1st XI aim for two on the spin

Boosted by their 4 wicket win over McCrea West at Hamilton Crescent last Saturday, Greenock will seek to gain their second league win of the season at New Williamfield, Stirling on Saturday, weather permitting.

Last week’s win was set up thanks to a fine bowling performance. Chris Bellwood and Jonathan Hempsey ,who opened the bowling for the Glenpark side, had the first six West batsmen back in the clubhouse with less than 30 runs scored and from there on Greenock held the upper hand. A similar performance with the ball this weekend would perhaps be too much to hope for, but nevertheless must be the target for the local side as they pitch up against a Stirling County team which has yet to win a Premiership match this season.

Chris Bellwood had his best ever top league bowling spell with 5 for 38 from his ten overs and bowled with confidence and good pace while his opening partner Jonathan Hempsey also returned very fine figures of 3 for 18 from his ten overs.

Whether either of these two will open the bowling against Stirling remains to be seen, as Aussie pro Luke Butterworth has now recovered from his foot injury and would seem the natural choice to lead the attack along with Willie Rowan, who also did not bowl at West due to a hand injury. Butterworth, who opens the bowling for Tasmania along with Aussie test paceman Ben Hilfenhaus, was the leading wicket-taker in the Sheffield Shield competition ‘Down Under’ and should give the Stirling County batsmen plenty to think about. He has not bowled since incurring his foot injury over three weeks ago but is now fit and keen to get some overs in before heading south to play for the Saltires against Northants on Sunday in the Clydesdale Bank pro40 competition.

Greenock will be without Richie Berrington for the game at Stirling. He is a contracted Cricket Scotland player and will team up with Butterworth against Northants, but the National side will not release him for the game against County.

Although he has not scored the runs of which he is capable in the matches to date, it will be in the batting line-up that Greenock is most likely to miss Berrington’s contribution. He is a highly talented player and is always likely to play a substantial innings for his team. It will therefore be up to others to ensure that runs flow. Players such as Alex Baum, who looked in good form at West, Andy Hislop, Chris Bellwood, Willie Rowan, Ryan Begley and, of course, Butterworth who provided a much needed soundness in the middle order with his 37 not out last Saturday, will be the batsmen from whom significant runs will be looked for at New Williamfield.

Stirling County, despite two defeats from the matches which they have been able to play, will be no easy pushover. In the opening game of the season, they lost out by the narrowest of margins, just three runs when chasing 223 to win, against champions Grange. Last weekend in Edinburgh they were more comfortably beaten by former Greenock and Scotland captain Craig Wright’s Watsonians side.

Greenock coach Tom Black recognises that he has a young side with much to learn but is confident that he has the players to win matches in this top league. “The players need to focus on the skills which they have with both bat and ball. Bowlers to put the ball in the right areas and batsmen to build partnerships. We have a quite young, athletic side and must perform well in the field where it is important to take any catches which come our way”

Greenock will be hoping that the weather forecast improves and that a game can go ahead at New Williamfield as the team is in confident mood and keen to pick up another win.

The match starts at New Willamfield at 13.00pm

The Glenpark XI meet Cambusdoon (Ayr) at Glenpark in a SNCL Reserve League fixture on Saturday, which like the 1st XI's match is threatened by the gloomy weather forecast. With last week's match not starting and the previous week's encounter being abandoned, the team will be keen for the match to go ahead.

The match starts at Glenpark at 13.00pm.