Pride at stake in Lanarkshire derby
William Dick (CricketMedia Scotland)
ARGUMENTS may rage about the relative strengths of the new Regional Conferences, but the dispute will have a much more local flavour at Langloan this afternoon.
In a season which will be laced with derbies, the fixture computer has decreed that a new era in Scottish domestic cricket will be heralded by a match featuring fierce Lanarkshire rivals Drumpellier and Uddingston.
This game is even more eagerly anticipated since both their scheduled encounters in last season’s unwieldy SNCL premier division succumbed to the weather.
While midweek rain raises the prospect of further postponements, a new drainage system at Drumpellier’s Coatbridge ground means this one has a good chance of going ahead.
Home skipper Graeme McLaren said: “We didn’t have any luck with the weather last season which was a shame because this is a fixture which both clubs genuinely relish.
“This time last year I think the game would have had no chance of going ahead after this week’s rain but our new drainage seems to be doing its job and the forecast is pretty promising.
“Neither team has made the best of starts to the season but that will count for nothing when the game gets underway.”
Indeed, both teams go into action on the back of Scottish Cup defeats to lower league opposition, Drumps having gone down to Kelburne while cup holders Uddingston suffered a shock loss at Renfrew.
McLaren added: “That makes us all the more determined to get our league season off to a winning start.
“I think it’s hard to call who are favourites for the title but Uddingston have to be among the fancied teams.
“We are quietly confident about our own prospects and have a decent balance about the side.”
McLaren has high hopes for new professional Nazar Hussain, who played with Clydesdale last season, and for rising talent such as Hussain’s new-ball partner Abdul Sabri.
The Langloan club will hand a senior debut today to 14 year-old Jordan Pryde, son of club legend Drew.
However, they are without Ian Warden who has taken up umpiring while there are doubts about the regular availability of Zaheed Mohammed.
Uddingston, on the rebound from that defeat at Renfrew, are captained by in-form Calum MacLeod who starred in the Saltires victory over Notts earlier in the week.
They are boosted by the inclusion of Durham Academy bowler Gavin Main while Scott McKenzie, with eleven wickets in two games, will pose a threat to the hosts.
Elsewhere, Clydesdale will place the accent on youth in what they see as a developmental season.
The Titwood club kick-off with a potentially tough fixture at home to Stirling and are without Saltires bowler Safy Sharif who has suffered a setback on his recovery from a rib injury.
Ayr, having suffered Scottish Cup defeats to Stenhousemuir and Forfarshire, are bidding for a winning start to their league campaign against a West of Scotland side who suffered a shock defeat to East Kilbride a week ago.
Greenock suffered a setback on the eve of their Glenpark clash when overseas amateur Craig Schlebusch was ruled out.
Schlebusch, who announced himself with a century in the cup win over Poloc last week, has flown home to South Africa for personal reasons.
On the plus side, Saltires star Richie Berrington is available to face a Dumfries side who have already recorded impressive cup wins over Penicuik and Weirs.
The first division also features a mouth-watering opening day derby with Kelburne hosting Ferguslie while Renfrew and East Kilbride, who both claimed premier division scalps in the cup a week ago, meet at King George V Playing Fields.
Poloc host fancied Stenhousemuir and Weirs, boosted by the capture of Moneeb Iqbal travel to in-form Prestwick.