Greenock travel to Falkland in Fife for Scottish Cup opener

Greenock’s first competitive match of the 2012 season takes place on Saturday when the 1st XI travel through to Fife to play Falkland at Scroggie Park in the first of six mini-league fixtures in the newly revamped Scottish Cup.

Fresh from a comprehensive win over Kelburne in a season opening friendly at Glenpark last Saturday, the local side will travel to the Kingdom of Fife with some confidence and look to return with a victory over the Cricket Scotland East First Division side. Greenock will, however, be without both their newly signed professional and overseas amateur, Mpho Sekhoto and Craig Schlebusch, who do not arrive from South Africa until the middle of next week. It will therefore be much the same side as played last Saturday who will face Falkland.

The Scottish Cup takes on a quite different format in 2012. Thirty two teams are still taking part as in previous years, but instead of a straight knockout round by round, this season the competition begins with eight mini-leagues of four teams who will each play one another at home and away. The winner of each of the mini-leagues then progresses into the quarter final stage of the competition which then reverts to a knockout draw. The three other teams in Greenock’s section are Carlton, Poloc and Falkland.

With 1st XI captain Ryan Begley unavailable, Club Coach and Scottish internationalist Richie Berrington will lead the side. He is looking forward to the cup opener and said, “This will be a real test for the boys, but if they perform to the levels of which they are capable then a very good game is in prospect at Scroggie Park on Saturday. Falkland are a good side and although playing in the Eastern First Division they will nonetheless be difficult opponents and we are not yet at full strength as a side with Ryan and also our pro and amateur yet to arrive.”

Last Saturday, there were a number of very encouraging performances which Berrington will wish to see repeated this weekend. All rounder Jonathan Hempsey showed that his fine form with the bat from last season was still in place with an innings of 53 retired and wicket-keeper batsman Alex Baum too, showed why he is included in the Scotland Under 19 squad with an equally impressive 52 retired. These two apart, there were other encouraging performances from Shailesh Prabhu and Phil McIntosh who will both open the innings for Greenock, providing the latter has recovered from an injury to his thumb sustained during Sunday’s game against Hillhead. Prabhu is a solid opener who builds his innings slowly while McIntosh is a shot-maker who likes to get his runs on the board straight from the start and they provide a good combination at the top of the order.

Berrington himself will look to make his mark on this game with both bat and ball. The Scottish internationalist had numerous fine performances for Scotland during February and March while on tour in Dubai, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates. Scroggie Park in Falkland may not provide quite the same conditions, but nevertheless Berrington has the experience and ability to make runs and also take wickets in Scottish conditions and his contributions could be a major factor in Greenock’s overall performance.

Waleed Jamal will spearhead the bowling attack on Saturday. Last weekend his pace troubled opposition batsman on both days and he picked up his first wickets of the season. He is a bowler who gives 100% and almost always gets wickets. Dave Sharma too will give the Falkland batsmen plenty to think about. He is an experienced bowler who is very tidy and bowls on a niggling length which is difficult to get away. Providing a variation in pace, Mark Robertson offers up some tempting deliveries but statistics show that opposition batsmen should beware or be out.

Greg McDougall, Neil Flack and Aidan Forrest, three of Greenock’s young, up and coming players also come into the side for Saturday’s cup match and their contributions in the field and also with the bat could prove important.

The match at picturesque Scroggie Park begins at 12noon, which is the new starting time for all 1st XI games this season.

On Sunday at Glenpark, a Greenock XI play against Ferguslie in a friendly match which will start at 1pm. The Greenock side will be captained by Ryan Begley and is along the same lines as that which played last Sunday against Hillhead.