Greenock welcome derby rivals Ferguslie to Glenpark

Greenock face Renfrewshire rivals, Ferguslie, at Glenpark this Saturday. The Paisley side is having a good season and currently sit second top of the Premier Division, while Greenock are fighting for survival at the bottom. With six matches remaining, this match is important for both sides for vastly different reasons.

Ferguslie have played all ten of their fixtures to date, winning eight and losing two. The losses came on consecutive Saturdays in June with firstly Stirling County winning a high scoring match by the narrowest of margins - one run. Then, defending champions Uddingston gained a comfortable 7 wicket win at the Paisley side's own Meikleriggs ground.

These two defeats aside, Ferguslie have played consistently well throughout the season so far, and can list wins over top of the table Clydesdale and third placed Prestwick from the matches played in the first half of the season.

Continued good form in the remaining six matches of the Premier Division season could well see Ferguslie win the league title for the second time in just three seasons.

Riyaad Henry, the Paisley team's captain, has been leading from the front. Already this season he has three centuries to his credit and totalled over 550 runs from matches played in the Premier Division. His wicket will be key for Greenock when the teams meet on Saturday.

But Henry is not the only run-scoring threat which Ferguslie possesses. Taimoor Ahmad, Adil Ghaffar, David Stafford and Gregor Preston-Jones are others who can score well. Indeed Ghaffar and Ahmad have both also scored centuries this season.

The Meikleriggs side also have several players who make up what is a challenging bowling attack for the team. Adil Ghaffar, a fine all-rounder, regularly opens the bowling and just last Saturday against West of Scotland returned a season's best of 5 wickets for 31 runs. Riyaad Henry is frequently Ghaffar's opening partner and is a consistent performer with the ball.

Others who give team captain Henry options when in the field, include Taimoor Ahmad, Hasseeb Zaker, Haroon Tahir, Daoud Tahir and Qasim Khan.

For this Saturday's 'derby' match, Greenock's player availability problem is once again an issue. Out from last Saturday's side are three experienced players Shailesh Prabhu, Phil McIntosh and Jonathan Hempsey. But on a positive note, top run scorer Neil Flack is once again available.

Flack's inclusion is a big boost for the Glenparkers, as his presence at the top of the order will hopefully help the side get off to a sound start to the innings. The former Scotland Under-19 World Cup captain from 2016 has shown some sparkling batting form this season in the matches for which he has been available.

But due to work commitments, his availability has been very limited. On the first Saturday when Premier Division cricket was played at the beginning of June, Flack opened his account with 87 not out against Langside at Glenpark.

he followed up that innings with 43 against Poloc, 50 against West of Scotland and most recently 67 against Stirling County when he was last available in mid-July.

Harry Briggs will almost certainly partner Flack at the top of the order. He has shown encouraging form on various occasions during the summer, with his best 68 against league leaders Clydesdale.

While run-scoring has been an issue at times this season, the Glenpark side does have various players who have the ability to score well. Gregor Chambers, Chris Hempsey, Chirag Pandher, Sean and Lukas Fischer-Keogh, plus team captain Greg McDougall, have all shown that 'on their day' they are capable of playing lengthy innings and scoring useful runs for the team.

But all batsmen need to be able to regularly contribute to the team effort to gain points, and this weekend spending time at the crease and building an innings must be the aim of each player when out in the middle.

Although scoring sufficient runs to challenge, or overcome, Ferguslie will be hugely important, Greenock must also be able to contain the Ferguslie batting line-up on Saturday afternoon.

Without a professional and overseas amateur this season to bolster both batting and bowling, due to the pandemic restrictions, much of the bowling attack has depended on the opening pace partnership of Sean Fischer-Keogh and Gregor Chambers. They have been the Glenpark side's main wicket-takers and do provide a considerable challenge to opposition batsmen.

Flack's return will give team captain Greg McDougall an extra option for this weekend's match.

Others who will be part of the Greenock bowling attack will include Chirag Pandher and McDougall himself. Both players have picked up wickets in matches during the season and provide a useful variation from the pace of Fischer-Keogh and Chambers.

Into the side to face Ferguslie on Saturday come a number of young players with bowling potential but with, as yet, a lack of experience at the top level of cricket in the West.

Usman Mansoor is developing into a fine fast bowler, while Ewan Stewart's slower pace can often contain batsmen's run-scoring while Aryan Sanghera has so far had very little opportunity to bowl at Premier Division level.

These young players could have a significant impact on the game against Ferguslie when called into action and McDougall will know that he will need to manage them carefully.

Results so far in the 2021 season indicate that Ferguslie are odds-on favourites in the lead up to Saturday's match, but that was also the case back in 2018 when the Paisley side went on to win the Premier Division title.

Back then, Greenock were the only team to beat the Paisley side during the season. Neil Flack with 76 was the team's top scorer while Jonathan Hempsey and Indian professional Saurabh Bandekar, each with four wickets, ripped through the Paisley batting. Bandekar also had the highlight of a hat-trick.

Saturday's team, which will be selected from a pool of twelve players shows numerous changes from 2018, but the opportunity is there for others to make their mark and create an upset. The game will start at 12 noon.

The Glenpark (2nd) XI have no game this weekend.


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