Greenock aim for third place when they take on Stenhousemuir

Greenock play their final game of the 2013 cricket season with a CSL Western First Division league match through at Stenhousemuir on Saturday. The Glenparkers will be looking to finish the season on a positive note having won their last three league matches and will be keen to maintain that momentum with a win against the Forth Valley side.

On this last Saturday of the season, the game at The Tryst brings together Stenhousemuir in third top position and Greenock in fourth top position. Interestingly, the fixture list which was compiled before the start of the season, has matched first (East Kilbride) versus second (Ferguslie), fifth (Kelburne) versus sixth (Poloc) and seventh (Weirs) versus eighth (Prestwick). Greenock can overtake Stenhousemuir but only if they win on Saturday.

Greenock go into this final match with most, if not all, of their regular first team pool of players available. Shailesh Prabhu returns to captain the side after having been delayed abroad due to work commitments last weekend and Fraser Colson also returns after illness.

In the match between the two teams earlier in the season at Glenpark, the weather intervened and the Duckworth-Lewis (D/L) system was required to be brought into play. Having had their innings reduced to just 25 overs, Stenhousemuir scored 158 for the loss of 4 wickets and the D/L system computed that Greenock required to score 173 to win.

The target meant Greenock, also with just 25 overs to bat, had to score at an average of seven runs an over throughout their innings to achieve victory and the team very nearly got there. Sadly, they came up just eight runs short with a score 165 for the loss of 9 wickets and so despite having scored seven more runs than Stenhousemuir the match was lost.

It is not often in cricket that the team batting second scores more runs than the team batting first and loses! Such are the quirks of Duckworth-Lewis.

Just like Greenock, the team from The Tryst has had a bit of an up and down season. In the first half of the league programme Stenhousemuir won four out of five league matches which were able to be completed but in the second half only one win has been secured and that was against bottom side Prestwick on 20th July.

Since then Stennie have been on a slide losing their last three matches while Greenock have been on the ascendancy winning all three of their games.

An additional difficulty for Stenhousemuir, as they seek to turn around their run of poor performances, is that they will be without one of their key players, Yasar Arafat, who has been handed down a ban for 4 matches by Cricket Scotland’s disciplinary board for behaviour deemed unacceptable during one of their matches earlier in the season. The ban took effect from Wednesday of this week, which means that Arafat will miss Saturday’s game against Greenock and also the first three competitive matches of the 2014 season.

Greenock, of course, will wish to concentrate on their own players and performances and seek to put in another good team effort to gain a fourth win in a row and bring down the curtain for the season on a high note.

Overseas amateurs Colson and Batters have been consistently good performers for the team throughout the season and will look to finish their individual spells with Greenock by adding to their tally of runs and wickets. Colson has scored just over 1000 runs in competitive matches and Batters is just two short of 50 wickets.

Scotland commitments may rule Richie Berrington out once again this weekend and with Ben Peterson also back committed to hockey it could be that players such as Dave Sharma, Harry Briggs and Fraser Godsman will be required to move up into the 1st XI. Sharma opened the bowling along with Tom Batters last Saturday against Weirs and had an excellent spell taking 1 wicket for 23 runs from 8 overs and would be a useful bowling option.

Young Harry Briggs has shown enormous progress this season and has had several fine scores in recent weeks with the Sunday XI and looks sure to be a major player for Greenock in the years to come. However it may be felt that he should finish this season with a final match in the 2nd XI at Glenpark.

Fraser Godsman would provide a very athletic fielding option for Greenock and possibly would also be given a few overs to bowl if required. He has had one or two outings in the 1st XI earlier in the season and much will depend on what line-up is being looked for regarding his possible inclusion.

These players apart, Greenock have various young players with growing experience of playing 1st XI cricket who have shown on numerous occasions that they can compete well at this level. Two young Scotland age-group players are a sign of the abilities within the team. Alex Baum (Under-19) is a fine wicketkeeper who can score well with the bat as can left-hand bat Neil Flack (Under-17) who has opened the innings regularly for the side.

Jonathan Hempsey has consistently picked up wickets throughout the season as has paceman Waleed Jamal and Greg McDougall has been a useful change bowler with the ability to break partnerships. Aidan Forrest has continued to develop as a 1st XI player and in the second half of the season has shown that his off spin bowling is progressing well while Chris Hempsey arriving at the crease in the middle order can score strongly.

1st XI captain Shailesh Prabhu, for a considerable period of time one of Greenock’s openers, has in recent weeks dropped down the order as Tom Batters has been moved up to open with Flack. Prabhu’s considerable ability with the bat means that there is a strength and experience filling the lower middle order if he is required to be called upon.

All in all then, Greenock have a side which with focus and application has the ability to compete well and win most of its matches, if players perform as they can. Consistency is the key for the team and in recent weeks the level of performance has been raised to secure good wins against Kelburne, Prestwick and Weirs. Another win on Saturday against Stenhousemuir would round off the season nicely.

The Glenpark XI are confident that they will be able to field a team for their final WDCU CSL First Reserve League fixture of the season, at home to the The Tryst XI (Stenhousemuir's 2nd XI), a match which will start at 1pm. This has been an intensely disappointing season for the team which has culminated in them being unable to field a team on two occasions within the last three weeks. This is just not good enough for a club of Greenock's stature and is something that needs to be rectified for next year. Peter Hempsey, who has skippered the team for most of the year, has worked manfully throughout the season to get teams on the field but has at times had little support from the playing members. Peter, for one, will be glad when the final ball of the season has been bowled. Next season can surely only get better.