Cricket: Southside clash set to decide winner of Premiership

Adept with the bat as well as with the ball, Simon Smith's return is a timely boost for Grange as they tackle Carlton.
Adept with the bat as well as with the ball, Simon Smith's return is a timely boost for Grange as they tackle Carlton.
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Barclays Wealth Grange welcome back international batsman/keeper Simon Smith ahead of a potential title clincher 
against Carlton at Grange Loan in the Eastern cricket 
premiership tomorrow.

Smith, capped 32 times, has been helping coach Scotland Under-19s at their World Championship in Australia but makes a timely return with Grange requiring a victory to pip Watsonians at the very least on run-rate.

‘Sonians entertain Aberdeenshire without pro Jean Symes, who has returned to South Africa, and, while that is a blow, nobody knows better than Neil McCallum that a clash with Carlton will see no quarter asked or given and that a win is essential to keep hopes alive.

“There is such a strong rivalry between Grange and Carlton that they will be out to thwart our challenge just as we’d be keen to put one over on them if roles were reversed,” he said.

Regardless of the outcome McCallum feels there have been rewards in a season which also sees Grange tackle Arbroath at Linlithgow on Sunday in the second-tier Cricket Scotland Trophy at the same time as Watsonians are facing Heriot’s for the Scottish Cup.

“We always hoped to be there or thereabouts when the title was being decided and when we saw we had a visit to Carlton on the last day that fixture jumped out as potentially crucial,” said McCallum, adding: “That said, a six-week interruption due to bad weather certainly didn’t help our cause so it is all the more satisying that we have still managed to bring through young players such as Duncan Player and George Munsey while Henry Edwards went to the world championships with the Scotland Under-19s and his brother, Will, notched a maiden century in our 2nds at one stage.

“So, overall, there have been highlights and our aim is to take the Carlton match as another outing for which we have to prepare well.”

Carlton, bidding to end a season of frustration on a high note, list a powerful side missing only Steve Gilmour and featuring Saltires’ Gordon Drummond, Preston Mommsen and Fraser Watts.

Watsonian skipper Stuart Chalmers, who is able to include Craig Wright and Paddy Sadler following the Under-19 World Championship with James Easton and Mark Yellowlees replacing the injured Fraser Boyd (broken finger) and the unavailable Gus Harris, insists the season can be hailed a success regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s double-header.

While making it clear ‘Sonians are determined to capture silverware, Chalmers said: “We have given good accounts of ourselves in two competitions and brought through players such as Andrew Chalmers, Peter Legget, Andrew Hislop and Mark Yellowlees while it has been good to see Dewald Nel return to the Scottish game.

“The league is out of our hands and we need to beat Aberdeenshire while hoping Carlton can do us a favour but I said at the beginning I wanted the team to be competitive and we have managed that.”

Craig MacKellar returns but Heriot’s will be without Kevin McLaren and Sean Weeraratna for tomorrow’s trip to Arbroath.

That pair wiil, however, return to a 14 man squad for Sunday’s Cup Final although indications are the reserve date may have to be utilised with no Edinburgh alternative to waterlogged Titwood believed to be available.

One team already celebrating are East First Division champions SMRH. Tomorrow’s concluding fixture at Fauldhouse has already been cancelled due to ground conditions but SMRH were in an unassailable position with a 100 per cent league record.

Said president Bert Barclay: “This will be the club’s third promotion having won the East Second Division in 1989 and 1995 and the icing on the cake is the fact our seconds, under the captaincy of David Gibson, won East Division Four to also get promotion.” In clinching promotion SMRH changed captains down the home straight when Greg Bisset took over from Mark Burgess who was finding rugby coaching commitments a major time pressure.

And SMRH were able to continue showing consistency helped by the arrival of Cedric English from Carlton as player/coach while overseas amateur Braydon Tracey excelled with the bat in hitting four centuries and 2x50s in league, Scottish Cup and Masterton twenty:20 ties.

Barclay added: “Braydon totalled 665 runs at an average of 60.45 and really benefitted from the fact it was his second consecutive season with us in adapting to conditions.

“We’d love to him him around in the Premiership next year but at 20 years old Braydon has hinted that it might be time to enter into serious studies back in Australia.

“On the bowling front Greg Ruthven joined from Penicuik and his 20 wickets at an average of 15.9 saw him finish just ahead of Robin Crouch (19) and Cedric English (18).

“Overall we controlled every league match except when rain came to our assistance at 8-1 chasing Freuchie’s 218 and there is plenty to build on for next season.”