1952 - Success returns to Glenpark

Duncan Drummond retained the captaincy and for the first time for a few seasons there was real optimism that the Club could mount a serious challenge for honours. Much would depend on the performance of Ted Whitfield, the Club's first post-war professional. He had been a successful performer in the County Championship with both Northants and Surrey over a number of years and although he was almost 41 years of age at the start of the season, he would undoubtedly add all-round strength to the team. His credentials as a coach were another factor in his employment and the hope was that he would help to bring on the younger members of the Club.

Convincing start

The season started with an easy win in the customary pre-season friendly with Cartha. The latter were unable to cope with Whitfield's bowling and he took a hat-trick in his spell of 5 for 26. This was a fine start for the professional, despite the weakness of the opposition. Whitfield carried this form into the opening league game with Ferguslie at Glenpark, his all-round display helping Greenock to a convincing seven wickets win. The Paisley batsmen were no match for the professional, who took 6 for 26 and Johnny Simpson with 4 for 28 and when Greenock batted, Whitfield's unbeaten 50 anchored the team to a morale-boosting win.

Whitfield maintained his fine start to the season with another strong all-round performance at Coatbridge when Drumpellier were beaten by 66 runs, the professional top-scoring with 48 and then taking 5 for 39 as the home team were bundled out for 98. Whtifield's performances were confirming what an important acquisition he was. However, he failed to assist Greenock to victory in their opening West League Cup tie with Kelburne, a match which was dominated by the Paisley team's professional, Bert Tobin, who scored 37 and then took 9 for 46 as Greenock fell short by 7 runs.

This setback did not seem to affect their league form as a third successive win was achieved when Kilmarnock were beaten by 36 runs at Glenpark. Whitfield was not so dominant on this occasion but he still took 3 wickets while a youthful Robin Duthie took the batting honours with a brisk unbeaten 32 to see Greenock to a winning score of 160 for 7. Kilmarnock did not get close to this tally.

Winning league run continues

Preceding the next league game with Clydesdale, Greenock were victorious in both the West League Cup where Ferguslie were overcome after an early batting collapse and the Rowan Cup where Glasgow Accies were easily beaten. Clydesdale proved to be a more difficult opponent. In an exciting match, Greenock prevailed by just one wicket. Clydesdale had batted first and thanks to a sixth wicket stand of 92 between Bill Edwards and the old Ferguslie professional, Creber, reached 160 for 9 in their allotted time. Greenock were never really on top at any time but the key to victory was a stand of 49 for the seventh wicket between Proverbs (52) and Duthie (24). But it was the last-wicket pairing of Armstrong and Simpson that sealed the victory just before time was called. It is interesting to note that 105 overs were bowled in the 5 hours of cricket.

The next West League Cup tie ended in an exciting tie as Greenock equalled Kilmarnock's total of 116 for 6 off the last ball of the game with the last pair at the wicket. Armstrong was again the hero with the bat at the end, his unbeaten 22 rescuing his side from what looked like an impossible situation. A fifth consecutive league win was then recorded when West of Scotland were easily overcome at Hamilton Crescent. West were bowled out for 129, with Whitfield, Simpson and Armstrong claiming 3 wickets apiece, and this total did not trouble the Greenock batsmen with Proverbs' unbeaten 65 leading the way to a seven wickets triumph.

Two more midweek games ensued, both of which resulted in Greenock victories, as the hectic calendar continued, a friendly with Glasgow Accies at Glenpark and a West League Cup tie with Ayr at Cambusdoon being played in less than pleasant weather. These games were followed by the next league game, the home return match with Drumpellier.  The Coatbridge batsmen could make no headway against the Greenock bowling and were dismissed for just 64, Armstrong taking 4 for 33 and Whitfield 3 for 5. In reply, the early loss of Agnew did not deter Greenock and Galbreath and Whitfield saw off the visitors' attack to give Greenock a nine wicket win and a comfortable lead at the top of the table.

West League Cup knock-out qualification achieved

Two more midweek Cup games followed with Kelburne defeated in the first by 5 wickets while the second game proved to be a high-scoring game against Ferguslie, which was eventually won by 11 runs, thanks in no small way to a splendid spell of bowling from the skipper who finished with 8 for 54. Drummond followed up that performance with a 5-wicket haul against Grange in the annual friendly, a low-scoring affair which Greenock eventually won by 4 wickets.

