Greenock meet Dumfries in key encounter

Greenock will have another opportunity to keep their Premier Division hopes alive this Saturday when second bottom Dumfries are the visitors to Glenpark. Both sides are dangerously close to being relegated, so this is a big game for them. A win will mean there is still a slim chance of survival, but a loss will all but slam the door shut for both.

And yet Dumfries began the season with two wins from their first four league outings and were looking comfortable in the middle of the Premier Division table. But with no further wins since the end of June, the south of Scotland side has tumbled down the table.

When the two sides met earlier in the season at Dumfries' fine Nunholm ground, it was the south of Scotland side which came out on top at the end of a high scoring encounter.

Batting first, Dumfries built up a total of 228 for the loss of 9 wickets at the end of their 50 overs innings. Various of the home batsmen made decent contributions to the score, but it was opening bat Scott Beveridge with 50 runs and former St Michaels player, Chris Brockwell batting in the middle order with 54 runs, who were the top run-scorers in the Dumfries innings.

Gregor Chambers and Sam Sanghera each picked up three wickets for Greenock.

The Glenparkers made a decent reply scoring 177 before they were all out with just one ball of their 50 over innings remaining. But in reality, it was a run chase which never really challenged the home side. Sean Fischer-Keogh and Sam Sanghera, both batting in the middle order, each scored 32 and helped take Greenock to what, at the end, was a respectable total.

This weekend Sanghera has declared himself fit once again after having been out for several weeks with hamstring and back injuries. His return to the team will be welcomed and he will be hoping to replicate his form from when the two teams met at Nunholm.

Team captain, Greg McDougall, has many of his 1st XI regular players available but will be without top run scorer and opening batsman Neil Flack, who once more has work commitments.

On a positive note, McDougall will have most of his main bowlers available for this match. The opening pace duo of Sean Fischer-Keogh and Gregor Chambers is one of the most potent opening bowling attacks in the Premier Division and together they have so far collected 39 wickets.

Support for them on Saturday afternoon will come from Sam Sanghera, Harry Briggs, Ewan Stewart, teenager Usman Mansoor and McDougall himself.

This group may well be key to containing and / or making further breakthroughs into the Dumfries batting line-up. If some early wickets can be gained from Fischer-Keogh and Chambers' pace attack, then it will be essential for the back-up bowlers to continue to damage the visitors batting.

The Greenock, side for its part, must find some batting form. Shailesh Prabhu and Jamie Nowell opened the innings down at Nunholm in June and look likely to be asked to do so again on Saturday. The pair gave the Glenparkers a fine start on that occasion by putting on a half century for the first wicket, and a similar opening to the innings would be a good start this weekend.

Others who will fill the remainder of the top and middle order of the batting line-up will include Harry Briggs, Gregor Chambers Chris Hempsey and Sean Fischer-Keogh. All have shown ability to score well at times this season, but not consistently.

Top run-scorer and former Under-19 Scotland World Cup captain Neil Flack's advice to his team-mates is that they must have their plans in place before going out into the middle. This, Flack says, "will get them mentally prepared to deal with the situation they will face at the crease".

Certainly, the Greenock batsmen must each aim to spend time out in the middle, scoring runs, rotating the bowling and building meaningful partnerships.

Much, of course, in cricket, has to do with confidence. When the team is doing well, runs seem to come easily. When the opposite is the case, scores are harder to come by and it is at such times that Flack's advice is particularly relevant.

Last Saturday's cancellation of the crucial match with third bottom Poloc was a big blow to Greenock. Had that match been played and won, then the Glenparkers' hopes of Premier Division cricket in 2022 would still have been high.

But now Greenock need a minimum of three wins from their last four matches of the season and Poloc need to lose all four of theirs to make this unlikely 'dream' possible

And, of course, Dumfries are also right in the thick of the relegation battle. This weekend's match at Glenpark is a must win for them too if they are to harbour any hopes of overtaking Poloc.

With the weather outlook for Saturday warm and dry, Glenpark should be a ground which will produce plenty of runs. And with both teams needing to win to keep their Premier Division hopes alive, the match should be an interesting, and hopefully exciting one, for spectators to enjoy.

Greenock's selected eleven know what they have to do in this all-or-nothing match which will start as usual at 12 noon.


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