Greenock keen to maintain league momentum

Following a blank Saturday last weekend due to the miserable, wet conditions which caused the full programme of cricket in the west to be cancelled, bar one game at Uddingston, Greenock look forward to hosting Stenhousemuir at Glenpark this Saturday afternoon. With two wins out of the three games in the CSL Western First Division which have been able to be played, the Glenparkers will be keen to continue their good recent league form and keep up a challenge for top spot.

Greenock did get a game in on Sunday against Kelburne at Whitehaugh in the CSL40 cup competition and gained a good five wicket win with Fraser Colson once again in the runs with 79 not out and Waleed Jamal picking up 5 wickets for just 23 runs. Performances such as those are what Greenock need to keep producing if their challenge for top spot in their division is to be a serious one.

At present only two clubs, Ferguslie and East Kilbride have a 100% record, while Saturday’s opponents Stenhousemuir, Kelburne and Greenock each have two wins out of three games played. Ferguslie and East Kilbride meet at Meikleriggs on Saturday which means one will lose their 100% record, assuming that the weather permits that game to go ahead. Greenock therefore have an opportunity to gain some ground if all goes well.

Some good performances have been given by a number of the Glenpark players in matches so far this season, but it is the consistency of Fraser Colson which has been a big factor in most of Greenock’s games. He is averaging over 70 runs with the bat and others need to learn from him. Neil Flack has shown a big improvement in his game and has become one of the regular opening bats in the side. He will continue to improve and develop his game and is a real prospect.

A decision will need to be taken by captain Shailesh Prabhu on whether to return to partnering Flack at the top of the order or to stick with Chris Hempsey who has filled the opening spot in recent matches. Whatever is decided, Greenock must learn to build a good base from which to accelerate later in the innings and, of course, ensure that the full 50 overs are batted through if given first use of the wicket.

Glenpark is in excellent condition at present and batsmen get full value for their shots, and so, batting first, 250 to 270 runs must be the minimum target. To get to such a score will require at least one, perhaps two, very sizeable partnerships and that is where application and hard graft will be required.

Internationalist Richie Berrington looks likely to be available and he will wish to spend time at the crease not just to help Greenock get a score but also as preparation for the forthcoming Scottish matches against Kenya which begin a week on Sunday. Also in the side should be Alex Baum who has yet to get a meaningful score for Greenock this season but who has been scoring runs in representative and university matches in midweek cricket. If he can bring his midweek form to Glenpark then a score from Baum would be a very welcome contribution.

If both of these players can get going for Greenock on Saturday along with Neil Flack, Shailesh Prabhu and, of course, Fraser Colson then 250 is a total which Greenock should definitely target. A fine 54 from Chris Hempsey in midweek against Ferguslie in the West League Cup will have boosted his confidence and he is another from whom runs should reasonably be expected.

While there has certainly been an improvement in Greenock’s batting performances this season, it is perhaps with the ball that the Glenpark side have shown significant strength. Overseas Aussie Tom Batters has settled well to the Scottish conditions and so far has collected 19 wickets. His opening bowling partner Waleed Jamal has had a number of excellent bowling performances and has 22 wickets this summer so far, but he does need to be more consistent and reduce the number of extras which come from his overs. Vice-captain Jonathan Hempsey and Greg McDougall have both developed as the team’s regular change bowlers and have picked up over 30 wickets between them while Fraser Colson provides a much needed spin option.

Stenhousemuir have had mixed fortunes so far, with one win from three in the Scottish Cup and two wins from three in their league matches completed. South African Rushdi Jappie is their main danger man with the bat as he has demonstrated with centuries against Glenrothes(12 4 not out) and Weirs (133 not out) as well as 85 against Kelburne. Opening bat Tim Doonan is another player from whom Stenny have had a positive return, as he has had a number of scores of 30 plus runs in games played.

In the bowling attack, former Dunfermline player Yasar Arafat is a player whom Greenock know well and this season he has notched up a number of useful bowling performances along with Nick Lister and Amir Shahzad. Others likely to bowl will include Iain McDonald, Gary Halcrow and Shazad Rafiq.

Saturday’s match is well set with both teams having had a similar set of performances this season so far and they also currently occupy adjacent positions in the league table. Both will feel that they are capable of beating the other. An interesting afternoon’s cricket is in prospect.

With an unchanged side selected for this Saturday’s match, which as usual starts at 12 noon, Greenock will look to gain a hat-trick of league wins and keep their ambitions for a challenge at the top of the table well on track.

Greenock Cricket Club is grateful to acknowledge that Saturday’s 1st XI match versus Stenhousemuir is kindly sponsored by the  MacFeate Family .

The Glenpark XI  travel to the easternmost team in their league, The Tryst, Stenhousemuir's second team, on Saturday. At the time of writing, no team selection is known for a match which is due to start at 12 noon.

On Sunday, the Hillend XI are at home to East Kilbride in a WDCU Sunday League fixture. The team are still looking for their first win of the season, having had a couple of close encounters so far, and will therefore be hoping for a case of third time lucky when they take on their Lanarkshire opponents. The team selection is likely to be the usual mixture of the young and old with the latter performing the role of mentors to the former.