1st XI chasing third place in league with win over Irvine


Having returned to winning form with a four wicket victory against Queensberry St Michael's in Dumfries last Saturday, Greenock are at home to Irvine this Saturday and will be aiming to gain maximum points once again.

Last week's win maintained the Glenpark men's fourth top position but also narrowed the gap with third placed Poloc who lost their match. So with just three league matches remaining, third top spot is Greenock's target.

In the run in, Greenock meet Irvine (H), Stenhousemuir (A) and Stirling County (H). All of these matches will have their challenges, but, on form, Greenock now have the players who can win each of these games, and, although promotion is out of reach, the chase to overtake Poloc gives the team an incentive to keep winning.

Saturday's opponents, Irvine, have won only three out of twelve matches completed during the 2015 season and currently occupy third bottom position in the league table. Two of their three wins have been against bottom club Queensberry St Michael's, and the other, a one run victory against Glasgow Accies, who for much of the season were stuck to the bottom of the division.

But the Ayrshire side should not be dismissed as an easy turnover. They have in their side one very dangerous player Sachin Choudhary. The Indian cricketer is a very fine spin bowler and is the top wicket-taker in the First Division this season. He regularly takes four or five wickets in a match and against Greenock, when the sides met at Irvine's Marress ground in mid June, Choudhary returned bowling figures of 4 wickets for 22 runs.

Choudhary is not just a bowler though. He is also an accomplished batsman and has been Irvine's most prolific run-scorer this summer. His highest score was 117 against Queensberry St Michael's at the Kingholm ground in Dumfries at the end of May and since then he has frequently been their top batsman.

However, batting does seem to be the Ayrshire side's weakness. In seven of their matches they have been all out for less than 105 runs and in only two matches have they scored more than 125 runs in an innings.

The Greenock side for tomorrow's game with Irvine will not be a full strength eleven. Still out through injury are Greg McDougall and Phil McIntosh and also unavailable is Chris Hempsey. Back into the side come 1st XI captain Shailesh Prabhu and Louis Ware who were both unavailable last Saturday for the trip to Dumfries.

A key player for Greenock will be Aussie overseas amateur Trent Keep. Since his arrival at the end of June, Keep has scored over three hundred runs at an average of around sixty runs per game. His influence on the team's performances has been marked. He has brought a much greater solidity to the Greenock batting and, as a result, the confidence of his teammates has been raised.

Last Saturday against Queensberry St Michael's in Dumfries, Keep was 57 not out and he guided the Glenpark side to a comfortable win with another class display of batting ably supported by Jonathan Hempsey, who scored 32, and several others who chipped in useful runs.

After a few seasons of results which have been less good than in the 'glory years' of the first decade of this century, Greenock are building a side which once again has considerable promise and a winning finish to this season would give a great deal of optimism for the times ahead.

Part of this optimism comes from the number of young players coming through from the junior coached ranks at Glenpark and demonstrating that they are able to play at senior level.

Neil Flack, just turned 18, has been a regular in the Greenock 1st XI for a couple of season and is the current Scotland U19 cricket captain. Louis Ware, just 15, has broken through to be a first team player this season and also plays for Scotland U15 while Harry Briggs, just newly 16, is also now a first team player but whose 2015 season has been largely disrupted due to an ankle break in March while playing rugby. Briggs is a player with great potential and 2016 could be a big season for him as he would undoubtedly have played representative cricket this summer had he not suffered his injury just before the start of this season.

Also key to the revival of Greenock has been coach Darren Walker. The influence which the Australian former first class professional has had on the players at Glenpark cannot be understated. His knowledge and understanding of the game and his ability to get the best out of his players has greatly benefited the side. And he has returned to playing after many years out of the game and relished doing so. His cricketing abilities and competitive nature are there for all to see and the Glenpark side are much the better for his presence.

Given a focused performance from Greenock tomorrow at Glenpark full points for Greenock should be the outcome.

A squad of twelve has been chosen for the match which starts at 12 noon but the final selection from that squad will require one of either Gilmore or Mountford to drop out in order to meet the league rules for non-Scottish players.

Match Sponsor for Saturday's match v Irvine is Michael Page Recruitment

The Glenpark XI travel to Irvine on Saturday to take on Marress in the Reserve League. Their hosts have lost every game that they have played this season and have struggled at times to field a side. Glenpark, therefore, will have every confidence in returning home with the points. This match will start at 1pm.

On Sunday, the WU40 Cup Final takes place at Glenpark between Kelburne and Clydesdale. Clydesdale are currently top of the Premier Division with Kelburne in third top position just behind Ferguslie. Two former Greenock players will be on view in the final with Richie Berrington playing for Clydesdale and Dougie Wylie in the Kelburne line-up.

This is the most prestigious cup in the Western District Cricket Union calendar and it is perhaps fitting that two of this season's top league sides have made their way to the final. Greenock went out of the competition at the quarter final stage in a 'bowl off' to Uddingston a couple of weeks ago and the Lanarkshire side then lost to Kelburne in the semi final played at Bothwell Policies last Sunday.

The match starts at 1pm and is a 40 overs a side contest. A good support is expected for what should be an excellent game.

Meanwhile, the Hillend XI have a Sunday League fixture at Prestwick. If played, this will be only the team's second league game of the season - what a summer!

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