Greenock in must-win encounter with Poloc

Greenock's last chance to keep any remaining hopes alive that relegation from the Premier Division might be avoided comes this Saturday when Poloc pay a visit to Glenpark. The Glasgow southsiders are currently occupying third bottom spot while Greenock are stuck fast at the bottom.

Two teams will go down at the end of the season and Greenock and Dumfries, who are in the second bottom position, are the two most likely teams to face the drop. With just five matches remaining in the league programme, Poloc, with three wins, are in the best position to cling on to Premier Division status.

Their win against West of Scotland last Saturday has given the Glasgow side the advantage as the last few matches approach. But a win for Greenock on Saturday would put everything back into the melting pot.

With Poloc's form almost as poor as Greenock's, their win over West at Hamilton Crescent was widely unexpected. And coming just one week after defeating Dumfries who now occupy second bottom position, the Glasgow club's season has suddenly been transformed.

The two wins on consecutive weekends will have given the Shawholm team a real boost in confidence for the run in and Greenock can expect a very challenging afternoon at Glenpark on Saturday.

The return of Amaan Ramzan to Glasgow to play for Poloc has played a crucial role in the club's recent revival. In the two matches since his return, he has top scored with 75 against Dumfries and 74 not out against West of Scotland and brought a much needed strength to their batting line-up.

Ramzan apart, two key players whom the Glenparkers will need beware of are the Sajjad brothers, Saif and Kess. Both are capable batsmen with Saif in form with 54 against West last week. Kess is regularly first change bowler for Poloc and on four occasions he has picked up three wickets in a match and once four wickets.

Also very dangerous with the ball is the veteran Imran Adrees. He has a total of 22 wickets to date in the Premier Division and has had success in every match.

When the two teams met earlier in the season at Shawholm, it was Poloc who came out on top.

Put in to bat, Greenock made a decent start and had 71 runs on the scoreboard for the loss of just one wicket after 22 overs. But the loss of Harry Briggs for 18 and Neil Flack for 43 in quick order led to the innings falling apart and ended with the total on 113.

In reply, Poloc scored the runs needed to win with only four wickets down. The Sajjad brothers were the main run-scorers each with 32 runs to their credit.

Once again, this weekend, Greenock are without numerous regular 1st XI players for the Poloc match which will make the task a particularly difficult one for the players who do take to the field. Out from last Saturday are Neil Flack, Harry Briggs, Chris Hempsey and Chirag Pandher.

However, available once more are Shailesh Prabhu, Jonathan Hempsey and Jamie Nowell, but with Sam Sanghera still sidelined due to injury, the team looks likely to require numerous regular 2nd XI players to move up and face Poloc in this important fixture.

As has been the case in most matches, much will depend on the opening pace attack of Sean Fischer-Keogh and regor Chambers to dent the opposition batting line-up.

Last Saturday against Ferguslie Fischer-Keogh was in particularly fine form with four wickets, and early on ripped out three of the strong Ferguslie top order.

And although Chambers did not pick up any wickets, his bowling in tandem with Fischer-Keogh greatly troubled the Ferguslie batsmen.

Chambers also remains the leading wicket-taker for Greenock this season, just slightly ahead of Fischer-Keogh, and the competition for wickets between the two keeps both players at their best.

On Saturday, team captain Greg McDougall will not have either Neil Flack, Harry Briggs or Chirag Pandher as other bowling options. He will, however, be able to call on Jamie Nowell, Ewan Stewart and Usman Mansoor, as well as himself. And who to bring on to bowl, and when to ring the changes to keep the Poloc batsman from becoming comfortable, will be important decisions for McDougall to make.

But it is the batting performances of the team which are of most concern. In the last three matches, Greenock have failed to post a score of 100 runs or more and that has been the main reason for the lack of competitiveness.

Greater resilience and self-belief from batsmen will be key on Saturday against Poloc. And, as always, partnerships will be important. Last Saturday, Ferguslie started their innings poorly but two fine partnerships for the fourth and fifth wickets enabled a score in excess of 200 to be achieved.

Greenock's batsmen must believe that they too can occupy the crease and build partnerships to challenge or beat Poloc at Glenpark this weekend.

Greenock's team for Saturday's Premier Division match against Poloc at Glenpark, which will begin at 12 noon, will not be finalised until nearer the start of the match

The Glenpark (2nd) XI are away to Glasgow South on Saturday afternoon in the WDCU Third Division, with the match being played at New Williamfield, Stirling, starting at 1pm. No team news is available at the time of writing, due to the issues with the 1st XI availability. Whichever team takes the field, they will be looking for a change in fortune after a series of disappointing defeats when the bowlers have been unable to defend a reasonable target set by the batsmen.


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