Greenock seek elusive first league win

For the third successive Saturday, Greenock find themselves travelling away from home for their Premier Division league match. This weekend, it is the long journey south to Dumfries as the team goes in search of a first league win of the season.

The Dumfries club's Nunholm ground is one the most attractive in the country, but it has not been a ground at which Greenock have enjoyed success in recent times. The two clubs have only been in the same division in three out of the last ten seasons and on none of those occasions, when the teams have met at Nunholm, have Greenock returned home as winners.

On the two most recent meetings at Nunholm, which were in 2017 and 2018, Dumfries eased to victory by four wickets in both cases. In 2017, Greenock scored 250 for the loss of 8 wickets with Neil Flack hitting 94 but Dumfries then made 252 for the loss of 6 wickets.

In 2018, Greenock again batted first and posted 193 all out, with pro Saurabh Bandekar top scoring with 75. But once again, Dumfries gained the 25 points by scoring 194 for 6. That victory however was not enough to retain their Premier Division status, as relegation occurred at the end of the season.

But the Nunholm team bounced straight back to the top division by winning the First Division in 2019 (no competitive cricket played in season 2020 due to the pandemic). They did so with nine wins out of only eleven matches which were able to be completed. Indeed Dumfries only played one league match to a conclusion from mid July in what was a rain affected season.

In their three matches played to date in this 2021 season, Dumfries have beaten Poloc but lost to Clydesdale and West of Scotland.

The south of Scotland side retains a number of experienced players from the last time the teams met in 2018. Scott Beveridge, Alan and David Davidson, Chris McCutcheon are among those still in the side while Chris Brockwell, formerly of St Michaels, has re-joined the Dumfries team.

Brockwell has made a quick impact with a fifty against Poloc in the opening match of the league season and a six wicket haul against Clydesdale two weeks ago.

Greenock have shown signs of good form in all three of the matches played so far but have just not put together a sufficiently good all round team performance to gain a win. Neil Flack has been a consistent performer with the bat and Sean Fischer-Keogh has shown his Under-19 international form with the ball, but others need to come good too.

Flack is unavailable for the trip to Dumfries and his omission will be a huge blow for Greenock. Not only is he Greenock's top batsman, he is also the leading run scorer in the Premier Division so far this season.

So the Glenparkers will have to rely on others in the side to make the runs on Saturday.

Shailesh Prabhu and Harry Briggs may form the opening batting partnership in Flack's absence. Both are experienced at the top end of the order and have the potential to build a solid foundation at the start of the innings.

Coming in at first wicket down is likely to be Gregor Chambers who has shown real promise in the starts he has made this season. But he must address his weakness, which is being out LBW, a dismissal which has trapped him on no fewer than four times so far in 2021.

Middle order for Greenock should comprise Jamie Nowell, Chris Hempsey, the Fischer-Keogh brothers Sean and Lukas, and Chirag Pandher. They must show resilience when they get to the crease and work to build partnerships with whoever they join up with in the middle.

If Greenock bat first, it will be important for the team to bat through the full fifty overs and accumulate as large a total as possible. To do so will require a great deal of patience and application from the batters, especially those in the top half of the order.

Greg McDougall, Sam and Aryan Sanghera will likely make up the tail end of the Greenock batting order and if they get a chance to bat their runs could be very important.

The trip to Nunholm provides the Glenpark side with an opportunity to improve on its recent match history at the south of Scotland ground and also the chance to gain a first Premier Division win in the 2021 season. It will not be easy to do so, but it has often been the case that when Greenock have been second favourites, that is when the team comes good.

Glenpark supporters will no doubt be keeping in close touch about progress in the match through social media during the afternoon and hoping for good news.

Skipper Greg McDougall will make his final selection from a squad of thirteen for the match which will start at the usual time of 12 noon.

The Glenpark (2nd) XI are again at home on Saturday afternoon when they play Bees (Clydesdale 3rd XI) in a Third Division match with a 1pm start. With the 1st XI team selection still to be finalised, a squad of fourteen has been nominated for the game. Whatever the eventual selection, spectators at the game will see the usual mixture of experience and callow youth. Last Saturday Peter Robertson showed that age is just a number as he hit 49 in what turned out to be a losing cause. More of the same this week would not go amiss as the team looks for its second win of the season.

On Sunday afternoon, the Glenpark XI play Meikleriggs (Ferguslie 2nd XI) at Glenpark in a postponed Western Cup match. It is a T20 match and was postponed from a week past Tuesday due to poor weather. The match will have a 1pm start.

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