Greenock host Stirling County in last game of the season

Greenock's final match of the 2021 Premier Division season takes place at Glenpark this Saturday afternoon when Stirling County are the visitors. With relegation to the First Division now a certainty for Greenock and Stirling safe in mid-table there is only pride at stake for both teams. For Greenock, it is an opportunity to gain a second league win and finish off a difficult and disappointing season on a positive note.

Since defeating Greenock at their New Williamfield ground in mid-July, County have cemented their mid-table position by winning a further four matches, with each of their wins being against teams below them in the league.

Young South African all-rounder Brandon McMullen has been a key player for the side and is currently riding high at the top of the Premier Division batting stats with a massive 767 runs to his credit. Included in this total is his innings of 115 which led Stirling to victory over West of Scotland just last Saturday. He also tops the league averages with 63.92

McMullen is very much a player in form. He has had eight innings of over 50 runs in the season, including 67 against Greenock in July when Stirling scored 240 for 5 with their captain Matthew Tweedie scoring 94.

The 21 year old South African, who came over as County's overseas amateur in 2018, and now has a Scottish residency qualification as he is a full time university student, is also County's top wicket-taker with 23 wickets.

But Stirling are far from being a one-man team. They have a number of players who have been scoring well during the season, enabling numerous totals of over 200 to have been scored. Matthew Tweedie, the County captain, almost reached a century when the teams met in July and he has piled up over 400 runs during the summer. Not far behind is Harry Booker with 394 runs and then there is Abdul Shakoor and Amir Shahzad who on their day can both score quickly.

On the bowling front, the Stirling side have a number of options over and above McMullen. Mubarak Ali and Abdul Shakoor may lead their attack at Glenpark and then Sri Lankan, Rukman Hewage, Jonathan Bowes and Chris Morton are all also available to allow team captain Matthew Tweedie to ring the changes.

Greenock team captain, Greg McDougall, has had a difficult season. He has regularly had to field teams missing a number of players who would have been his first choices, but who have been unavailable due to a variety of circumstances.

This Saturday is no different. With the cricket season having been extended into September because of a delayed start due to Covid, there is an overlap with other sports such as rugby, hockey and football.

Added to that, numerous players have work commitments which affect their availability. One such player is opening batsman Neil Flack. He has been a key player for Greenock for a number of years, but his job has meant that he has only managed to play a handful of Premier Division matches this season.

Despite his lack of availability, Flack is still the leading run-scorer in the Glenpark side this season and had he been in the side more regularly, it is likely Greenock's batting performances would have been much improved.

Another key player missing this weekend is opening pace bowler Sean Fischer-Keogh who is unavailable due to international commitments. He is in Spain as a member of the Scotland Under-19 Cricket World Cup European Qualifier squad.

Fischer-Keogh's opening bowling partner Gregor Chambers will therefore lead the Greenock attack and may well be joined by Sam Sanghera who had a fine 5 wicket performance last Saturday against Premier Division leaders Clydesdale.

Greg McDougall, Chirag Pandher, Ewan Stewart and Cammy Calder will be the other bowlers who will be called upon to break down the County batting.

But just as important for Greenock's hopes of gaining a win will be the team's ability to score runs. There have been only a few good starts to the Glenpark side's innings this season, and if a solid foundation can be laid to the innings on Saturday, then a sizeable total could be achieved.

Greenock captain, Greg McDougall, will have to give some thought to the batting line-up as there are few players in Saturday's side who are used to opening the innings.

The experience of Shailesh Prabhu will almost certainly be an important factor at the top of the order. He is due a good score, and if he can survive County's opening bowling attack, there is every chance he could go on to build a big innings.

Teenager Lukas Fischer-Keogh, who has developed into a very fine wicket-keeper, has also become a useful batsman for the team. He has grown in confidence as the season has progressed and has the ability now to score some very useful runs.

Chirag Pandher has shown that he is a powerful batsman who can score quickly but he needs to work hard and spend time in the middle on Saturday along with others such as Sam Sanghera, Gregor Chambers, Peter Janampally and young Cammy Calder.

Partnership building in the Greenock innings will be key to batting through the 50 overs and achieving a challenging or winning score. In other words, a real team effort is needed.

With only one win throughout the Premier Division campaign, Greenock have for much of the season recognised that a drop down a division was likely. And now that is certain, the Club is already making plans for a swift return to the top tier.

An experienced professional and an up-and-coming young overseas amateur are being actively sought to be part of the cricketing set-up at Glenpark for the 2022 season.

Being one of the oldest and most successful cricket clubs in Scotland, the Glenparkers have ambitions to quickly return to the Premier Division. So a win against County at Glenpark on Saturday would be a real encouragement to the team and its supporters. The final selection of the season will be made from a squad of twelve and they will look to end the season on a high but the Stirling side will be no easy team to beat. The match will start at 12 noon.


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