Greenock again under-strength as they face Prestwick

Greenock welcome third placed Prestwick to Glenpark on Saturday afternoon for their first home match in the second half of the Premier Division season. Having managed just a single league win so far, the Glenparkers will be seeking to improve on their results in the remaining eight fixtures.

Availability of key players due to work commitments and injury has been an issue for Greenock in recent weeks and will once again be a problem this Saturday for team captain Greg McDougall.

Three top order batsmen Neil Flack, Jamie Nowell and Harry Briggs will all be missing from the line-up on Saturday and also still unavailable are the injured Sam Sanghera and Harry Weld-Forester plus Sehmet Pandher and Jonathan Hempsey.

Fortunately Chris Hempsey and Shailesh Prabhu are both back after missing last Saturday's match at Uddingston. But there will once again be a need to bring in a number of players from the Club's 2nd XI.

Visitors Prestwick are currently riding high in third place in the Premier Division, having won five matches out of the seven which they have completed. Only the top two teams Clydesdale and Ferguslie have beaten the Ayrshire side which has performed well throughout the season.

Prestwick gained their first ever Premier Division title in 2017 and have maintained a high standard in the years since then.

The Ayrshire side have been bolstered by the arrival of a number of new players to their team this season. Former Scottish international Majid Haq transferred from Edinburgh side Corstorphine, opening batsman Inderjit Singh moved across from Irvine, frontline bowler Azeem Akbar arrived from Weirs and another top order batsman Jacob Stafford joined from Edinburgh club Grange.

A key factor in Prestwick's good form has been the consistency of availability of their team players. For almost all the matches in the first half of the league programme this season, their top seven batsmen have been in the team.

Former professional Sachin Chaudhary is a key player for Prestwick. He is one of the team's opening bowlers and for the first few matches of the season also opened the batting. He regularly bowls his full quota of ten overs in each match and has taken 14 wickets in the seven matches played.

Also this season, Chaudhary has scored 293 runs to date, at an average of 42 with his highest score 124 achieved two weeks ago against Dumfries at Nunholm.

A second fine all-rounder in the Prestwick ranks is 38 year old Majid Haq. Born and brought up in Paisley, Haq has played for a number of clubs in the West area including Kelburne, Ferguslie and Clydesdale and also some in England. He played for Scotland at all international levels from Under-13 upwards and gained over 200 full international caps between 2003 and 2015.

His experience at the very top level of cricket, playing against the major cricketing nations such as England, New Zealand and West Indies, has brought a huge bonus to the Prestwick side. On four occasions this season, Haq has picked up four wickets in a match. He has also scored 283 runs, at an average of 40 with his highest score 87 not out against Dumfries.

Numerous others in the Prestwick side such as team captain Fraser MacDonald, opening bat Inderjit Singh and bowler Azeem Akbar will present challenges to Greenock at Glenpark on Saturday afternoon.

The Premier Division has numerous teams with top players in their sides who are playing at international or regional level, and, despite currently having a side which is comparatively less experienced, a feature of the Greenock side this season has been their determination to be competitive.

In almost all matches played, the Glenparkers have made their opponents work hard for the wins which they have achieved. In only three matches out of the eight played, has the Greenock team failed to score at least 150 runs. It is bowling sides out for low enough scores which has been the team's weakness.

Fortunately, once again, the Glenpark side does have its opening bowling duo of Sean Fischer-Keogh and Gregor Chambers to lead its attack. The pace bowling partnership has picked up 29 wickets in the Premier Division this season, including five last Saturday at Uddingston.

Fischer-Keogh and Chambers will be key to Greenock making some early breakthroughs into the Prestwick top batting order. Thereafter, the bowling options will be teenager Usman Mansoor and Ewan Stewart, both into the side from the 2nd XI, Chirag Pandher and team captain McDougall himself

The Glenparkers face a major problem with the top three in the batting top missing.

Shailesh Prabhu will almost certainly be asked to be one of the openers. While he has in recent times been more accustomed to occupying a middle order spot, Prabhu's experience over the years as an opening bat is likely to be called upon to give the side a good start against the Prestwick.

Who will join him in the opening partnership will be a question for McDougall to ponder. Gregor Chambers and Chris Hempsey may well feature in his thoughts. Both are accustomed, and prefer, batting at second or third wicket down, but circumstances may dictate that one of them joins Prabhu at the start of the innings.

Chambers showed a good return to form against Uddingston, batting through a difficult period for the team to score a well-crafted 31 runs. And Hempsey, who was unavailable last Saturday, does have opening experience.

Chirag Pandher and Ewan Stewart could find themselves in the middle order with the task of batting through overs and adding important runs. Plus, the Fischer-Keogh brothers, Sean and Lukas, who are both growing in experience and confidence with the bat, could well assist with important partnerships.

And McDougall himself, who scored a season best 22 last Saturday at Uddingston, has the ability and experience to spend time in the middle to help his side to build a useful total.

Prestwick will undoubtedly present a big challenge for Greenock's likely selection, but being back at Glenpark after two weeks 'on the road' will be a big plus for the team. The willingness to work hard in the field, and also to show determination and perseverance while batting, will make this match one which the spectators should be able to enjoy.

The Glenpark (2nd) XI have no game this weekend.


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