Greenock try again for first league win
Greenock continue their quest for a first Premier Division win of the 2019 season this Saturday afternoon when they host Ferguslie at Glenpark. It is yet another tough test for the Glenpark team, as the Paisley side are the defending Champions, and Saturday's encounter comes hard on the heels of matches against Prestwick, Champions in 2017, and Uddingston, the bookies favourites for the title this year.
But that is life in the Premier Division. There are no easy games and it is the survival of the fittest. And Greenock need to show that they are a side fit to remain in the top division. The next few weeks will almost certainly show whether that is likely to be achieved.
Greenock's form to date this season has been to some extent disappointing and yet in some other respects quite encouraging. Almost all sides have struggled against the Glenpark team's bowling attack. Drumpellier, West of Scotland and even Uddingston have been unable to rack up totals of any real size, and if only Greenock's batting had been of better quality in each of these games then the points would surely have been 'in the bank' for the locals.
Quite curiously, in the one Premier Division match in which Greenock batted first (against Prestwick) the locals put together their best batting performance scoring 191 but then failed to bowl out the opposition
On Saturday against Ferguslie, both batting and bowling will need to come good if Greenock are to entertain hopes of a win against their Paisley rivals. The Meikleriggs side, while perhaps not quite the force they were last year, are nevertheless a very strong side and Greenock will need to be at their best.
Riyaad Henry has taken on the captaincy of the Paisley side from Jamie Carruthers and both will be important players for Ferguslie at Glenpark on Saturday afternoon. Also key for he visitors will be Gregor Preston-Jones and David Stafford both of whom have the potential to score significant runs.
For Greenock, professional Saurabh Bandekar will, as always, be a key player. He has performed consistently well for the side in the Saturday league matches and is currently the top run-scorer in the Premier Division and also one of the top wicket-takers.
A continuation of that good form will certainly be crucial for the team on Saturday, but Bandekar must get support from others in the team, especially with the bat, if Greenock are to emerge with a win.
Last season, Greenock were the only team to beat Ferguslie as the Paisley side steam-rollered its way to the Premier Division title. The win was gained in fine style at Ferguslie's own ground, Meikleriggs, as an excellent overall team performance brought the points back to Glenpark. Neil Flack top scored as he hit form at the right time with 76 valuable runs, and he was supported by numerous others also chipping in. And Saurabh Bandekar was a hero with the ball grabbing a hat-trick in his 4 wickets for 44 runs, while Jonathan Hempsey 4 for 43 and Flack 2 for 31 also did well in the Greenock bowling attack.
Prior to that match, the Paisley side had played and won all five of their league matches and had lost only once in all competitive games played up to that point in the season. Greenock had won only one league match.
Compare that to this season. The very unsettled weather has impacted significantly on Premier Division matches. Ferguslie have been particularly badly affected and have played just two out of the first six scheduled league fixtures while Greenock have played four. Indeed the Paisley side have not played a Saturday league fixture since the 11th of May.
Greenock's side for Saturday has yet to be finalised but will once again be missing some regular 1st XI players due to work commitments and injury. Chris Hempsey and Shailesh Prabhu are unavailable due to work while Greg McDougall is out due to torn ankle ligaments. And uncertainty still hangs over whether Jonathan Hempsey will have recovered sufficiently from his foot injury to play.
Perhaps the biggest question for Saturday is "will the weather improve to allow he match to be played?" It's been a pretty dreadful period with cool temperatures and lots of rainfall and in midweek the forecast for Saturday was not looking good. Maybe some form of miracle will part the clouds and blue sky and sunshine will appear over Greenock. If that happens, then the match might start at the scheduled time of 12 noon.
On Sunday Greenock make the long journey east to Edinburgh for their first round match in this season's Citylets Scottish Cup and once again the test could hardly be tougher. The draw has pitched the locals against top East Premier Division side Grange who are one of the favourites to lift the trophy. This match will also start at 12 noon.
The Edinburgh side boasts a number of players with international experience and with the match being played at The Grange, which is Scotland's main international venue, the advantage certainly lies with the men from the east.
The Glenpark XI have no game this week.
Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored this season by Cleaning Supplies 4U.