MAJID Haq, the Clydesdale captain, has acknowledged that Ayr are the team to beat in this season's Western Premier, although he did add that he is still confident the Alloway team can still be caught.
Haq's side recovered from their recent run of poor form by securing a comprehensive derby win against West of Scotland. However, much of the focus was on Bothwell Castle, where Ayr continued a compelling pursuit of the title with a win against defending champions Uddingston.
Clydesdale have not given up on hopes of catching Ayr, however, and dismissed West for just 91 before completing a comprehensive seven-wicket win. Their success will likely seem more significant since it comes on the back of successive losses to Ayr and Drumpellier.
West's disappointing total looked unlikely at first, since they battled their way to 40-1. There would be thwarted by bowling from Haq and Con de Lange - claiming two scalps each - before Mo Ali finished the innings with a hat trick. Haroon Sher then top-scored with 30 in Clydesdale's reply, while De Lange added 25 and Richie Berrington completed made an unbeaten 27.
"It was an important win," said Haq afterwards. "We needed to put the last two games behind us and get back into contention. Ayr are clear favourites now but we won't give up.
"Ayr would probably have to lose twice while we win all our games, but there is a long way to go and we'll just take each game as it comes."
West are unlikely to look ahead with such optimism since the defeat on Saturday was their sixth in a row. Haq is sympathetic to the travails of his former Scotland team-mate John Blain, the West player-coach.
"I feel sorry for Blainy because he's got a tough job just now," said Haq. "They have had terrible problems with availability and although they were close to full strength against us you can't expect guys to perform consistently if they're only playing every three weeks or so."
Renfrew maintained their title hopes, meanwhile, by putting an end to Drumpellier's recent revival with a 28-run win at King George V Playing Fields. Ahmed Said, the Pakistani professional, scored an unbeaten 119 in a total of 241-7, with Shahid Abbasi and Kashif Pervez pressing home Renfrew's advantage with the ball.
Dumfries moved into the top four with a workmanlike 91-run win over East Kilbride. Stuart Corbett-Byers top-scored with 49, while Scott Beveridge claimed four wickets.