The following week saw Greenock take their leave of the Rowan Cup, beaten by Kelburne at Whitehaugh by 16 runs in a match played in poor weather. The following night, in similar conditions, Greenock lost by just 1 run to Ayr in the West League Cup, the pairing of Duthie and Simpson just failing to take their side past Ayr's total of 103 for 8 by putting on an unbeaten 45 for the 8th wicket.

The league match with Kelburne, which was to have been Whitfield's benefit match, fell victim to the weather but the final sectional West League Match at Kirkstyle was played, resulting in a comfortable win for Greenock by 5 wickets as their opponents were bowled out for just 67. Although it was not confirmed at the time, that result meant that Greenock qualified for the semi-final of the competition.

There was disappointment for Ernie Armstrong at this time, as he was forced to pull out of the Scotland team to play Yorkshire due to a hand injury. This would have been his first cap for his country and he would not get another chance on the international stage.

Winning run in league comes to an end

With the midweek fixtures now in abeyance, the team could concentrate on the league and look to maintain their unbeaten record. When Poloc scored 190 for 6 in the next fixture, played at Shawholm, this record looked in danger but heavy rain caused the match to be called off just as Greenock started their reply. The following week, an under-strength Greenock took the field against Uddingston but a fine all-round performance from Whitfield who took 5 for 35 and then scored 42 saw the side to a 6-wicket win, thereby preserving their 100% record as they went into the mid-season break.

When the league action resumed again, Greenock maintained their winning record when they comfortably defeated Ayr by 63 runs, Armstrong returning from injury to take 4 for 22 as Ayr were dismissed for 91. But Greenock's colours were finally lowered the following week when Clydesdale, who had had a poor season up this point, came to Glenpark and won by 5 wickets. The locals were restricted to 149 for 7 in their spell at the crease with Whitfield contributing a pain-staking unbeaten 49. Clydesdale were able to knock off the runs with relative ease as the Greenock bowlers were unable to maintain their earlier form.

The match with West of Scotland was another that failed to beat the weather with play being called off midway through the first innings. The semi-final of the West League Cup was then played at Hamilton Crescent against Drumpellier and resulted in the most exciting finish with Robin Gill hitting a boundary off the last ball of the game to see Greenock through to the final by 2 wickets. But that tells only part of the story. Drumpellier had amassed 100 for 6 in their 20 8-ball overs, a total which Greenock would have fancied to beat with some ease. But losing their skipper to the very first ball of the innings, they slumped to 45 for 7 with just 6 overs left. David Ramsay, promoted from the 2nd XI, turned the tide with a hard-hitting 31 and Simpson and Gill finished matters off, twelve runs coming off the final over, bowled by the Drumpellier professional, Fuller.

West League Cup captured

There was no league game on the Saturday and on Monday rain brought an early end to the first attempt to play the West League Cup final against West of Scotland with the home side on 39 for 2 when play ended. Another attempt was made to play the game on the following evening but again rain was the winner, with no chance of play starting. This cancellation meant that the venue for the final was transferred to Glenpark on the Wednesday and this time the game was played to a conclusion with spectators being treated to another exciting encounter.

With the match being decided over 19 eight-ball overs, West won the toss and elected to bat. They lost an early wicket but steady batting from their professional Harris and their skipper, Jack Harris, saw them to 106 before they lost another wicket. Ultimately they ended their innings on 122 for 4, a decent total but one which they might have expected to be higher given the second wicket stand. Whitfield was the leading Greenock bowler, taking 2 for 31 in 5 overs.

Greenock too lost an early wicket when they began their reply in worsening light, Jack Thomson being the batsman dismissed. The skipper was joined by Whitfield and the two of them got on top of the bowling. But the dismissal of Drummond at 37 was the signal for a rush of wickets as Greenock stumbled to 72 for 7 with just 7 overs left. Fortunately, Whitfield was still at the crease and when Gill joined him, they began to tilt the game back towards Greenock. 26 runs were needed off the last 3 overs but a flurry of boundaries brought victory to Greenock by 3 wickets, Whitfield finishing unbeaten on 57 and Gill on 23, their eighth wicket partnership amounting to 54.

