Greenock are under-strength for visit to West of Scotland

Greenock travel to the west end of Glasgow on Saturday to play West of Scotland at their famous Hamilton Crescent ground. Although always a cricket ground, it was also the venue of the first ever International football match when on 30 November 1872 Scotland played against England.

With West sitting comfortably in mid-table and only three rounds of fixtures remaining in the league season, there is nothing at stake for them. But for Greenock there remains the slimmest of chances of Premier Division survival.

Three wins from the last three matches is the Club's only hope, but that also depends on relegation contenders Poloc and Dumfries losing all of their final matches.

Realists, and the local bookies, will not be giving good odds on that happening as Greenock have won only one league match all season and have still to play Premier Division leaders Clydesdale at Titwood and top five placed Stirling County at Glenpark.

Saturday, however, pitches Greenock against West of Scotland, the only team against whom the Glenparkers have triumphed this season. And going into the game knowing the odds are so heavily stacked against them surviving another season in the top division, the players may be more relaxed and put in a performance which gains another win.

West have had a mixed bag of a season. Their league stats show four wins and eight defeats from the twelve matches completed. However, the Partick side has also managed to pick up a total of 41 bonus points, which is approaching the equivalent of two more wins.

On five occasions their batsmen have built totals in excess of 200 runs and only once has the side failed to score at least 100 runs in an innings. And on five occasions their bowlers have managed to bowl out the opposition within 50 overs.

Runs for West can flow from a number of batsmen in their side with no fewer than six different players having scored at least one fifty during the season. In particularly fine form have been Andy Hislop and James Fennah both of whom have scored more than three hundred runs in the Premier Division during the summer.

Gavin Smith tops the wicket-taking for West with 21 'victims' to date. And Calum Dutia is a close second with 20 while several other players regularly form a bowling attack which has served the side well.

When the two sides met at Glenpark at the start of July, Greenock gained their only Premier Division win of the season to date by defeating West in an exciting finish. The visitors posted 186 for the loss of 9 wickets from their 50 overs, but with Duckworth Lewis Stern (DLS) in play due to a rain delay, Greenock reached the revised target of 178 in 45 overs with just one ball remaining.

West captain James Fennah with 42 and John Oliver with 48 were the top batsmen for the visitors and the partnership which they put together in mid innings helped to put the team on course for a higher total than had seemed likely earlier in the afternoon.

In reply, after a rain delay, Neil Flack and Jamie Nowell had an opening partnership of 81 which put Greenock well on track to overtake West. However, when both Nowell (28) and Flack (50) departed in quick succession, there was a 'wobble' in the innings.

But Harry Briggs held the innings together with 27 not out and with some contributions from a number of the team, Greenock just managed to squeeze past the West score.

This weekend, not for the first time, Greenock are unable to field as strong a side as they might like. Neil Flack and Jamie Nowell who got the Greenock innings of to a sound start in the July match are both unavailable as is Harry Briggs who was the team 'hero' on that winning afternoon.

So team captain Greg McDougall will once again have to organise the players he does have available to provide the strongest challenge to West.

Sean Fischer-Keogh and Gregor Chambers will, as usual, lead the bowling attack and seek to put some early dents in the West batting line-up. The two pace bowlers have had a good season picking up close to 40 wickets in total in the Premier Division season.

McDougall will be one of the back up bowlers along with Sam Sanghera, Chirag Pandher and Ewan Stewart. These four will have the task of keeping the West batsmen in check once the opening pace attack is given a rest, and at the same time create some further breakthroughs to limit run-scoring.

The batting line-up may be quite problematic with Flack, Nowell and Briggs all unavailable. McDougall will likely look to Shailesh Prabhu to open the innings, but with no other recognised opening batsman in the squad for Saturday, who will partner him at the top of the order is one for the captain to ponder.

Prabhu gained a confidence boosting 113 not out in a friendly match last weekend and will look to take that forward for the match at Hamilton Crescent on Saturday.

The others who will form the team must work hard to build a good score for the side if batting first or chasing West's total if batting second.

With the season in its final few weeks, the match at Hamilton Crescent, which will start as usual at 12 noon, is an opportunity for Greenock's selected eleven to salvage some pride from what has been a difficult and disappointing Premier Division campaign.

The Glenpark (2nd) XI resume their Division Three league campaign with a match at Alexandria against Vale of Leven. Skipper Jack Hutchinson's selection is heavily affected by the availability issues of the 1st XI and the team will have its work cut out to pull off a victory. However, it won't be for the want of trying. The match will start at 1pm with each team batting for 40 overs.


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