Greenock head to Paisley to take on Kelburne

Greenock will make the short journey up the M8 on Saturday to play Renfrewshire rivals Kelburne at their Whitehaugh ground in Paisley in what will be both sides' opening league fixture of 2013. The CSL league programme should have begun two weeks ago, but the wet weather, which has bedevilled outdoor sport thus far in 2013, washed out the first two Saturdays of the competition.

This fixture will be the sides' second meeting in four days as, on Wednesday evening, the teams clashed in a West League Cup encounter, also at Whitehaugh. Greenock emerged comfortable victors from the T20 cup match, easing past Kelburne’s total of 99 for 5, to win in the seventeenth over and for the loss of just three wickets.

Greenock’s overseas amateurs Tom Batters and Fraser Colson both played important roles in the win, but they had excellent support from Greg McDougall and Neil Flack in what was a good team performance.

Tom Batters returned excellent bowling figures of 3 wickets for 19 runs from his 5 overs, two of which were clean bowled, and Greg McDougall supported well with 2 for 25 from his 5 overs. Fraser Colson then led the way when Greenock took to the middle to chase the home team’s total. In just a little more than 8 overs, Colson amassed 42 runs with some excellent shots before Ashraf deceived him with a well flighted ball and had him stumped by wicketkeeper Connell.

Under-15 Scottish internationalist Neil Flack showed a blossoming maturity in his innings as he carried his bat for a very well constructed innings of 23 not out. Just three wickets down at the end, as Greenock comfortably passed the home side’s total, it was Flack and Greg McDougall (19 not out) who were at the middle when the winning runs were scored in just the seventeenth over.

Of course, evening cricket, played in the T20 style, is a different game to the Saturday league cricket competition. The fifty overs per side format requires a lot more concentration and application from the batting team and also strength in depth in the bowling attack. This season’s Greenock side is a young side which is developing and with the strengths and important inputs which Batters and Colson bring to the team, it is one which is growing in confidence.

On Wednesday evening, Kelburne relied heavily on the experience of Omar Hussain and former Greenock player Dougie Wyllie to guide them to the fairly modest score, by T20 standards, which they eventually achieved. Hussain batted through the innings to be 45 not out and Wyllie joined him at the middle when their side was reeling at 38 for 4 in the tenth over. They built a partnership of 36 runs before Wyllie (21) was magnificently caught by Fraser Colson running backwards at deep mid off attempting a late innings ‘big hit’ off Batters' bowling.

There appeared a frailty to the Kelburne batting early on as Tom Batters removed the stumps of Burgess and McLister and then Greg McDougall, as first change bowler, trapped Hamilton LBW and bowled O’Connell. Had it not been for Hussain and Wyllie the Kelburne score may well have been a great deal less.

But back in the Kelburne side for Saturday will be their top player Qasim Sheikh who, along with Greenock’s internationalist Richie Berrington, was playing for the newly formed regional side ‘The Reivers’ against ‘The Highlanders’ in the inaugural Cricket Scotland LiveSport Pro Series at Ayr on Wednesday. His presence in the Kelburne side on Saturday has the potential to make the Paisley team a more difficult nut to crack. In the opening Scottish Cup fixture of the season the combined batting talents of Sheikh and Hussain provided the platform for their side to beat Premier Division side, Stirling County, and it will be these two who Greenock will look to remove to open the door to a win on Saturday.

Greenock should be at full strength with Berrington available and captain Shailesh Prabhu, wicketkeeper Alex Baum and Mark Robertson all returning after unavailability for Wednesday evening’s match due to work and university commitments.

The momentum is with Greenock, and if the Glenpark side continue to play with the confidence which is developing then a win should be achieved.

Greenock Cricket Club is grateful to acknowledge that Saturday’s match ball is sponsored by Maureen Harrison.

The Glenpark XI  will try again to start their league campaign in the WDCU CSL Western First Division Reserve League when they host Kelburne's 2nd XI, the Whitehaugh XI. A squad of 12 has been selected for this fixture which will start at 1.00pm.

On Sunday, the 1st XI play their first game in the inaugural WDCU CSL40 Cup. Greenock are in a section with Drumpellier, Weirs and, again, Kelburne and they will be keen to do well as the final of the competition is being held at Glenpark on Sunday 1st September. The team to play Weirs will be along similar lines to that which plays on Saturday and the match will start at 2pm, after the club's Kwik Cricket Festival, which starts at 10am, has ended.