And the Union title is also won

With one trophy under the belt, Greenock had 5 league games left to clinch the Union trophy. The first of these games was away to their nearest rivals, Kelburne. Heavy rain prior to the game commencing reduced the length of the game to 4 hours and when Duncan Drummond won the toss, he elected to bowl first. This proved to be an astute decision as Kelburne had no answer to the tight Greenock bowling, struggling to 82 for 9 in 42 overs, Whitfield taking 4 for 26. Greenock had little difficulty in knocking off the runs, losing just 2 wickets in the process, with Whitfield, unbeaten on 52, being the undoubted man of the match.

That result meant that just one point was needed to clinch the title and this duly arrived when Ayr came to Glenpark. Despite being overwhelming favourites to win, Greenock made hard work of the game. Ayr batted first but found run scoring difficult and were eventually dismissed for just 109. What seemed to be a simple task to score the runs needed for victory soon proved to be anything but. Wickets fell at regular intervals and when the score stood at 74 for 7, victory looked a long way away. However, Greenock had shown throughout the season that they batted all the way down the order and so it proved again as Ernie Armstrong joined Robin Duthie and played the match-winning innings of 34 to see Greenock to the title with a 3 wickets win.

With the title secured, Greenock could complete the final three games with some freedom. A depleted team travelled to Kirkstyle to play Kilmarnock and won with some style, Whitfield taking 4 for 27 as the home team collapsed to 99 all out when chasing Greenock's 158 for 9. Poloc were the last visitors to Glenpark for the season and were soundly beaten for their troubles. Whitfield took 5 for 30 as the visitors were bowled out for just 130 and in reply Greenock knocked off the runs for the loss of just one wicket. Whitfield scored an unbeaten 73 and the game ended when Galbreath reached his half-century, Poloc generously agreeing to continue the innings until he reached that target. After the game, the Western Union trophy was presented to Duncan Drummond. Although Greenock had won the Championship outright on 8 previous occasions, this was the first time that they had received a trophy for their success as it was only commissioned in 1946.

Still no win at Bothwell Policies

The final game of the season was played at Bothwell Policies and true to recent form at this ground this resulted in a win for Uddingston, only Greenock's second league defeat of the season. In their defence the last half hour of their innings was played in the most gloomy of conditions and had the game meant anything then it would surely have been called off by the umpires. As it was, Greenock were unable to withstand the bowling of the Uddingston professional, Dennis who took 7 wickets for 31, all clean bowled, as they could only muster 91 in reply to the home team's 109.

That may have been a disappointing end to the season but overall their league campaign was a resounding success, the Club's winning percentage of 85.71 being more than 24 points better than that of second-placed Drumpellier. A record of 12 wins from 14 games played told its own story. And it came as no surprise whatsoever when it was announced shortly after the season ended that Ted Whitfield had been re-engaged as professional for the 1953 season as his displays and influence had been paramount throughout the season.

Whitfield the outstanding player of the season

Twelve batsmen scored more than 100 runs during the season in all games, a testament to the fact that the team batted a long way down the order. Whitfield unsurprisingly was the leading run-getter with 751 runs at an average 39.53 while Lawrence Proverbs was just one run short of 500 for the season. Other notable scorers were the skipper with 428 runs and Mac Galbreath with 339. Given the Club's success in the league, it is slightly surprising that run-scoring was not as heavy as might be expected. Whitfield scored 462 runs at an average of 57.75 but Proverbs with 280 runs and Duncan Drummond with 212 were the only others to score over 200 runs.

Four bowlers did the brunt of the bowling, all sending down in excess of 200 overs in the course of the season. Whitfield took an amazing 85 wickets at an average of 9.80 to emphasise the extent of his all-round brilliance while the skipper with 58 wickets, Armstrong 47 and Simpson 44 gave him the best possible backup. Robin Gill with 10 wickets was the only other person to get into double figures of victims. These same bowlers were responsible for almost every over bowled in the league. Whitfield captured 50 wickets at an average of 10.04, backed up by Simpson with 31 victims, Armstrong 28 and Drummond 17 to underline how potent the Greenock attack had been in the league matches.

Duncan Drummond gets the best out of the side

1952 was the Club's most successful year since the end of the Second World War. While this owed much to the performances of Whitfield, it was clear that the side played as a team and not a collection of individuals and that it responded to the leadership of its captain, Duncan Drummond, who undoubtedly got the most out of his players with his intelligent promptings. Could this form be repeated next season was the question but that was a matter for the future and in the meantime, the Club could bask in the glory of a most successful campaign.