Greenock face vital game with Stirling
Greenock welcome Stirling County to Glenpark on Saturday afternoon for the first of four league matches which are likely to define the club's season.
The side is currently without a win in this season's Premier Division and must quickly make an improvement to that statistic. The four upcoming matches are against sides which are in the lower half of the league table and it is vital that wins are gained against them in the weeks ahead.
So the match against Stirling County takes on an increased significance. It has the potential to start the process of recovery for Greenock and develop confidence in the team which could lead to further wins in the matches to follow.
There have been signs in the last two or three weeks that the team is moving in the right direction. None of the top sides against whom Greenock have played in recent weeks have 'rolled them over'. Rather, Greenock have put in some good performances which provide optimism for the match this Saturday against Stirling County and for the other important matches against Poloc, East Kilbride and Drumpellier.
Neil Flack played a confidence building innings last Sunday in Edinburgh against top East League side, Grange, in the Scottish Cup. He scored 42 runs in a well constructed innings, which looked like it might go on to become a really major one until he got a fine edge to a ball from opening bowler Chris Peet and was caught behind the wicket.
In midweek, in a match against touring Australian side 'Emus', Flack was again the stand out batsman in the Greenock team. If he can continue this good form on Saturday, then he could be set for a major innings.
A number of others too have shown improvement in batting performance. Rod Mountford has been scoring consistently well coming in at around 5th wicket down and Sehmat Pandher and Sam Sanghera have shown that with concentration and application they too can play a part in building a large score for the team.
Scoring runs and building a large innings total is essential if the Greenock team is to win games in the weeks ahead and several players need to be able to support the Club professional Saurabh Bandekar who has been the batsman most able to score runs for the team in the matches played to date.
Saturday's opponents, Stirling County, have played just three matches in the Premier Division this season due to weather cancellations, recording one win and two losses. The central Scotland side have much the same playing squad as last summer and may be heavily reliant on three or four players in their side to try and overcome Greenock at Glenpark.
Tom Bradburn, son of former Scotland national cricket coach Grant Bradburn, will be an important all rounder for the visitors as will Tom Jones and Amir Shahzad. These players have been consistent performers in the games played taking wickets and scoring runs.
Others for Greenock to watch out for in the Stirling line-up include young Jasper Davidson who made 60 not out recently against Poloc and Sri Lankan all rounder Rukman Hewage.
Stirling are just a couple of places above Greenock in the Premier Division table but, like the locals, are in the lower half of the League and need to gain some wins to secure for themselves a comfortable mid table position.
When the teams met in the final match of the 2018 season, Greenock gained an important win by seven wickets when the Stirling total of 178 all out was successfully chased down for the loss of just three wickets. Saurabh Bandekar 75 not out and South African amateur Laurens Smit 57 not out were the match winners for Greenock. The win ensured Greenock maintained Premier Division status for 2019.
So the scene is set for a match which has huge importance for both sides and, weather permitting, spectators should enjoy an entertaining and hard-fought afternoon of cricket at Glenpark on Saturday. The match starts at the usual time of 12 noon.
Greenock are waiting to finalise their team for Saturday and are waiting for a couple of players to declare themselves fit enough to play and also to find out if Shailesh Prabhu will be available and free of work commitments.
The Glenpark XI travel to Stirling on Saturday afternoon to play West of Scotland's Hamilton Crescent XI. The Glasgow club are fielding three Saturday elevens this year and an arrangement has been agreed to use the second oval at Stirling for their home matches.
Their team for the match will be dependent on who drops out of the 1st XI squad. The match at Stirling starts at 1pm.
Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored this season by Cleaning Supplies 4U.