Western relegation battle reaches crucial phase
William Dick (CricketMedia Scotland)
THE battle to beat the drop reaches a critical stage this afternoon with no fewer than four sides desperate to secure Western Premier status.
Dumfries and Ayr – both recent winners of the title - currently occupy the relegation places but that could all change following events in the south side of Glasgow.
The former visit Poloc who themselves are not yet safe while Ayr, boosted by their best batting performance of the season a week ago, will do battle with Clydesdale at nearby Titwood.
Calculators will surely be at the ready with just six percentage points separating the bottom three and Poloc just another eight ahead.
A Poloc spokesman said: “Dumfries and Ayr play each other on the final day so one of them looks likely to go down but both Greenock and ourselves could still finish ninth or even tenth."
Poloc were on the receiving end of a pair of centuries from Andi McElnea and Anwar Hafeez last Saturday as Ayr amassed 304 but the Shawholm men took heart from their response which saw them reach 262.
Abdullah Malik who contributed a breezy 33no to that total retains his place while pace bowler Ihtesham Ul Haq returns.
However, they are wary of a Dumfries side who would be in a stronger position had they been able to convert two tense ties with Stirling into victories.
“They have a good mix of youth and experience and their two overseas players Jesse Smit and Andrew Mascal sit high up the league run-scoring list,” added the spokesman.
Meanwhile Ayr skipper Andi McElnea has a simple explanation of the task facing his team, saying: “The equation is very straightforward for us – we have to win our last two games. The rest is out of our hands.
“We had a great result last week and are taking some momentum into the Clydesdale match.”
Clydesdale, having successfully negotiated a transitional season, still have their eyes on second place.
Greenock, meanwhile, face a tricky trip to New Williamfield to face a Stirling team who could yet pip Clydesdale for the runners-up slot.
An away win, coupled with defeats for Dumfries and Ayr would virtually ensure top-flight survival but a Greenock spokesman said: “Stirling have been the surprise team of the season and will be hard to beat.”
The Glenpark men welcome back Chris Hempsey to open the batting.
Elsewhere newly crowned champions host West of Scotland while Prestwick visit Uddingston.