Greenock face tough fixture with Ferguslie

Greenock travel to Paisley on Saturday to play their Renfrewshire rivals, Ferguslie, at their Meikleriggs ground. With the delayed start to this season's Premier Division programme, this will be just the second match in the 18 fixture league season.

Last Saturday, the Glenpark side suffered an opening day loss to Langside CC while Ferguslie recorded a fine win at Hamilton Crescent against West of Scotland.

The Paisley club, which won the Premier Division title in 2018, is likely to field a team which shows a number of changes to the side which last played against Greenock back in 2019, pre pandemic, but the changes only seem to have strengthened their play.

Against West, the Meikleriggs side batted first and scored 279 for the loss of just 5 wickets. Mo Ghaffar was the mainstay of the innings scoring exactly 100 runs. He was ably supported for long periods by Taimoor Ahmad (83) and David Stafford (63)

These three batsmen rescued Ferguslie following a shaky start which saw them lose the wickets of Gregor Preston-Jones and Riyaad Henry in the very early part of the innings with few runs on the board. The third and fourth wicket partnerships set up the large innings score and set West a total which they never looked like being able to chase. West were all out for 112 after only 30 overs.

Taimoor Ahmad followed up his fine innings by collecting 5 wickets for just 20 runs to gain the accolade of 'man of the match' for the Paisley side. Haroon Tahir was another notable wicket-taker with 3 for 14 from six overs

So Ferguslie will be in confident mood for the match with Greenock and keen to remain top of the Premier Division if a second consecutive league win can be achieved.

Greenock, of course, will be keen to thwart their Renfrewshire rivals. But the local side will have to do so with several of last weekend's players unavailable. Harry Briggs, Cameron Calder, Jamie Nowell and Sam Sanghera will all be missing and so a number of 2nd XI players are being drafted into the side.

Glenpark captain, Greg McDougall, will have to adjust how he approaches this match due to the players he now has available. Two of the top three from last weekend's batting line-up will be missing and also two of the bowlers he could have called upon.

However Neil Flack has made an impressive start to the season. Last Saturday against Langside he batted through the Greenock innings for an unbeaten 87 and followed that up on Sunday with 55 against top Edinburgh side, Carlton, in the Scottish Cup.

If Flack can produce another fine innings and be supported by others in the team, then Greenock can post a sizeable total. Gregor Chambers is one such player who could build a solid partnership with Flack. At Carlton, he batted well for 37 runs and was unlucky to be given out LBW when a big innings beckoned.

Chris Hempsey and Shailesh Prabhu both have the experience and potential to stay at the crease and score valuable runs. On Saturday, Prabhu may be asked to return to opening the innings with Flack. He was for several seasons 'inked in' at the top of the order but more recently has come in to bat in the lower middle order. His experience as an opener may well find team captain McDougall calling upon him to join Flack to lead the innings.

Where else might runs come from? The Fischer-Keogh brothers, Sean and Lukas, both have the ability to make runs but need to focus at the front end of their time out in the middle in order to get a start and build confidence. Both are in national / regional age group squads and receiving training and advice from top coaches which is benefitting their cricketing development. Runs from one or both on Saturday would be a boost for the team.

With no professional or overseas amateur this year due to the pandemic restrictions, there is more pressure on the team's home grown players to step up and produce runs and wickets.

Sean Fischer-Keogh will lead the attack with his pace bowling and will likely be joined by Neil Flack with his left arm slower action. Flack picked up a couple of wickets in both matches last weekend and could be a potent threat against Ferguslie.

Gregor Chambers, as first change bowler, also picked up two wickets in each of last weekend's games and his medium / fast pace will trouble many batsmen this season. Other bowling options will likely include Greg McDougall and Dave Sharma.

While accurate bowling will be important at Meikleriggs, as Greenock will seek to keep 'extras' to a minimum, a tidy performance in the field will be equally valuable. Any catching opportunities must be snapped up, as the old adage "catches win matches" still rings true. Had Greenock taken the chances offered last Sunday against Carlton in the Scottish Cup match in Edinburgh, then a second round tie against holders Heriots CC could have been achieved.

Back in 2018, the Greenock team was the only side to beat Ferguslie, as the Paisley side steam-rollered its way to the Premier Division title. That win was gained in fine style at 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 who chipped in. Pro Saurabh Bandekar was also a hero with the ball grabbing a hat-trick in his 4 wickets for 44 runs.

A similar performance on Saturday, although this time without any help from a pro, would suit the Glenpark support just fine. Greg McDougall is likely to lead this Greenock selection for the match which will start at the usual time of 12 noon.

The Glenpark (2nd) XI also have a derby match on Saturday afternoon, as the team will welcome Inverclyde CC to Glenpark.

A number of regular 2nd XI players require to step up to 1st XI duty on Saturday due to availability issues, but fortunately the Glenpark XI's player resources are sufficient to provide what should be a competitive squad for this Division Three league game at Glenpark which will start at 1pm.

Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored this season by Cleaning Supplies 4U.