Greenock face another testing weekend

Greenock face another tricky weekend this week with difficult matches on both Saturday and Sunday. After the events of last weekend, when an extremely disappointing performance in the League against Stenhousemuir was followed by a dramatic victory over Carlton on Sunday in the Scottish Cup, the locals will be severely tested again.

On Saturday, they make the short trip up the M8 to take on old rivals Ferguslie in the WDCU CSL Division One, and on the next day, they play Edinburgh outfit, SMRH, at Glenpark in the last sixteen of the Scottish Cup.

Ferguslie are ranked as one of the favourites for this year’s league title, having narrowly failed to win it last year, finishing runners-up to East Kilbride. They have already made an auspicious start to this season, which can be gauged by the fact that they dismissed Stenhousemuir for just 109 runs in the first league match of the season before the weather intervened. And we all know how easily Stenhousemuir overcame Greenock last Saturday.

The Paisley team comfortably overcame Prestwick last Saturday by 77 runs, with Zimbabwean Test player, Keith Dabengwa scoring 100 and taking 4 for 38 with his left-arm spin and prior to that they had sent Premier Division side Ayr tumbling out of the Scottish Cup, dismissing them for just 59.

It is clear then that Ferguslie provide an all-round threat to Greenock and they possess a number of young players who are making a name for themselves in Scottish cricket. Chief amongst these is number three bat, Michael English, a member of the Scottish team at this year’s Under-19 World Cup and also a member of the Reivers district squad. There is also left-arm spinner, Hamza Tahir, considered by many to be an outstanding prospect, and who has already been amongst the wickets this year.

Other names to watch out for are the Preston-Jones brothers, skipper Gregor and Alistair, keeper David Stafford, seam bowlers Jamie Carruthers and Greg Cameron and South African overseas amateur, Malan Kruger.

So what prospects do Greenock have of springing a surprise on their Renfrewshire rivals? Well, they will certainly need to play a good deal better than they did against Stenhousemuir. The batting in particular needs to be much more disciplined. Young Neil Flack has been a consistent scorer all season but he requires help from his more experienced teammates. West Indian Dwight Thomas has had one good score this season so far and has threatened to score heavily in other innings before falling when seemingly well set. What better time than this Saturday for him to show his undoubted class.

Skipper Shailesh Prabhu is another for whom a good score appears to be just around the corner and runs are also needed from the experienced Hempsey brothers and Aussie Tom Batters. If the middle and lower order can chip in with 20s and 30s, then a challenging total can be achieved. It is also really important that the batsmen utilise the full quota of 50 overs that is available to them. Too often in recent years have Greenock been bowled out well before the fiftieth over.

The bowlers also need to come good this Saturday. The opening attack of Batters and Jonathan Hempsey have looked threatening but they really need good backup from the likes of Greg McDougall and Dwight Thomas whilst Neil Flack is a definite prospect as witness his nerveless bowling of the last over against Carlton on Sunday. The new league regulations which limit Batters and Thomas to just 15 overs between them don’t do Greenock any favours and the local Scottish-qualified bowlers, who can each bowl 15 overs themselves, need to make up for this restriction.

So in short Greenock need a much-improved performance on Saturday if they are to bring back the points from Paisley but they need only consider how well they performed against the much-fancied Carlton team last Sunday to realise that they have the capability to do just that.

Sunday’s cup-tie against SMRH offers Greenock another chance to show just what they can do against more illustrious opponents. OK, Sunday’s win over Carlton was achieved in a match reduced to just 10 overs per side by the poor weather and such shortened games do tend to throw up some surprising results but Greenock still had to perform on the day.

This Sunday’s opponents, SMRH, have enjoyed a poor start to their season, having lost all four league games so far, the last two of which have been by 10 wickets and 8 wickets respectively. They beat Drumpellier in the first round of the Cup by just 4 runs and it would appear that this game gives Greenock a second chance of acquiring another important scalp. But again, only a team performance from all eleven players will suffice.

As ever, the weather may well hold the key. At the time of writing, the forecast for Saturday is promising but the possibility of rain on Sunday has increased. It is probably true to say that Greenock will be favoured by a game that may be rain-affected but really after the summer that we have endured so far, everyone would appreciate a weekend of sun and warmth. Is that too much to ask for?

Saturday's selection shows two changes from last Saturday with Ben Peterson, free of his hockey commitments, and Louis Ware, who batted well in last weekend's Glenpark XI's defeat, replacing Mark Crichton and Dave Sharma.

Skipper Prabhu is not available for Sunday's team to play SMRH due to work commitments and this means that Jonathan Hempsey will be in charge again, as he was against Carlton. The Western Warriors have released a number of players from their Under-15 squad in order that they can play in the Scottish Cup, and as a result both Harry Briggs and Louis Ware are available to play.

The Glenpark XI are at home to the Meikleriggs XI (Ferguslie's 2nd XI) on Saturday in a WDCU CSL Reserve Division One match. With greater availability for the 1st XI, this should mean that a much stronger team will be fielded than was the case last weekend when Stenhousemuir’s 2nd XI inflicted a very heavy defeat on the them.

Both 1st XI matches will start at 12 noon whilst the 2nd XI have a later start time of 1pm.

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