Cricket preview: Big names sign up for season of drama

Keith Morton dives to make the crease and avoid being run out
Keith Morton dives to make the crease and avoid being run out
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CSL Eastern Premier Division new boys RH Corstorphine have pulled off a coup on the eve of the 2018 season with the news that Pakistan internationalist Hammad Azam has joined the club.

The 27-year-old fast bowler and good batsman has featured 16 times for Pakistan in white ball cricket – 11 T20 internationals and five ODIs – between 2011 and 2015 and he played in this year’s edition of the Pakistan Super League for Peshawar Zalmi.

RH Corstorphine skipper Joe Kinghorn-Gray said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome Hammed to the club. To have such a high calibre player here is a real coup.

“We are all looking forward to playing with him and can’t wait to see what he can offer on and off the pitch.”

By adding Azam to experienced campaigners like Majid Haq in their ranks – along with some good young talent – the club are keen to make their mark.

They start at reigning champions Heriot’s on Saturday.

And Heriot’s captain Keith Morton and his team cannot wait to get the season underway in that one.

It seems like no time at all since Heriot’s were winning the top flight during a dramatic evening in last August.

The Capital side had been behind Arbroath for most of the summer, but going into the final round of fixtures they still had a chance of finishing top.

For that to happen they had to hope that Carlton would do them a favour and beat Arbroath and then go on and beat Aberdeenshire themselves.

It was around 7pm when news filtered through to Goldenacre that Carlton had done the business at Grange Loan and then, half an hour later, Michael Shean took the final Aberdeenshire wicket and Heriot’s were champions. Fast forward a few months and, as a result, they go into this league campaign as the men to 
beat.

They have lost Mark Watt and Adrian Neill, two big components of their bowling attack in 2017, to clubs in England, but they have recruited well and look like being strong and workmanlike once more.

Scotland squad seamer Elliot Ruthven has joined from Stewart’s Melville to bolster the bowling ranks while key batsman Hayes van der Berg is back from South Africa.

Morton said: “We were on such a high after last season and I think that has kept the guys going during pre-season.

“We managed to get in a game last week against Morton in a friendly and now we just want to get things up and running.

“RH Corstorphine will be tough given they are the new team in the league, but we are keen to start with a home win.”

RH Corstorphine have been promoted and are keen to make their mark with experienced campaigners like Majid Haq in their ranks and some good young talent. They have seamer Ally Sadler back at the club from Watsonians while wicketkeeper/batsman Elliot Foster comes in from Edinburgh University.

Skipper Joe Kinghorn-Gray said: “We cannot wait to have a crack at the top division. We know we will face some tough teams, but we are excited by the challenge.”

Mazars Grange finished third last term and will have former England seamer Ryan Sidebottom joining them later in the summer.

Teenage talent Connor Shorton will be one to watch having moved south from Aberdeenshire as will club Academy graduate Tom Mackintosh. They open at home to Aberdeenshire.

Watsonians were fourth in 2017 and also still have the national T20 finals day to play on Sunday (they have been held over from last season). They are on the road to Forfarshire on Saturday and, with Ewan Chalmers at the helm, it will be interesting once more to see how they go having lost the likes of Sadler, Andy McKay and Aman Bailwal.

Scottish Cup holders Carlton are once again led by Scotland bowler Ali Evans and they open at Glenrothes. Australian player/coach Michael Castle’s arrival has been delayed and he is expected in the country next week while Tom Williamson and Shiv Gupta have come in from Edinburgh University. Arun Pillai is vice-captain with Chayank Gossain away studying in America until June.

Stewart’s Melville finished second bottom last year and are away to Arbroath this weekend. Captain Greg Ruthven is pleased to welcome Shaylen Pillay back from South Africa after a cracking 2017 with Kris Steel having moved from Penicuik and Hayden Sweet also having joined up at Inverleith. Ruthven said: “The boys have been training well despite the poor weather and, like everyone else, we just want to get things underway now.”

HOW THE CAPITAL CRICKET CLUBS SHAPE UP

CARLTON

Ground: Grange Loan

Captain: Ali Evans

In: Michael Castle, Tom Williamson, Shiv Gupta

Out: Fraser Watts, Michael Herdman

HERIOT’S

Ground: Goldenacre

Captain: Keith Morton

In: Chris Ashforth, Qasim Ashraf, Simon Whait

Out: Mark Watt, Adrian Neill

MAZARS GRANGE

Ground: Portgower Place

Captain: Preston Mommsen

In: Ryan Sidebottom, Connor Shorton

Out: none

RH CORSTORPHINE

Ground: East Barnton Avenue

Captain: Joe Kinghorn-Gray

In: Ally Sadler, Elliot Foster, Hammad Azam

Out: none

STEWART’S MELVILLE

Ground: Inverleith

Captain: Greg Ruthven

In: Hayden Sweet, Kris Steel, Chris Miller

Out: Cariston Diedericks, Elliot Ruthven

WATSONIANS

Ground: Myreside

Captain: Ewan Chalmers

In: none

Out: Ally Sadler, Andy McKay, Aman Bailwal