Safyaan Shariff has tipped top-flight newcomers Falkland to be in the mix for honours when the Eastern Premiership pecking order is decided in August.
The Scotland all-rounder warmed up for Friday's ODI against England in perfect fashion, producing his best-ever innings to propel the villagers to victory over champions Arbroath.
For Shariff, who also underlined his bowling talents, it was the ideal way to mark his return to Fife following a spell in the west with Clydesdale. The former Largo and Dunfermline teenager looked back on his unbeaten 132 at Scroggie Park and said: "I think it was the best knock of my career when you put it in context. We had lost some early wickets and so we had to lay fresh foundations. I am delighted to be back in my home county - and it feels good to be representing a local club again."
Loading article content
After two fixtures, Falkland sit at the pinnacle of the league, just ahead on nett run rate of Heriot's, the only other side with a 100% record. Three quick strikes by Matthew Hurst had put Falkland in bother at 12 for three but Shariff not only arrested the rout, he dominated the Arbroath attack to the extent that the next highest scorer was Conor Ryan with 28.
His effort guided them to a total of 218 for eight, which was to prove too lofty a target for the Lochlands bunch. They also suffered early trauma with the loss in quick succession of Ross McLean and Hamish Bartlett, On 143 for five, Arbroath must have still fancied their chances, however the lbw verdict against Calvin Burnett sparked the telling collapse and they were shot out for 179. Shariff, Brock Ditchmen and Alan Hamilton each bagged three wickets.
There was also a fine showing from Forfarshire, who were inspired by a half century from Craig Wallace as they outgunned Watsonians at Broughty Ferry. Dewald Nel (72) was the mainstay of the Watsons innings with a maiden half-ton, while Liam Gough took four for 24. For Shire, Matty Parker with 49 and Umair Mohammed (36no) offered stout support to Wallace in the face of fine bowling by Ewan Chalmers, who snapped up five for 34 in vain.
Like Falkland, Heriot's have quickly emerged as dark horses for honours and they underlined their potential by edging out Aberdeenshire at Mannofield. A target of 175 should have been within the grasp of the Granite City outfit, however they were unable to mount partnerships of sufficient bulk when it mattered and fell short by four. Overseas amateur Hayes van der Berg was the pick of the host attack, earning four for 33 from his eight overs and the picture looked bright as they stood on 81 for one following the early dismissal of Calum Howard. Van der Berg's departure at the hand of Mark Watt signalled a steady fall of wickets, with Harsha Cooray and Chris Venske perishing soon afterwards. That left them on a jittery 107 for four, a position from which they couldn't recover.
Grange survived a series of scares to kick-start their campaign with a gritty victory over Stoneywood-Dyce. It was clear from the start that runs would be at a premium in the moist early-season conditions at Raeburn Place. And even when the Aberdonians were skittled for just 82, it was never going to be a cakewalk for the hosts. They eventually crawled over the finishing line with only three wickets in hand.
Captain Andrew Brock and Scotland age-group star Chris Sole inflicted the bulk of the damage on the visiting line-up. Each bagged a four-scalp haul, with the ever dependable Raj Routray also making his mark by striking twice.
At 46 for six in their pursuit, Grange appeared to be on thin ice but Simon "Smudger" Smith and Sole maintained their composure.
Carlton had to dig deep to halt the charge of capital rivals SMRH at Grange Loan. It was a scrappy match, featuring a spate of spilled catches and fluctuating fortunes. Carlton had recovered from a shaky start to reach 209 for nine, thanks mainly to the application and awareness of Preston Mommsen and Alex Rajendran. Mommsen steadied the ship with 50 after they had been toiling on 23 for two, then Rajendran was frustratingly run out when just five short of his half century.
Veteran left-arm seamer Craig Mackellar was the visiting bowler who posed the early problems, snapping up both openers in quick succession. Craig Bissett was also in fine nick to finish with three for 42.
The SMRH chase wobbled in the sixth over as Martin Speirs was trapped lbw to Cheeky Gossain with the tally on 10. Teenage spinner Gossain kept up the good work to help rip apart the SMRH middle order. The Inverleith outfit needed 13 off the last over, but the home nerves held firm as former Scotland captain Gordon Drummond ran in. It was an over that was to feature one frantic delivery, from which a catch was dropped, a single was scored before a run out was effected as the batsmen tried to scamper for a second run. Then came a dot ball, with Drummond grabbing the decisive wicket with the next.
n Ali Evans last night claimed a fantastic four-wicket haul as the Highlanders launched their North Sea Pro 20 campaign with an easy win over the Southern Seafarers in Voorburg. Evans, on the lookout for a new county following his release by Derbyshire, did his prospects no harm with a searing spell of new-ball bowling. After watching his team-mates post an imposing 173-5, Evans struck with his first ball to dismiss Dutch T20 World Cup hero Stephan Myburgh.
The Carlton pace bowler claimed his second wicket two deliveries later by clean bowling Jelte Schoonheim. Evans then reduced the Seafarers innings to tatters on 25-4 with another double strike in his next over, removing cap stars Wes Barresi and Pieter Seelaar. The Highlanders' bowler finished with superb figures of 4-12 to put his team in total control and they went on to complete victory by 55 runs as the home team crawled to 119-9.
Earlier the visiting batsmen had also been in dominant form with George Munsey and Hamish Gardiner paving the way during an opening partnership of 48 in 5.4 overs.
The Western Reivers later made it a Scottish double with just as comprehensive win over the Northern Hurricanes. In damp conditions at Titwood, Glasgow, former Yorkshire paceman Iain Wardlaw matched Evans' bowling heroics with a quick-fire three-wicket burst. And, with new-ball partner Safy Sharif chipping-in, the visitors were quickly reduced to 10-4.
They never fully recovered, Wardlaw adding his fourth wicket as the Dutch were dismissed for 117. The Reivers recovered from the loss of two wickets of their own to cruise to an eight-wicket success, Omer Hussain top-scoring with 44no while Con de Lange marked his debut with an unbeaten 40.
Both Scottish pro teams will attempt to complete a double over their Dutch rivals when the teams meet in the 50-over format today.