Greenock start league season with home fixture with Dumfries

Greenock begin their league season on Saturday with a home fixture against APD Dumfries at Glenpark. The newly revamped top tier of Scottish Cricket has Greenock placed in the Cricket Scotland League (CSL) Premier Division West, which is a league of eight teams who will play each other home and away during the summer months, and the Glenpark side will wish to show that they can be competitive this season and deserve to maintain their place in the top rank.

The competitive start to the 2012 season has shown some very encouraging signs for Greenock. In the opening Scottish Cup sectional match against Scotland’s top club side Carlton, the Edinburgh men did not get it all their own way in what was a low scoring game, as Greenock picked up five of their wickets and with more runs on the board could have gained a shock result. In the West League Cup, a good victory was won over Renfrew in a thrilling finish last Thursday evening and then on Saturday at Poloc a very convincing win was recorded.

This weekend, however, Greenock will need to play without their match-winning player from these last two fixtures. Overseas amateur, Craig Schlebusch, returned home to South Africa for personal reasons after the Poloc match and will be missing from the Greenock line-up against APD Dumfries. Against Renfrew he hit an unbeaten 38 runs and also bowled and fielded well, then on Saturday at Poloc he batted brilliantly to record 108 not out, which helped put the Glenpark men in a very commanding position from which the team went on to win.

On the positive side, South African professional Mpho Sekhoto, has arrived and will occupy a top spot in the Greenock batting line-up which is also strengthened by the inclusion of Scottish internationalist Richie Berrington who is available to play for the club this weekend.

APD Dumfries have moved up to the top table of Scottish cricket after a number of seasons in the Championship Division, immediately below the Premier Division, and which culminated with the Nunholm side winning the league title in 2011. They will be a force to be reckoned with on Saturday at Glenpark as they have made a very positive start to their playing programme with two wins out of three in their Scottish Cup sectional matches over the first three Saturdays of the season. Against Weirs over 300 runs were scored as APD Dumfries eased to a comfortable win with their top five batters all scoring significant runs, only former Greenock man Chris Bellwood missing out on a fifty when he was judged LBW on 47.

Against Watsonians, the Nunholm team went down by 56 runs as the highly experienced Edinburgh side benefited from big runs from internationalist Euan Chalmers (90) and former Greenock and Scotland captain Craig Wright (40). But last week they were back on form as Penicuik were trounced by nine wickets in a low scoring match at Kirkhill, Penicuik.

Greenock will look to continue their good form of recent matches and, while missing Craig Schlebusch, the Glenpark men are bolstered by the presence of Richie Berrington and professional Mpho Sekhoto. Both of these players are experienced top order batsmen, and if they can find their form against APD Dumfries, and the likes of Alex Baum, Shailesh Prabhu, Ryan Begley and Jonathan Hempsey can also score runs, then Greenock can look to gain their first league win of the season.

Greenock have a useful bowling line-up for Saturday with Waleed Jamal and Richie Berrington likely to provide opening pace which should give the APD Dumfries openers something to think about. Jonathan Hempsey, Mark Robertson, Greg McDougall and pro Mpho Sekhoto will provide back up which has a variety of options for skipper Ryan Begley to utilise.

Good team spirit has been very much in evidence in the matches played so far, and counts for a great deal, as there will be times when players need to work for each other in order to build a total or to bring about a breakthrough in the field.

On Saturday, Greenock have the opportunity and the players to gain a winning start to their league programme, and with good weather and encouraging vocal support from the Glenpark crowd, hopefully an enjoyable game of cricket will be played and first points of the season the points secured.

Greenock CC wish to thank Match Sponsor, Duncan MacKenzie (Craft Butcher) Inverkip Street, Greenock for his generous support.

The Glenpark XI, fresh from a convincing win last week against St Ninians, travel to Dumfries to play Nunholm in the WDCU Premier Division West Reserve League on Saturday. The team selection shows that captain for the season, Chris Hempsey, has a good mix of young and old in his side and he will be confident of starting the league season with a win.

The Hillend XI have no fixture this week.