Double-header of friendlies at Glenpark
Following on from last Saturday's opening match against Glasgow side, Hillhead, Greenock continue their early season preparations this weekend with two more 'friendly' matches at Glenpark. On Saturday, West of Scotland provide the opposition and on Sunday, Renfrew are the visitors.
These two matches are likely to provide sterner tests for the local side. West of Scotland finished in third place in Division One last season, just behind Greenock and Poloc, who were both promoted to the Premier Division. The Hamilton Crescent side will be keen to have a good season and promotion will be their goal having narrowly missed out in 2016.
Renfrew played in Division One last summer, but for the previous few seasons were a Premier Division side and will undoubtedly be aiming to make a return to the top level.
Greenock gained a confidence-boosting win against Hillhead at Glenpark last week and there were encouraging performances with the bat from Shailesh Prabhu 43 and Phil McIntosh 25, and also from Louis Ware who top scored with 51. The Glenpark side also showed good early season form with a fine fielding display.
However, Greenock can expect much stiffer opposition when the Premier League gets under way in a week's time and the fixtures this weekend will provide a better marker, albeit that the games are about getting in some match practice for as many players as possible.
Into the Greenock team will come the two young Aussies who will be playing their cricket at Glenpark this summer. Kyle Scrimegour from Darwin in the Northern Territory and Julian Hulbert from New South Wales arrived here in midweek. They will be key players for the Glenpark side, but will find conditions in the west of Scotland vastly different from what they are used to in Australia, and may take some time to bed in.
Hulbert, at least, has been in the UK for over a year and played in the Harrogate and District League with success last summer. But for 20 year old Scrimegour, a former Australian Under-19 international, it will be a whole new experience.
Also available this weekend is Harry Briggs, one of Greenock's most promising young players. 17 year old Briggs broke through into the 1st XI as an opening bat in the latter part of the league programme last summer following a number of fine performances for the 2nd XI, including his maiden batting century.
Unfortunately Scotland Under-19 captain Neil Flack is once again unavailable this weekend. Flack spent six months of the UK winter playing First Grade cricket in Tasmania and only returned home at the beginning of April, so has had plenty of cricket in recent times. However, it would have been good to have had him play this weekend just to re-acclimatise before the Uddingston league opener next Saturday.
Doubtful too for this weekend is 1st XI captain Jonathan Hempsey, who is trying to overcome a foot injury in time to play in the league opener.
This weekend's fixtures will provide important match practice for all those who are able to play in one or both of the games. Getting time out in the middle with the bat in a match situation is hugely more valuable than practising in the nets and Greenock will be keen that their players take what batting opportunities come their way this weekend to score some runs and to build confidence.
Shailesh Prabhu, Phil McIntosh and Louis Ware all gained valuable early season batting time last weekend and while it will be good to see each of these players score well again on Saturday against West of Scotland, it will be important for the Club's two Australian players to get a feel for the conditions too. Others who missed out on scoring well last Saturday will be keen to show what they can do if given the chance against either West or Renfrew.
Greenock must be disciplined in their batting approach this summer in the Premier Division and ensure that the full 50 overs of an innings is used. The top order players will have the task of laying a solid foundation for the innings, and those who will fill the middle and lower order positions must work hard to ensure that important runs are added when called upon. Being all out in under forty overs is a scenario to be avoided.
Bowlers too need to put in as many overs as possible to get their rhythm and accuracy honed for the start of the serious, competitive cricket which is only a week away. Greenock's attack is likely to be led by Kyle Scrimegour whose pace and wicket-taking ability earned him a number of Under-19 Australian team appearances.
Others who will be likely to feature in the Greenock 1st XI bowling line-up this summer will include Jonathan Hempsey, Louis Ware, Neil Flack, Greg McDougall and Julian Hulbert.
So, the scene is set for a second early season weekend of cricket at Glenpark. Greenock and their visitors will be keen to get some dry and hopefully warm weather for the matches, but at this time of the year maybe just getting the games on will be enough.
The match on Saturday v West of Scotland will now start at 12.30pm to accommodate a request from the Glasgow side, while on Sunday against Renfrew the start time will be 1pm.
Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored this season by Cleaning Supplies 4U.