Greenock face crunch match at Shawholm

Greenock return to Premier Division cricket on Saturday afternoon after two T20 midweek cup matches against Kelburne and Ferguslie and need a win at Poloc to kickstart their league form.

The trip to the Pollok Park estate in Glasgow to face Poloc CC at their Shawholm ground is an important one for the local side. Although only two matches have been played in the league so far, both have been lost and a third defeat would see Greenock firmly in the relegation zone of the Premier Division. So the match against Poloc is a 'must win' even so early in the season.

The Glenpark club has been unable to field what might be considered to be its full strength team in the two matches played so far. And this Saturday is no different. Unavailable once again are Cameron Calder, Jamie Nowell, and Sam Sanghera. Chris Hempsey is also out this weekend.

On a more positive note, Jonathan Hempsey will make his first appearance of the season, and the all rounder should add some experience and strength to the side.

The Greenock teram has a useful bowling unit with Under-19 Scotland international Sean Fischer-Keogh leading the attack along with former Helensburgh player, 20 year old Gregor Chambers. These two provide pace bowling which will present problems to most team's top order batsmen.

Last Saturday against Ferguslie, Fischer-Keogh and Chambers picked up the top three Paisley batsmen relatively cheaply. But having batted first and managed only 79 runs from their innings, Greenock simply did not have enough runs on the board to trouble the Meikleriggs side.

Neil Flack, Jonathan Hempsey and team captain Greg McDougall will likely provide the back up to the two pacemen. Hempsey has had no match practice so far this season and may be a bit 'rusty'. But Flack and McDougall have each picked up wickets in the matches played and can play an important role against Poloc.

Building the innings and getting plenty of runs on the board is vital for Greenock to win games.

Former Scotland Under-19 World Cup captain Neil Flack has been in good form so far for Greenock with 87 not out against Langside two weeks ago followed by 55 against Carlton in the Scottish Cup and 23 at Ferguslie. And Gregor Chambers has shown he can be an important run scorer with 37 against Carlton and an unbeaten 65 against Helensburgh in a midweek Rowan Cup match.

But these two apart, few other Greenock batsmen have managed to stay long at the crease and provide meaningful contributions. Only Shailesh Prabhu with 22 runs against Helensburgh and Harry Briggs with 35 at Carlton have made more than 20 runs in an innings in the matches played so far.

A sound start by the top order batsmen can lay the foundations of a large total. Sixty or seventy runs without the loss of an early wicket boosts confidence and the middle order can then push on with important contributions. This must be Greenock's aim this Saturday at Shawholm.

Like Greenock, Poloc have had a poor start to the Premier Division season. In their opening fixture at Dumfries they lost by 70 runs and last Saturday against West of Scotland went down by 114 runs. In both matches, the Shawholm side conceded over 200 runs and then failed to get close in their own innings. And last Saturday against West, none of the top five batters made double figures.

The fragility in the Poloc batting line-up is the area that Greenock must look to expose. Some early wickets could easily lead to the Glasgow side being unable to build an innings of any size.

However, care will be needed when Greenock themselves are batting. Poloc have several bowlers in their line-up who have potential to provide problems. Imran Adrees, Kess Sajjad, Ahmed Hanif and Robert Cathcart all have been wicket-takers in the last couple of weeks and will be the mainstay of the 'southsiders' bowling attack.

Sajjad picked up 4 wickets last Saturday against West, while Hanif collected 5 wickets for just 3 runs as he mopped up the Renfrew tail in a Rowan Cup first round match.

So, it looks like a game which, on paper, has two teams which may be fairly evenly matched. The side which can bat well will most likely come out on top and gain a boost in both confidence and also league placing. It is all to play for at Shawholm on Saturday.

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 play Glasgow South at Glenpark on Saturday afternoon.

A number of regular Glenpark XI players once again are required to step up to the 1st XI team on Saturday due to the availability issues mentioned above, but a decent team should still turn out for this Division Three league game which will start at 1pm.

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