CHAMPIONS Uddingston surely surrendered their grip on the Western Union title yesterday after slumping to a fourth defeat of the season against an Ayr side which may very well lay claim to the silverware at the end of the campaign.
Having beaten yesterday's hosts on the opening day of the season, the Alloway club produced another battling performance to maintain their unbeaten record. That was made to appear vulnerable at times, though, not least when the visitors had to settle for a moderate 166 after losing a couple of quick wickets. There was concern too when Uddingston recovered briefly from their own early wobble.
However, Ayr were still able to emerge as convincing winners by a score of 46 runs. The victory also strengthens their ambition of winning the championship.
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Uddingston had been left to pursue an apparently modest tally, only to suffer the worst possible start as their openers were each back in the pavilion within the first four overs. Gautham Rai was first to go, wandering carelessly out of his crease to be run out by Scott McElnea. Mo Kamran, who survived a shout for caught behind in the opening over, was then unable to make the most of the reprieve and was instead caught expertly down the leg-side by wicket-keeper Neil Smith.
Uddingston needed a steadying hand and that was provided by Sammy Zia, while Amir Gul also settled in at the other end. The pair took the score from 13-2 to 48 but were unable to convert a promising start into a stand capable of winning the match.
Instead, Zia was stumped by Smith to provoke a steady procession from Ayr's bowlers. Andi McElnea, the visiting captain, was the most successful with 3-11.
Earlier Ayr came out firing in a bid for quick runs but paid the price as both Smith and Andi McElnea fell during the opening salvo. It was left to Raza to hold the innings together with a display of controlled aggression which yielded more than half of his side's runs. The Zimbabwean all-rounder was already the division's top scorer and he bolstered his position in the runs chart in some style.
He was to fall short of a century yesterday but not before giving the Uddingston bowlers a tough time, particularly Matt McEwan who suffered the indignity of twice being hooked for sixes. The second of those scores brought up marked the batsman's half-century.
There was a third maximum to come. Raza again sent Gavin Bradley's delivery soaring over the beech hedge and out of the ground, before registering four boundaries during a 90-ball stay at the crease. However, he would grow frustrated at the steady fall of wickets at the other end.
Conscious of the need to push the score along, Raza attempted to hit Gul for a six but succeeded only in picking out the fielder at long-off. He was the seventh out when he departed for 86 and the tail added just 17 more runs before Ayr were left all out as the match entered its 46th over.
Gul and Bradley took the bowling honours for Uddingston with 4-25 and 4-57, while McEwan's catch at long on to dismiss Heynrych Nel was also a notable moment.
Elsewhere, Clydesdale got their title bid back on track when they recovered from two defeats in a row with a seven-wicket success against West of Scotland at Titwood. Dumfries also proved to be too strong for East Kilbride.
A century from Harsha Cooray was among the highlights in the CS Eastern Premier as leaders Aberdeenshire won against Heriot's at Goldenacre. Hayes van der Berg, the other overseas player on Aberdeenshire's books, was also a prominent figure as he claimed a wicket with the last ball to secure a thrilling one-run win.
Fraser Burnett and Hamish Bartlett helped to ensure that there was much less anxiety for Arbroath as they both scored centuries to help maintain their side's title challenge with victory over Falkland. Youngsters Chayank Gosain and Fraser Allardice, meanwhile, shared seven wickets to help Carlton win against SMRH.