It’s going to be cold, the grass might be a bit wet, and deep heat might take precedence over sun block, so not exactly the perfect conditions for the start of the 2023 cricket season. Whilst most prefer to play on grass, spare a thought for those working against the tide of rain as they tried to produce a cricket square. No play at Lairds this weekend as the square is still very damp, and they will do well to get something ready for week 2.
Grade 1 champions Knight Riders start the season at Mannofield, but with 2022 captain Pehlaj Tenneti, Vijay Vijapur, Safeer Peedikayil and Abhinav Kache all moving to Master Blasters, Sajid Muhammad to Bon Accord, Mahesh Challa going back to Grammar and Uday Raghavendra to Gordonians, this will be a much changed line up. Vijay Amirtharaj returns from a spell in Grade 3 and Prasanth Malireddy will lead the Knight Riders bowling. Mannofield captain Rahul Chandu adds the solidity of Rutwik Hegde to his batting line up.
Bon Accord and Master Blasters will be the favourites for the title in the eyes of many Grades watchers. The seemingly ageless Bons start off at Countesswells against Gordonians who include Akhlaq Bashir but are without the bowling prowess of Chamila Perera. Bons have the familiar trio of Awan, Mirza and Malik on their teamsheet. The challenge for Master Blasters might be how to keep their swollen ranks of quality players happy, and they should prevail in the Allan Park derby against Cults.
With the bulk of the 2022 Crescent team involved in their venture into the SPCU Division 1, they may well struggle to maintain their Grade 1 status and Inverurie will be expected to pick up a win at Links. John Jessiman starts again for Inverurie who have Fraser Lawrence available.
The 2 promoted teams, AberGreen (formerly Siyapa) and Grade 2 champions Grampian face off at Harlaw.
Grade 2 could produce numerous interesting fixtures this season. Promoted Methlick, minus the holidaying Tim Duffy, head to Groats Road to face relegated 2nd Knight Riders who will be under new leadership following the departure of Bala Balaji to Dunecht. 2021 double winners AGSFPs have Agha Haider in charge as they aim to bounce straight back up to Grade 1, and they would expect to get a positive result against promoted Huntly at Rubislaw. Graham Reid skippers Huntly who include Emily Henderson who took 23 wickets in Grade 3 in 2022. The other promoted team, 2nd AberGreen, head to Banchory. Portcullis are in their cars to head to Fraserburgh who will be looking for inspiration from the swashbuckling Chris Gospel. Ellon have a potentially tough game at home to 2nd Grampian. Matt Sandham will be tossing the coin for Ellon this season with Jonathan Barrett offering pearls of wisdom from the relative comfort of vice captaincy.
2nd Gordonians might fancy their chances of making the step up from Grade 3 to Grade 2 and Crathie will be standing in the way of that promotion push at Countesswells. Siv Gollakota and Ryan Davis will be hoping they can produce their batting form from last season for Gordos. No sign of any loan requests from Dunecht so far as they have had a major transfusion of new blood. Stonehaven are the visitors to the Cowdray Estate and they will be looking for Andy Gale and Nathan Macaulay-Dicks to get runs on the board. The 2 new teams meet at Mannofield on Sunday with 2nd Mannofield expected to be the first victims of 2nd Master Blasters who should romp to promotion.
In the SPCU North East Championship, Aberdeenshire head to Broughty Ferry to take on Forfarshire 2nds. Shire include their new Western Australian contingent of Nicholas Veletta and Josh Goodwin but they will miss Aayush Das who has moved to RH Corstorphine. David Gamblen returns from injury and Lewis Munro spearheads the Shire bowling attack against a Forfs side that looks light on bowling. Veteran Graeme Garden may have to carry a lot of the load with bat and ball if Forfs have any hope of repeating their surprise win in the corresponding game last season.
With Gordonians skipper designate Adi Hegde moving to the bright lights of the EPL with Meigle, Mayank Bhandari again takes charge as they go to Huntly. 14 year old Rudra Chouksey is in for his 1st team debut against an experienced Huntly line up that rolled Gordos out for only 68 at Castle Park in 2022. Expect Jack Mitchell and Jordan Squire to inflict some more pain on Gordonians.
Arbroath United were relegated from the EPL and they will be heavy favourites at home to Freuchie. Home Office regulations mean that long term Perth Doocot pro Usman Saeed cannot be involved, but even without his prodigious talents, Perth should be too strong for visitors Kinloch. Strathmore are without Liam and Dale Sweeney, Matthew Simpson and Haydn Evans, so they will be relying on their very talented overseas all rounder Lance Trueman to bat and bowl promoted 2nd Falkland into submission at Forfar. 2nd Falkland have a combination of vast experience and youthful promise to call on and their opponents shouldn’t take them lightly.
It will be a tough start for Stoneywood Dyce who are in Eastern Premier League action at home to 2022 champions Heriots. SDCC had a fantastic start to their 2022 season but it will be a big ask to repeat that feat.
Forfarshire go to Watsonian without Messrs Wallace and Leask but new recruit Lyle Robertson from Falkland will add to their spin options alongside Jack Hogarth who topped the league wicket taking in 2022.
Meigle have signed Sami Ejaz and overseas amateur Tiann Brits from Strathmore as they look to steer clear of an immediate drop back to the SPCU North East Championship. They go to Carlton but are missing destructive all rounder Majid Rasheed. Falkland may well find it tough going this season and their opening home match against RH Corstorphine could provide a clue as to whether Billy Ocean got his lyrics right. Grange and Stewarts Melville meet in the first of many Edinburgh derbies.