Absolutely crucial weekend for Greenock

Greenock go into their final two SNCL Premiership fixtures of the 2011 season this weekend with the knowledge that they must win both matches if there is to be any hope of survival in the top flight of Scottish cricket for next year. The two sides who will be visitors to Glenpark, Stirling County on Saturday and Drumpellier on Sunday are in a very similar situation to Greenock and so the scene is set for a very tense but hopefully entertaining two days of cricket.

Last weekend at New Cambusdoon, Greenock played the first of their three relegation play off matches and lost to Local Life Ayr. It was a match the team had gone into as favourites but from which they emerged well beaten. The result was a huge blow to Greenock in their quest to retain Premiership status. Only Richie Berrington ,with 22 runs and three wickets, emerged with any real credit on an afternoon when performances of too many players were below what might reasonably have been expected.

At various times of the season it has been in the batting department that Greenock have been shown up as being brittle and on Sunday that frailty was once again exposed. The top order of the team failed to fire and the first five batsmen were back in the clubhouse with only about sixty runs on the scoreboard. The result could have been even more embarrassing but for a fine ninth wicket stand from Ryan Begley (28 not out) and Dougie Wylie (16) who put on close to forty runs before the innings ended.

There were few partnerships to note and none substantial. Against both Stirling County and Drumpellier this weekend, Greenock’s batsmen, and the top order in particular, must show effort and concentration to build partnerships right from the start of the innings in order for runs to flow throughout the innings. Aussie pro Luke Butterworth will be a key player for the team. He has shown in the few matches in which he has been able to play for Greenock this season that he is a class player and if he can make a good start then he will almost certainly go on to make a big score. Richie Berrington too is due a big innings and he will want to finish his season with runs aplenty.

Against Local Life Ayr no fewer than five of Greenock’s batsmen were given out LBW. This weekend batting technique must be improved to ensure that opportunities for such decisions are not provided.

Players such as Chris Bellwood, Shailesh Prabhu, Alex Baum and Andy Hislop need to get in and be able to be positive against the opposition bowling. Their contributions to the team total will be very important and if at least two or three of them are able to dominate and add significant runs to the score then the Greenock innings should be a large one.

In the bowling department, Greenock have a variety of good options and in most matches to date opposition teams have had to work hard for their runs. Richie Berrington and Aussie pro Luke Butterworth will lead the attack against Stirling County tomorrow and their considerable pace should provide problems for the visitors early batsmen. Waleed Jamal too has pace and he has troubled various sides and picked up wickets in almost all matches in which he has bowled. However he can be expensive and he must harness his pace well and minimise any extras.

Dougie Wylie adds a different dimension altogether with his left-arm spin, and his experience and guile has brought a large number of wickets during his career at Glenpark. Against Stirling County tomorrow he will hope to add a few more victims to his tally.

Jonathan Hempsey, Willie Rowan and Chris Bellwood can also be called upon and although none has had a bowl in a match situation for several weeks, each is capable of posing problems to opposition batsmen.

Saturday’s visitors, Stirling County, have fared only slightly better than Greenock, having won just three out of eleven Premiership matches. Last Sunday in the first of their play-off matches, Stirling went down by five wickets to fellow relegation battlers Drumpellier at Langloan. All out for 144 in 47 overs, the New Williamfield side had their total overtaken in less than 30 overs.

Stirling got off to the poorest start of any side in the Premiership and were without a win until early July. Since then victories over high flying Forfarshire, Stoneywood Dyce and Local Life Ayr have lifted County off the bottom of the Premiership table. They are a side who should not be taken lightly.

On Sunday, Drumpellier provide the opposition for the final match of the Premiership season for Greenock and it may be a tense affair depending on how results have gone on Saturday. Unfortunately out of Greenock’s line-up will be Richie Berrington who will be with the Scottish Saltires en route to play Hampshire in the Clydesdale Bank 40 series, and Dougie Wylie who is unavailable due to family commitments. A late decision will be taken regarding who will come in to the side as replacements for these two players.

Drumpellier began their first season in the SNCL Premiership with a fine 4 wicket win over Dunfermline on the very first Saturday of the season back in April. Since then the team from Coatbridge have managed only two further wins, both of which have been against Stirling County. Greenock will be hoping that their record is not improved before the visit to Glenpark on Sunday.

The2011 cricket season has been one of the most weather-disrupted seasons on record and it is an interesting fact that Greenock failed to play three out of the other teams who occupied the bottom five positions in the Premiership prior to the ‘split’ due to rain cancellations. Matches against Stoneywood Dyce, Stirling County and Drumpellier were all lost to the weather. That fact is now history and this weekend is what now counts.

The Glenpark XI travel to Dumfries on Saturday to play Nunholm and will look to maintain the fine form which has taken the team to a challenging position at the top of the WDCU SNCL Reserve League.