1st XI need win at Kilmarnock

After last weekend's inactivity, Greenock travel to Ayrshire to play Kilmarnock, knowing that only a victory will suffice if they are to entertain any hopes of promotion this year.

Despite the poor weather that has dogged this summer, Greenock have managed to play eight out of their ten scheduled league games. Unfortunately the two games that have not been played have been against teams in the lower half of the league, whom Greenock would have expected to defeat. Contrast that with second-placed Prestwick whose two fixtures that they have not played have been against leaders Stenhousemuir and third-placed Poloc.

It has always been like that in Scottish cricket as the chances of a club playing all their scheduled games in a season are almost nil. It is just your luck as to which clubs you end up not having to play. Some years it will work for you, others it won't.

In the first game between the two teams that was played at Glenpark, Greenock were well beaten by Kilmarnock. The Ayrshire team batted first and compiled an imposing 234 in their innings. Greenock struggled to respond to this target and only a 6th wicket stand of 121 between Blake Taylor and Rod Mountford enabled them to get anywhere near Kilmarnock's score, the innings closing on 185.

Since then, the fortunes of the two sides have differed with Greenock climbing the table on the back of a number of fine wins, whilst Kilmarnock have only won one more game, suffering a number of heavy defeats especially against the teams at the top end of the table, to leave them sitting in 7th place.

Saturday's game will be Greenock's first visit to play Kilmarnock since 1996. That game was played at Kirkstyle, which in all honesty was not the nicest ground at which to play, surrounded on all sides by industrial buildings. Now, Kilmarnock play in much more pleasant surroundings at the Scott Ellis Recreation Ground and Greenock will want to make sure that their first visit is a winning one.

Greenock will feel confident of reversing the result of the first game between the teams. The addition of Trent Keep and Darren Walker to the side that lost that first match will make a huge difference, the former with his ability to set the course of the innings and the latter with his challenging swing bowling.

On the downside, definitely missing from this week's side, and next week's for that matter, will be Neil Flack. He is in Jersey as captain of the Scotland Under-19 team that is attempting to qualify for the Under-19 World Cup, to be held in Bangladesh next January and February. This a great honour for Neil, and well-deserved at that, and it is worth noting that he is actually one of the younger players in the team and to be appointed captain, shows just what Cricket Scotland think of him.

Whilst Flack's absence will be a loss to Greenock, everyone at the club wishes him well and will be following his and Scotland's progress during the week-long tournament.

Not only Flack will be missing for Greenock. Also unavailable are the Hempsey brothers and skipper Shailesh Prabhu whilst Phil McIntosh remains injured. Added to the squad are the Pandher brothers, Chirag and Sehmat, Sammy Sanghera and young spin bowler, William Goan, who is a member of the Western Warriers Under-15 squad. Harry Briggs also comes into contention after making a faster than expected recovery from his broken ankle incurred just before the start of the season.

Just who will open the batting is a conundrum that Darren Walker, who takes over the captaincy, will need to solve, as only Ty Gilmore of those who have opened this year is available for this match. Trent Keep is clearly going to be a key man for Greenock but if he can get in, there is sufficient ability around him to ensure that a good total can be achieved.

The bowling is definitely stronger than it was when the teams first met with Darren Walker providing some real menace with the new ball, although the absence of Jonathan Hempsey does limit skipper Walker's options. Kilmarnock's batting strength lies at the top of the order and if inroads can be made early on, then Greenock will fancy their chances of restricting their opponents to a relatively small total. Walker will look for a strong spell from Blake Taylor to back him up in this regard.

So it is a somewhat depleted team that will take the field on Saturday but one which has more than enough ability to achieve the victory. The final selection will be made from a squad of thirteen.

The Glenpark XI are at home on Saturday to Kirkstyle in the Reserve League. Having won the first match comfortably against their opponents, the team should be confident of achieving another success. However the availability issues that are affecting the 1st XI are bound to have an effect on the make-up of the side and this may be a more difficult task than was first expected. This match will start at 1pm.

Sunday sees the annual T20 Festival at Glenpark when teams from Innellan and Kilmacolm join up with the Hillend XI to compete for the honour of being the winners of the competition. Each team will play the other two sides in a round-robin format with the first game starting at approximately 11.30am. This should be a fun occasion and hopefully the weather will play ball and allow the games to proceed.

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