Greenock travel to East Kilbride in league opener

Greenock begin their quest for a quick return to Premier Division cricket with a visit to East Kilbride on Saturday for their opening fixture of this season’s league programme. Relegated from the top division of Scottish Cricket last season, the Glenparkers have one clear aim in mind for this summer and that is to win the CSL Western First Division, and bounce back immediately.

The last two Saturdays have indicated that this aim is definitely achievable with very good wins against Renfrew and Dundee HSFP in the opening salvo of fixtures in Group E of the Scottish Cup. Against Renfrew, last season’s First Division champions and now a Premier Division side, Greenock won with ease by seven wickets, and last Saturday against Dundee HSFP the margin of victory was even greater, nine wickets.

The arrival of overseas amateurs Tom Batters and Fraser Colson has undoubtedly bolstered the Greenock team and there is a confidence about the side which has been missing in the last few seasons as a new team has had to be built following the departure and retiral of various experienced players. Fraser Colson has been in commanding form with the bat scoring 75 not out and 71 not out in the two innings he has played to date, and Tom Batters has provided the perfect opening pace partner for Waleed Jamal giving Greenock a very potent bowling attack to test opposition top order batsmen.

Team captain Shailesh Prabhu too has shown form. An unbeaten 50 at Dundee HSFP last Saturday was scored with an array of fine shots and having Colson at the other end scoring freely very probably assisted Prabhu in building his innings.

The depth of batting in the Greenock line-up has not been tested as yet but the potential to bat all the way down the order certainly exists. Scottish age-group internationalists Neil Flack (Under-15) and Alex Baum (Under-19) are both capable of significant innings while in lower middle order Chris and Jonathan Hempsey have scored well in the past. Below these players in the batting order will come Greg McDougall, Mark Robertson, Waleed Jamal and Tom Batters all of whom, on their day, will add good contributions to the team total.

But a big boost in the batting line-up for Greenock this weekend is the availability of senior internationalist Richie Berrington. He has a number of international centuries under his belt and will be keen to compile a big score at East Kilbride to help his home team but also to provide the perfect preparation for the following day when the Saltires face Essex in Edinburgh in a YB40 match. Berrington is also likely to be in the Scotland side to face the Pakistan international team in two One Day internationals scheduled for Friday of next week (17 May) and also two days later on Sunday 19 May, both games in Edinburgh.

East Kilbride have had little luck in their matches over the first three weeks of the season. Their first two matches were cancelled due to the weather and last Saturday against Stewart Melville Royal High (SMRH), the East Kilbride side were well beaten, being all out for 140 in the 38th over chasing 207. Lack of match practice perhaps played a role in a batting display which had few positives. Only captain Harmanjit Singh (47), in the middle order, and a late flurry from tailender Shahid Mahmood (25) gave some indication of batsmen in the order with ability to give SMRH any problems.

Bowling wise it was fifth change bowler Joshua Johnston who returned best figures with 4 wickets for 55 runs from 13 overs. Johnston denied SMRH former Scottish international Cedric English an early season century when he had him caught for 92. South African Garon Kleinveldt picked up 2 wickets for 36 runs from 6 overs, but overall the East Kilbride bowling lacked penetration on the day.

The match at East Kilbride is one in which every Greenock player will be very keen to play well, in order to get the team off to a winning start. If the team which takes to the field on Saturday is as selected, then Greenock will field what may be considered to be just about their strongest eleven and there will be a confidence that third win on consecutive Saturdays can be achieved.

The Glenpark XI  start their league campaign in the WDCU CSL Western First Division Reserve League with a home fixture against Torrance House, the 2nd XI of East Kilbride. To date, the Glenpark team have had a very mixed season due mainly to difficulties in getting a full team on to the park. Last Saturday, for the first time they were able to field eleven players and the result was a convincing win over neighbours, Inverclyde. Confidence is therefore quite high that the league season will start successfully, although unfortunately several players are unavailable and at the time of writing no final team selection has been made. The match starts at Glenpark at 1.00pm.

The Hillend XI open their season with a home fixture against Irvine in the WDCU Sunday League Division 3 - South. Kevin Flack has chosen a team that is an exciting mixture of young and old. A number of the club's promising youngsters will play and they will surely benefit from playing beside the likes of Tom Batters, the club's overseas amateur, Chris Hempsey and Greg McDougall. This match starts at 2.00pm.