Weakened Greenock head to Stirling

Greenock face a round trip of just over one hundred miles on Saturday when they travel to Braveheart country to face Stirling County, at their New Williamfield ground, in the shadow of the Wallace Monument.

Stirling currently sit on top of the league with three wins out of four matches completed, and with the scalp last Saturday of high flying Ferguslie who defeated Greenock by a considerable margin in the Renfrewshire derby match just a few weeks ago.

Greenock, on the other hand, occupy a lowly second from bottom position with just one win from their four matches and need to gain points to climb up the table. Saturday’s away match against the league leaders is probably not the game which the team would choose at present but will be hoping that out of adversity a positive result can be achieved.

The task will be all the more challenging as 1st XI captain Shailesh Prabhu is unavailable this weekend due to work commitments, and there are a number of injury worries also giving cause for concern. Neil Flack has a back injury and Jonathan Hempsey a hip muscle problem but both are determined to be fit to play in Saturday’s match. Definitely out with a rib injury is Mark Crichton. Missing too will be youngster Harry Briggs. So it will be a less than usual side which travels through to Stirling for this important fixture.

The long-awaited warm, dry spell of weather which the country has been enjoying this week will hopefully be a catalyst for Dwight Thomas, Greenock’s overseas amateur from St Lucia. He has been lacking the runs and big scores which he has been known for since arriving in Scotland, but the wet weather and damp, slow wickets have provided quite different conditions to those he normally plays on back home in the West Indies. The Caribbean-like sunshine and temperatures of this past week should make him feel more at home and hopefully a substantial innings is waiting for him this weekend.

It is big runs which the Glenparkers need to score if they are to be competitive, and batting out the full fifty overs is essential to build a such a total. Too often in the past couple of seasons have Greenock failed to complete their full quota of overs and so not set their opponents a sufficiently challenging total to chase when batting first.

A large challenging total gives the bowlers an easier task when trying to bowl out the opposition or control their run-scoring. Tom Batters, Greenock’s overseas amateur and opening pace bowler from Australia, has regularly been the team’s most economical bowler and he has also picked up a good number of wickets. Last Saturday against Kelburne he returned excellent figures of 4 wickets for 25 runs from 10 overs and a repeat performance against Stirling County would certainly be welcome.

The Glenpark attack is probably a bit light at present and certainly misses the opening pace partnership provided in the last couple of seasons from Waleed Jamal. The other bowling options which are available at present need to be harnessed carefully with Jonathan Hempsey, Greg McDougall, Ben Peterson, Neil Flack, Aidan Forrest and Dwight Thomas all able to be called upon.

The Stirling County side has enjoyed a fine start to the league campaign and their batting line-up in particular has looked impressive. The main danger man is young South African, Bradley Williams. He has amassed over 250 runs in just four innings with 91 against Ferguslie last week his top score. His batting position has been fairly flexible moving from number three to number five to number four and at Meikleriggs last week he opened. Wherever he bats, Greenock need to remove Williams early in his innings.

Others who have contributed significant runs for the County team include Gavin Anderson, Matthew Tweedie and South African amateur, Anton Ehlers.

As a bowling unit, Stirling have a variety of options. Sri Lankan, Rukman Hewage took 4 wickets for 45 against Prestwick while South African, Anton Ehlers took 5 for 19 as County cleaned up against Weirs. These two could certainly pose a threat to Greenock’s batsmen, but it is Paul Bielby who arguably presents the biggest danger. Bielby has been in amongst the wickets regularly and against Ferguslie last Saturday he picked up 4 wickets for 24 runs as County bowled the Meikleriggs side out for just 138.

Saturday’s opposition will be in confident mood due to their recent good form, therefore Greenock must take on some of the steely determination and will to win displayed by the famous Braveheart warrior from centuries ago whose nearby monument will form a backdrop to the New Williamfield ground as Glenparkers seek to get on to the winning trail this weekend.

The Greenock team, as indicated above, shows three changes from that which played last week with Guy Crichton replacing his brother Mark, and Fraser Godsman and Rod Mountford coming in for Shailesh Prabhu and Harry Briggs. The match starts at 12 noon.

The Glenpark XI are at home to Williamfield XI (Stirling’s 2nd XI) on Saturday in a WDCU CSL First Division Reserve League match. After last week's resounding win over Whitehaugh, the team will be confident of recoding a second win on the bounce. A squad of fourteen has been selected for the game, with the final choice delayed until the extent of the 1st XI's injury problems is confirmed. This match will start at 1pm.

The Hillend XI were meant to be playing East Kilbride at Glenpark on Sunday in a Sunday League match. However, the Commonwealth Games baton relay is scheduled to be at Torrance House on that day and a Kwik Cricket Festival has been organised to coincide with this. Not unsurprisingly, East Kilbride are keen for as many members to be present as possible and have therefore requested that the league match be postponed to another day. Greenock quickly agreed to this request but with good weather forecast for the weekend they were understandably keen to organise another fixture. At short notice, near neighbours, Inverclyde, have very kindly agreed to come to Glenpark for a friendly which will start at 1pm.

Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored this season by Cleaning Supplies 4U.