Greenock looking for home success over Ayr

There are just 6 games left in the CSL Western Premier Division season and each one takes on considerable significance for Greenock as they attempt to escape the relegation hatch-door to the First Division.

Last weekend’s results, which saw Greenock lose to Dumfries and Drumpellier gain their first win of the season over Uddingston, meant that the Glenpark outfit have fallen to the foot of the table and all the team’s focus now must be on getting out of that position.

Saturday’s opponents at Glenpark are Local Life Ayr who are currently sitting in 4 th position of the table, having enjoyed a surprise 4-wicket win over the then league leaders, West of Scotland, at the weekend. That result shows that the task ahead of Greenock is a stern one.

The teams met at New Cambusdoon in the middle of May in the reverse of Saturday’s fixture and Ayr were the winners on that occasion. Batting first, they compiled 216 for 5 and Greenock, despite reaching 167 for 5 at one point, collapsed to be all out for 170. That innings encapsulated one of the team’s major failings this year, the inability to bat out the full 50 allocated overs. This problem is one that has plagued Greenock all season and until it is resolved, then they are handing a considerable advantage to their opponents.

Last week’s defeat at Dumfries, whilst it contained another disappointing batting performance, did at least offer some glimmers of hope for Greenock. A committed performance by the bowlers and fielders had Dumfries in trouble in the second innings and had the rub of the green gone Greenock’s way on a couple of occasions, the result might have been a lot different. Skipper Ryan Begley was encouraged by this showing but he knows only too well that only more of the same, plus a better batting performance, will do for the remainder of the season.

Neither side will be at full strength on Saturday but in Greenock’s case the absences are probably more profound. Richie Berrington, who hit the headlines earlier this week when he became the first Scottish player, and only the 7 th player in total, to hit an international T20 century when playing for Scotland against Bangladesh, is again unavailable as he makes his way to South Wales to play for the Scottish Saltires on Sunday against Glamorgan. This is the Saltires last away match of the season and there is therefore some hope that Richie will be available for the remaining 5 league games. His presence in these games will be simply invaluable.

Also missing will be opener Shailesh Prabhu, who has probably been the team’s most consistent batsman this season, and his absence leaves a substantial hole to be filled at the top of the order. Chris Hempsey may be asked to take on this role and his partnership with Alex Baum will be crucial in setting the tempo for the rest of the innings. Professional Mpho Sekhoto is surely due a big knock. His talent is obvious but he continues to find ways to get out when seemingly well set, such as last weekend when a direct hit from third man found him short of his ground. Skipper Ryan Begley will need to hold the middle order together and he will be looking for support from Jonathan Hempsey, who has struggled for runs this summer after a most successful season last year. Greg McDougall has played a number of entertaining cameos this season and he can lay claim to be the most improved player in the team.

As far as the bowling is concerned, Waleed Jamal has shown in almost every game that he is capable of making early inroads into the opposition’s line-up. What has been missing has been the team’s ability to follow up these early successes. If Greenock are to be successful on Saturday, this is one area that they must look to improve on and it is to Sekhoto, McDougall and Jonathan Hempsey that they will look to achieve this.

Ayr will be missing their opening spearhead, Scott McElnea, who is on his way to Australia with the Scotland Under-19 squad for the forthcoming Under-19 World Cup. In the game at Ayr, he undermined the Greenock batting with 5 wickets for just 25 but perhaps it is his elder brother, Andy, whom Greenock must watch out for, as he overran West of Scotland last Saturday as his gentle off-spin brought him figures of 5 for 32.

Ayr will also be buoyed by the recent performances of their professional Craig Thyssen who did not feature in the first game as his arrival in the UK had been delayed by visa problems. Thyssen is a hard-hitting batsman with an array of strokes but he does give chances and Greenock must ensure that these are not spurned.

At the time of writing, the weather outlook for Saturday suggests that there will be showers around in which case Duckworth-Lewis may come into play. It would be no surprise were it to rain, given experiences to date in this wretched summer. At least the weather in the middle of the week has given Glenpark groundsman, Roger Hardie, the chance to repair the ravages caused by Monday’s rainfall but the likelihood is that, in common with every other ground in Scotland, the pitch will not be batsman-friendly.

The Glenpark XI play Cambusdoon (the Ayr 2nd XI) at New Cambusdoon on Saturday in a CSL Reserve League match, the game starting at 1pm. No team details are as yet available and as happened last weekend, the team that does go on the park is likely to be a very inexperienced one.

The Hillend XI entertain Ferguslie at Glenpark in a WDCU Sunday League Division 3 fixture, due to start at 2pm. The usual mixture of experience and youth is likely to take the field.