Greenock target first league win on return to Glenpark

After three consecutive Saturdays 'on the road', the 1st XI are once again back at Glenpark on Saturday afternoon for their Premier Division match against West of Scotland.

The local side will continue their search for a first league win of the 2021 season and will be heartened by the return of top batsman Neil Flack who was unavailable last weekend at Dumfries. Flack is the top run scorer at Glenpark and also tops the Premier Division batting table for run scoring.

Coming into the team against West will be new player Harry Weld-Forester. A Scot by birth, 40 year old Weld-Forester played much of his cricket in Zimbabwe and made one First Class appearance for his state side Manicaland. The right hand bat is now living in Inverclyde and will be a useful middle order bat for Greenock.

Missing from this week's team will be Chirag Pandher who is working and Sam Sanghera who picked up 3 wickets and scored 32 runs last Saturday at Dumfries. Sanghera is out with both a back and a hamstring injury.

In almost all matches played this season in both league and cup matches, Greenock have given a good account of themselves but have failed to translate that into wins other than in a cup fixture against Helensburgh.

The team has shown good signs with both bat and ball in a number of the matches played since the start of the season. Flack has been the outstanding player with the bat scoring 87 in the opening Premier Division match against Langside, 55 against Carlton in the Scottish Cup and 70 in a McCulloch Cup match at Kelburne.

Gregor Chambers has had several good innings. He was the matchwinner with 65 not out against Helensburgh in a cup match and also showed good form with 37 against Carlton. While others who have given glimpses of good run-scoring ability are Shailesh Prabhu, Harry Briggs and Sean Fischer-Keogh.

But there has been a lack of consistency in the team's batting form and not enough partnerships developed to ensure that big totals can be built or opponents' scores overtaken.

With the ball, Greenock have two young bowlers Sean Fischer-Keogh and Gregor Chambers who provide a very useful pace attack. Between them they have picked up 23 wickets so far in the 2021 season and have the potential to be a threat to most teams' top orders.

Greenock team captain Greg McDougall with his slow medium pace has collected nine wickets to date and Neil Flack and Sam Sanghera both have eight wickets apiece. Sanghera's omission this weekend due to injury will though leave the Glenpark side's bowling attack weakened.

West of Scotland have won two and lost two so far in this season's Premier Division and are currently comfortable in mid-table. The Glasgow side lost to Ferguslie by a whopping 167 runs on the opening day of the league season, but then recovered with good wins over Poloc and Dumfries before going down by just 39 runs in a high scoring match at Titwood last Saturday against Clydesdale.

The Glasgow Club, which has over 120 players registered with the Western District Cricket Union, runs three XIs each Saturday and is able to field one of the Premier Division's strongest sides each week.

Former Greenock wicket-keeper/batsman Andy Hislop is now with the Hamilton Crescent team and has shown some good form for the Partick team in the matches to date. He is a regular opening bat and has totalled over 90 runs in the four league matches played.

Hislop has had a different opening partner in each of the league matches and the batting line-up has varied each game. But it is a strong and quite experienced group of batters. Iain Young is the most experienced and showed good form last Saturday with 38 runs against Clydesdale.

James Fennah, John Oliver, John Strachan and Tom Spensley have provided a sound middle order which has contributed well in most matches.

As a bowling unit, West have a wide choice with David McNulty and Gavin Smith their regular opening attack followed up with the options of Anthony Hulatt, Calum Dutia, John Oliver and James Fennah.

Smith has taken three wickets in each of the Premier Division matches against Clydesdale, Poloc and Ferguslie while Fennah picked up five against Dumfries. And in Calum Dutia and Anthony Hulatt the Hamilton Crescent team have another couple of bowlers capable of being a danger to Greenock on Saturday afternoon.

Matches between Greenock and West have produced some very entertaining cricket in recent seasons. In 2019, pre-pandemic, when the teams last met in Premier Division action it was honours even. West won at Hamilton Crescent but Greenock gained a win at Glenpark in a high scoring match in which Indian professional Saurabh Bandekar was man of the match with an unbeaten 104.

The Glenpark ground is in quite splendid condition, and with Greenock eager to gain a first league win of the season and West looking to move into the top half of the table, the scene is set for a fine afternoon's cricket on Saturday.

Skipper Greg McDougall will trust that this selection for the match, which will start at the usual time of 12 noon, will be able to record the team's first league win of the season.

The Glenpark (2nd) XI are away on Saturday afternoon after three home games when they travel to play Helensburgh's second string, Ardencaple, in a Third Division match with a 1pm start. After last week's fine win over Bees, skipper Jack Hutchinson will look for another victory and will make his selection from this squad of thirteen.

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