1st XI Knocked out of Cup by superior Clydesdale
Stirling County 1st XI suffered their first competitive defeat of 2017 on Sunday against a strong and efficient Clydesdale team. The result sees Stirling knocked out of the Scottish Cup in the first round.
Going into the match, the 'County Dawgs' knew they had their work cut out if they were to avoid a repeat of the comprehensive cup defeat suffered last year at the hands of the 2016 Grand finalists. There was one possible glimmer of hope in the shape of an off-season exodus from Clydesdale, with the likes of former Scotland player Majid Haq leaving for pastures new. However, Clydesdale could still boast some fine players, including Scotland stars Con de Lange and Richie Berrington. Both these players would ultimately play important roles in the visitor's relatively comfortable 5-wicket victory.
It can be argued that the main difference between the two teams - Scotland stars aside - was the accuracy and consistency of the two sets of bowlers on display. The accuracy from the Clydesdale bowlers showed throughout most of Stirling's innings and the home side struggled to maintain a decent run rate and would often fail to capitalise on any bad balls that did come their way (a criticism that could not be levelled at the Clydesdale batsmen). The only time that the Stirling innings showed any real promise of blossoming into something that could present Clydesdale with a challenging target was when County veteran Gavin Anderson and new recruit Akash Rawal put on just under 50 for the 4th wicket. Both batsmen seemed to be quite comfortable at the crease and were the only County batsmen during the match to display the ability to manoeuvre the ball into gaps and keep the scoreboard ticking over.
However, both batsmen failed to convert their good starts into the big scores that their team so desperately needed. And with Anderson and Rawal back in the pavilion, the Clydesdale bowlers proceeded to squeeze the life out of the remainder of the home team's innings, with de Lange being particularly miserly in going for only 22 from his 10 overs (and picking up two wickets in the process). In the end, Stirling could only manage to limp to a rather tame (but not completely disastrous) 160 all out.
While the Clydesdale bowlers clearly displayed the greater control and accuracy, it could be argued that the home team's attack contained the greater threat and potency. And with the premier league outfit reeling at 25 for 3, thanks to a blistering opening spell from Ali Mubarak, the possibility of a major upset started to seem like a real possibility. The often capricious Mubarak bowled with real pace and fire to collect three quick wickets (including the prized scalp of Scotland captain de Lange) and send the yet-to-bat Clydesdale players scrambling for their pads.
This panic didn't last long, however, with Berrington steadying the ship (after riding his luck somewhat) and eventually guiding his team to a seemingly comfortable 5-wicket victory that that in reality belied the somewhat precarious situation his team was in at the start of the innings. Berrington finished on 55 not out and was ably supported by, first, K Farid (27) and then, latterly, by B Ali (25 not out). Ali Mubarak finished with figures of 3 for 44 and probably deserved better figures, such was the intensity and threat with which he bowled.
In the Western Union Division One, Stirling County 1st XI are riding high with a 100% win record from their first two games (this weekend's league match against Irvine was abandoned after just 20 overs of cricket).
In the first match of the season Stirling ran out comfortable winners at Drumpellier, beating the Coatbridge outfit by 7 wickets. Evergreen Jonathon Bowes and young leg spin talent Tom Jones starred with ball (taking four and three wickets respectively), helping the away side restrict Drumps to 80 all out. The run chase was made a lot easier than it perhaps could have been, thanks to the steady batting of captain Matthew Tweedie (31 not out) and some dashing strokeplay from the aforementioned Jones, who made a quick-fire 23 before needlessly throwing his wicket away with just 3 runs remaining for victory.
It was another 7-wicket victory when Stirling travelled to newly promoted GHK. Farcically, the game didn't begin until nearly two hours after the scheduled start time of 12noon. This was due to the ground being used for school cricket and is an issue that GHK will surely have to sort out, lest they run the risk of a default if a game doesn't begin by 2pm. When proceedings did get underway, County took a firm grip of the game from the very beginning and didn't relinquish it for the rest of the match. OSA Kevin Loggenberg starred with the ball - taking 5 for 17 - in an effort that helped to reduce the home side to 112 all out. Tom Jones again chipped in with three valuable wickets. In reply Stirling were never in trouble and coasted to victory with more than 30 overs still to be bowled. Jones was the main contributor with the bat, scoring 44 not out, while wicketkeeper Graeme Taylor posted a quick-fire 28 at the top of the order.
The next match at New Williamfield sees the 1st XI take on Glasgow Accies on Saturday May 20th.