Greenock return to league action at Prestwick

Competitive cricket resumes this Saturday after the two week break whilst the Commonwealth Games were being held, with Greenock heading down the coast to Ayrshire to play Prestwick in the WDCU CSL First Division.

There are now just 4 games left to play in the season, 3 of which are away from Glenpark. The current league table shows Greenock in 7th place, one off the foot, having won just one game all season and that was in the very first match of the campaign.

Saturday’s opponents, Prestwick, are positioned one place above Greenock in the table, having won twice this season, against Weirs and Stenhousemuir. On paper then it would seem that this match represents Greenock’s best chance of achieving another win.

However matches are never won on paper and Prestwick cannot be easily dismissed. They have shown quite a resurgence this year which was capped by reaching the final of the Rowan Cup, where they lost to a powerful Clydesdale outfit.

When the two sides met earlier in the season, Greenock were somewhat perilously placed at 111 for 6 when the rains intervened to cause play to be abandoned. Their innings was a good example of this season’s problems as the middle order failed to build on a promising start which had seen Greenock reach the 100 mark for the loss of just 2 wickets.

Part of Prestwick’s renewed vigour has come from the appointment of Andy Tennant as their player-coach. Tennant, who is the Head of Performance at Cricket Scotland, has had an illustrious playing career for both Prestwick and Scotland but retired from the game a few years ago. He has kept himself fit and was persuaded to return to play this year where his experience and know-how has been invaluable in guiding what is quite a young team to better performances.

Equally important to Prestwick’s fortunes this season has been the batting of overseas players, Blake Emblem and Tom Fleet. Fraser MacDonald has also scored heavily for them this year and it will be important for Greenock to ensure that none of these players gets a start.

Opening the bowling for Prestwick will be former Greenock player, Willie Rowan, a player of great promise when younger but who somewhat lost his way in the game. He has returned this year to his original club and is starting to show some of the form that has eluded him for some time. Backing him up will be the experience of Tennant and Gavin Pitt and the promise of youngsters such as Mitchell Rao and Calum Rodger.

Greenock therefore cannot afford to take this game lightly. There can be no denying that this has been a very disappointing season for the Club. At the start of the season, there were worries that there would be a lack of strength in the bowling and whilst there have been a couple of occasions when it has been taken apart by the opposition, in the main it has stood up well to the task.

The same cannot be said for the batting, as mentioned previously, and the facts paint a depressing picture. In half of the league games that have been played to a completion, the side has been dismissed for less than 100. Only Neil Flack has shown any sort of consistency with the bat and only 3 individual scores of over 50 have been recorded in the league. It is little wonder then that the team has only won once.

It is not as if there is not plenty of batting talent in the line-up. Neil Flack has blossomed this season, not just with Scotland but at district and international level with some outstanding performances for the Scotland Under-17 side. Young Aidan Forrest showed what he could do with his 50 against Stirling but has failed so far to follow this up. West Indian Dwight Thomas has threatened to score big but has fallen too often before he has properly got his eye in.

If victory is to be achieved on Saturday, then these players aided by the middle order players such as Jonathan Hempsey, Harry Briggs, Greg McDougall, Guy Crichton and Rod Mountford must apply themselves and ensure that meaningful partnerships are put together. It would also help if they ensured that they batted the full 50 overs. To fail to do so is just handing the advantage to the opposition.

Saturday’s team to play at the Prestwick Oval will be led by Jonathan Hempsey as Shailesh Prabhu has work commitments. A final selection will be made from a squad of twelve. The match will start at 12 noon.

The Glenpark XI are at home to St Ninians, Prestwick's 2nd XI, on Saturday in a WDCU CSL Reserve Division One match which starts at 1pm. The team has had a mixed season which is not surprising given the availability issues that have impacted selection all year. This Saturday is likely to be a good case in point with a number of players unavailable for varying reasons.

The Hillend XI defend their unbeaten record on Sunday at Glenpark when they play Ferguslie in a WDCU Sunday League fixture which will also start at 1pm.

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