League Champions Carlton at Glenpark on Saturday

Scottish National Cricket League champions from last season, Carlton, are this Saturday’s visitors to Glenpark for what will be Greenock’s first competitive match of the season. The Edinburgh side are undoubtedly one of the strongest club sides in Scotland at present and they are one of the teams favoured to do well once again this season. Greenock will have to be at their best to match Carlton but if the local players do hit good form then an interesting afternoon’s cricket is in prospect.

However, Greenock will be without both their professional Mpho Sekhoto and overseas amateur Craig Schlebusch, as delays in getting their visas processed mean that they have been unable to leave South Africa and fly to Scotland in time for this weekend’s match. This is a significant blow to the Glenpark side who had been assured that both players would be in Greenock in good time for the Carlton game. Schlebusch will arrive on Sunday and be available for Greenock’s midweek West League Cup tie against Renfrew but at the time of writing Sekhoto is still awaiting clearance of his visa papers.

Ryan Begley will captain Greenock tomorrow in the Scottish Cup sectional match against Carlton and he will be looking for each player in the side to contribute positively in the game. Scottish Internationalist, Richie Berrington, has shown some good early season form with both bat and ball in the matches he has played for the Western Warriors and he will be a major target for Carlton who recognise his ability as a top class batsman and bowler as well as being a superb fielder. Alex Baum too has had an opportunity to get in some early season match practice due to his inclusion in the Western Warriors along with Berrington and last Sunday was the hero of the hour in the match against Caledonian Highlanders when he came to the wicket with just one ball remaining and scored a boundary to win the match.

Opening the batting for Greenock tomorrow will be Shailesh Prabhu, but his intended top order partner, Phil McIntosh, suffered a finger injury on the first weekend of the season and is not yet fit to play. Prabhu will have the task of building a base from which a substantial total can be achieved, but who will join him opening the innings is as yet unclear. Richie Berrington has the experience of opening for Scotland in limited overs matches and it may be to him that skipper Ryan Begley turns to do the job tomorrow.

Jonathan Hempsey, who showed good form with the bat during the second half of the 2011 season, got his season off to a very positive start with an unbeaten 53 against Kelburne two weeks ago and he will be a player from whom runs will be anticipated. So too from Scotland U19 player Alex Baum. He has shown good early season form and also toured in South Africa with the Scotland side in early April giving him, at least, plenty of match practice. Mark Robertson, if he can get established, is capable of scoring runs, and captain Ryan Begley must look to get his season off to a positive start by contributing solidly in the middle order.

Richie Berrington and Waleed Jamal will almost certainly spearhead Greenock’s bowling attack and Jamal will look forward to repeating his feat of taking Fraser Watts' wicket as he did last season at Glenpark. Dave Sharma, Jonathan Hempsey, Greg McDougall, and Mark Robertson will provide the other bowlers in a Greenock team which is a few players light of what will be its first choice XI when all players are fit and available.

Carlton, as might be expected for a side which last season won the SNCL Premiership, are a team with a plethora of good players. Former Greenock player, and most capped Scotland internationalist, Fraser Watts will open the batting along with Stevie Gilmour. Coming in at number 3 in their batting line-up will be Preston Mommsen who had a magnificent season as a Scotland internationalist in 2011 and who is attracting interest from a number of English county sides. Current Scotland international captain Gordon Drummond will be at number 4 with new signing from Forfarshire Umair Mohammed at 5 and then club coach, former Northants player, Toby Bailey at six. A formidable lineup..

Carlton also have a strong bowling line-up with Gordon Drummond, Preston Mommsen and another new signing John Hutton formerly of Drumpellier all potent threats.

So it will be a very testing afternoon of cricket for Greenock. Hopefully the weather will keep dry and the two teams can provide a match with plenty to entertain the crowd at Glenpark.

The match begins at 12noon, the starting time for all 1st XI games this season.

Greenock Cricket Club are grateful to acknowledge tomorrow’s Match Sponsors: Spar Convenience Store, South Street.

The Glenpark XI are scheduled to travel to Ayr on Saturday to play the locals in a group match in the Western Cup. At the time of writing this article, strenuous efforts were being made to cobble together a team to fulfil this fixture but as explained here, these efforts were being hampered by a number of factors, such as injury, work and examinations.

On Sunday, the Hillend XI play Kilmarnock in their first WDCU Sunday League Division 3 - West fixture with a 2pm start at Glenpark. The team will be captained again this year by Kevin Flack and the selection for this match contains a number of the Club's promising young players.