A reduced North of Scotland Senior Cricket League starts tomorrow with matches in Elgin and Inverness.
Ross County are the visitors to the Highland capital to lock horns with Northern Counties at the Northern Meeting Park, while Elgin are home to Nairn County.
High hopes for Ross County this season
County opening batsman Chris Blake, who also the league’s vice president, insists winning the title has to be their target in a five-club division.
He said: “With a reduced league, we are looking to be challenging for the title.
“We are looking to get off to a strong start and get a win under our belts and that would set a precedent for the season going forward.
“We have policies in place in that the players who turn up regularly and train hard are the ones who get picked on Saturdays.
“If you don’t make the senior team on Saturday, more often than not there will be a place on the reserves on Sunday.
“Last year, following the lockdown it was a worry as to whether guys would drift away from the sport altogether.
“Thankfully, the response from our guys has been very keen and we’re desperate to get going. We hope to score runs and take wickets.”
New wicket at Northern Meeting Park
Although confident, Blake is expecting a close contest against their hosts this weekend.
He added: “We are looking forward to this one. Northern Counties always give us a really good game.
“I would like to think we are both very similar sides in that we’ve got depth in batting and bowling.
“This will be the first competitive senior match on their new wicket. They laid a new wicket at the Meeting Park, so we’re really looking forward to trying that out.
“We have picked a good team for Saturday and the guys have been really keen in training.
“They have been training really well and we’ve had good attendance at our sessions. We’ve had a couple of friendly matches as well, so we are raring to go.”
Highland and Buckie switch focus to reserves
With Covid cancelling competitions last year, Highland were the last senior league winners in 2019.
The Fraser Park club are not in a position to defend their title this year due to the impact of the pandemic, while Buckie have also taken the decision to sit this year, with both clubs competing in the reserve league only.
Highland do, however, remain active on the Sunday scene and scored a five-wicket win over Nairn last weekend.
Northern Counties and Elgin progress in Senior Cup
This Sunday, a NoSCA select take on MCC, or the touring Marylebone Cricket Club, at Gordonstoun in their annual summer encounter.
In the Senior Cup last Saturday, holders Buckie could not raise a team for their opener against Northern Counties, who go through to an away tie against Ross County on July 3.
It was a close content in Elgin as the hosts edged out Nairn County in a great game that went down to the last ball.
Forres are Elgin’s opponents at the next stage, also on July 3.