Eastern Knights 297-6 (MRJ Watt 84, S McElnea 3 for 45) beat Western Warriors 278 (CDW De Lange 82, C Gosain 2 for 36) by 19 runs

Eastern Knights got the defence of their Cricket Scotland Pro50 underway with victory over Western Warriors at Raeburn Place. In breezy conditions in the capital Con De Lange’s excellent 82 proved to be in vain as half centuries from Mark Watt, George Munsey and Dylan Budge took the trophy holders to victory by 19 runs.

Having elected to bat first the Knights got off to a strong start. Carlton’s Michael Herdman, dropped on 4, looked in good form as he scorched a drive through the covers for the first boundary of the day. At the other end Munsey was quickly into his stride too, lofting two boundaries to deep midwicket off Hamza Tahir as the fifty partnership came up inside 10 overs.

The breakthrough was to come in the 14th as Herdman (31) was well caught by a diving De Lange off the bowling of Richie Berrington. The Knights momentum was maintained, however, as Munsey and Calum MacLeod continued to find the boundary consistently, and in the 19th over Watsonian Munsey brought up an impressive 46-ball half century with his second six as the two threatened to take the game away from the visitors.

The Warriors were to strike back with two wickets in seven balls, however, as first MacLeod (29) was bowled by Tahir then Munsey (61) feathered behind to set the Knights back at 130-3 in the 24th.

Munsey’s departure brought Watt to the crease and only hours after his century for Heriot’s on the same pitch the Scotland all-rounder looked to pick up from where he had left off the day before. Confident and aggressive, with a varied repertoire of drives, cuts and pulls, Watt underlined the progress he has made with the bat in recent times with a fine display as he brought up the 200, and his own fifty, in the 38th over.

Budge, initially circumspect, now looked to press on too and he duly completed the third Knights half century with a pulled boundary off Tahir. The bowler was to have the final say, however, as he took the catch which sent the Grange man on his way shortly after for a composed 54.

Although Watt (84) was to follow, bowled missing an attempted scoop off Scott McElnea, the consistency of the Knights batting line-up had ensured that the home side closed their innings in a strong position.

Chasing 298 for victory, the Warriors reply got off to the worst possible start as Craig Young (1) and Jurie Snyman (4) fell to spectacular catches by Budge at backward point. Drama turned into crisis as Michael English (2) slapped Watt’s fourth ball into the hands of Tom Foulds at square leg, and at 8-3 after four overs much now rested on the broad shoulders of Scotland internationals Berrington and De Lange if the visitors were to have any chance of getting themselves back into the game.

De Lange certainly looked in the mood, clubbing Watt for consecutive boundaries and then a maximum as 21 came from the 7th over. Berrington, too, helped himself to consecutive sixes off Oliver Brown’s first over as the pair took the attack to the Knights. With both players passing fifty at better than a run-a-ball the Warriors moved ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis par score for the first time, reaching 141-3 at the drinks interval and giving their side a sniff of victory.

After two highly entertaining knocks the Clydesdale players were to fall in quick succession, however. In the 29th over MacLeod capitalised on a mix-up between the two to run out Berrington (59) before De Lange (82) was bowled by slow left-armer Chayank Gosain.

It had been a terrific counterattack by both men but with their departure and two new batsmen at the crease the Warriors hopes had taken a blow, and with Muhammad Awais (25) and Fazal Jawad (32) falling too the visitors struggled to keep up with the required run rate. Despite some late hitting from the Warriors lower order the Knights secured what had turned into a much tighter victory than had seemed likely in the final over. Their attention now turns to MacKays Forthill and a clash with the Caley Highlanders tomorrow; the Warriors, meanwhile, will look to get their challenge back on track when they meet the same opponents at Titwood at the end of the month.