League season starts at Prestwick

Pre-season warm up matches completed, this Saturday sees the beginning of meaningful cricket for Greenock with the first league match of the season. And it is a trip to Ayrshire to meet Prestwick at the Henry Thow Oval that opens the 18 match league programme.

The Glenpark side will be very keen to begin the 2015 league campaign with a win and this is a game which, in past years, Greenock would be favourites to come out on top. However, as fate would have it, having had most players available for the pre-season warm up matches, a number of key 1st XI players are unavailable this weekend.

Rod Mountford and Ty Gilmore are both away on business, Harry Briggs and Chris Hempsey have injuries sustained from rugby, while Ben Peterson, Sam Sanghera and Dave Sharma are not available for 1st XI selection. Greenock must therefore rely on a core of their 1st XI squad to get the job done.

The safe arrival of the Glenpark side's second overseas player Danico Philmon from South Africa around lunchtime on Friday will be met with some relief, as it has been touch and go to get him to Greenock in time for the first league fixture. Obtaining the necessary visa has been a long and difficult road but news came through at the start of the week that all was in order and the South African could fly the 6000 plus miles north to join his new team.

Philmon is a top order, left hand wicketkeeper/batsman. He is a proven run scorer from the Western Cape in South Africa and made his provincial debut for Boland in the 2012/13 season.

Opponents Prestwick got the better of the matches played between the sides in 2014 and Greenock will be keen to improve on that statistic and make amends. To do so, the number one aim must be to get substantial runs on the board and to achieve this much will depend on the top order of the Glenpark team. Neil Flack has shown good early season form with two fifties to his name already and Shailesh Prabhu, the Greenock captain, has also had one of his best innings in recent seasons scoring 76 against Renfrew two weeks ago.

Philmon, obviously, is a player from whom Greenock will expect runs to flow and Australian amateur Blake Taylor, brought over as a pace bowler, has already shown he is a more than competent batsman with an unbeaten 136 last weekend against East Kilbride. Others who can contribute to run-scoring on Saturday will include Aidan Forrest , who is developing into a very useful middle order batsman, Jonathan Hempsey, Greg McDougall and the highly promising Louis Ware.

Due to the number of players unavailable this weekend, team coach Darren Walker will come into the side. The Australian's experience as a former top professional player should be of great benefit to Greenock, albeit that he has not played for a number of years. Walker has brought a real enthusiasm to training since taking over as Team Coach and his playing skills and cricketing knowledge will be a real bonus for the side.

Saturday's team to play Prestwick in the WDCU CSL First Division match at the Henry Thow Oval, Prestwick on Saturday with a 12 noon start will therefore be much changed from that which ended last season. For that reason alone, hopes will be high that the team will show better form than in 2014.

Prestwick have announced their team for Saturday's match and it is as follows:

S Rafiq, T Spence, A Rajadhyaksha, GW Pitt, WJ Rowan, M Miller, M Rao, A Tennant, C Robertson, J Stafford, N Thakur.

The Glenpark XI are at home to St Ninians (Prestwick's 2nd XI) in a WDCU CSL First Division Reserve League match which starts at 1pm. By the very nature of the availability issues of the 1st XI, their team will be a last-minute selection and is likely to be strongly weighted in favour of the very young. It is disappointing that this should happen so early in the season as it was something that happened too often last year. With a full-strength side, the Glenparkers would be confident of victory but a weakened side will do well to come out on top. Nevertheless for the youngsters in the team, it will be a good learning experience.

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