SHAHZAD Rafiq, the Prestwick captain, says his team will take nothing for granted as they launch the defence of their Western Premier title on Saturday.

The champions start strong favourites against newly-promoted Stirling at the Henry Thow Oval but realistic Rafiq, said: “Their confidence will be high after last season and we know they have some quality players.

“We expect nothing other than a tough test.

“As far as defending the title is concerned, we are not thinking that far ahead. All we want to do is remain competitive, play exciting cricket and enjoy ourselves as we did last year.

“If we are in contention at the start of August I’ll be delighted.”

Stirling counterpart Matt Tweedie meanwhile has revealed his team will take inspiration from Prestwick who won the top-flight title just two seasons after being promoted.

He said: “It’s impressive how they have been able to progress so well over the last couple of years and
this game is a great opportunity to see how we shape up against the best team in the league and hopefully kick-off of an exciting challenge.

“We have a good idea of what we need to do in order to be competitive so we need to focus on consistently executing our skills in every game.”

Both teams are missing a key pace bowler with Willie Rowan unavailable for the champions and Stirling’s Akram Shakoor injured. Prestwick will hand the new ball to Scotland U17 prospect Euan McBeth.

West of Scotland, returning to the top flight after a two-season absence, introduce Zimbabwean all-rounder Trevor Garwe as they entertain Poloc at Hamilton Crescent.

West skipper Gregg Watson said: “We’re delighted to be back and are confident that on our day we can give the best a run for their money.

“We always feel we’re stronger at home so hopefully we can start with a win.”

Poloc have three debutants in their side in Imran Ameer and Ihtesham Ul Haq, who have joined from Glasgow Accies and Clydesdale respectively, while South African Coenie Nel features as overseas amateur.

One of the day’s top matches sees Ferguslie, in the top three for the last three seasons, entertain deposed champions Clydesdale at Meikleriggs.

The Paisley side welcome back Hamza Tahir and Taimoor Ahmad after a season at Poloc while Ihtisham Malik is back for Dale, also after a spell at Poloc.

Uddingston welcome Mo Awais from Clydesdale but line-up against former team-mate Anwar Hafeez who will be in the Ayr side to visit Bothwell Castle.

Greenock await the arrival of Indian professional Saurabh Bandekar but South African Laurens Smit makes his competitive debut against Dumfries at Glenpark while the visitors introduce fellow South African Jesse Smit and New Zealander Andrew Mascall.