford ESCA Championship it will be intriguing to see how Australian Tom Beaton gets on at SMRH.
The 25-year-old is a former under-19 captain for his country and is prolific batsman.
The men from Inverleith will likely be up there with the title chasers and host Dunnikier on Saturday.
Elsewhere, RH Corstorphine are at home to Marchmont.
The East League divisions also begin this weekend.