Greenock gain important victory over Stirling

Stirling County vs Greenock 1st XI
WDCU CSL First Division
Saturday 27th June 2015

Stirling County 190 J Bradburn 70; DK Walker 4 for 70
Greenock 1st XI 192 for 5 TR Keep 100*; S Chaudary 4 for 22


Greenock bounced back from last week's disappointing performance against league leaders Stenhousemuir, with a convincing 5 wickets win over Stirling County at New Williamfield. As a result, they have pulled themselves back into contention for one of the two promotion slots to the Premier Division.

Stirling won the toss and elected to bat first on a hard pitch. Their opening bats, Gavin Anderson and Andy Carswell made a steady start against the bowling of Blake Taylor and Darren Walker and after half an hour's play, forty was on the board without loss. However Walker was getting into his stride, getting the ball to swing and he got the first breakthrough when Carswell was LBW for 17.

Trent Keep had taken over from Taylor and it was not long before he dismissed Anderson, caught and bowled, also for 17. Two runs later, Walker gained the key wicket of South African Anton Ehlers, bowled for just 2 and Stirling were in some trouble at 50 for 3.

Ehlers' dismissal brought 15 year-old Jack Bradburn to the wicket and he set about bringing the home side back into the game, attacking anything that was full in length. Bradburn is the son of Scotland's Kiwi coach, Grant Bradburn, and has clearly benefited from his father's coaching. His partnership with Matthew Tweedie saw the 100 brought up and at the halfway drinks break, Stirling were nicely placed at 107 for 3.

But Walker was still going strong and before his quota of overs were finished, he had picked up two more wickets. Firstly Tweedie was caught by Ty Gilmore for 23 and the same combination accounted for Chris Priddle for just 1. Walker finished with the outstanding figures of 4 for 39 in 15 overs, 5 of which were maidens. It was a splendid spell of bowling which caused problems to all of the Stirling top order.

Jonathan Hempsey replaced Walker and he was quickly into the action, having Graeme Taylor caught by his brother Chris (Jonathan's brother, that is) for 3. Stirling' number 8 batsmen, Andrew Paterson, then snapped his Achilles tendon when setting off for a run and would play no further part in the match. Stirling were effectively 130 for 7.

Young Bradburn was still at the crease, having been the beneficiary of a couple of dropped catches, and together with Stirling's other overseas amateur, Sean Lyon, took the total past the 150 mark. Blake Taylor was brought back into the attack and kept Bradburn on his toes with a number of short-pitched deliveries. It was he who eventually broke the partnership, having Bradburn caught by skipper Prabhu at long-on for an excellent 70, which contained 7 4s and 1 six. Bradburn is quite a prospect.

Campbell was quickly dismissed, caught and bowled by Jonathan Hempsey for 6 and a bright last-wicket partnership was broken when Neil Flack had Lyon caught by Taylor for 25, leaving Scotland's womens' coach, Kari Carswell unbeaten on 6. Stirling finished on 190, which was probably worth more, given the slow and soft outfield.

Greenock's other wicket-takers were Hempsey with 2 for 30, Keep 1 for 15, Flack 1 for 28 and Taylor 1 for 45.

Greenock would have been slightly disappointed to be chasing such a total, having allowed Stirling to recover from the difficult position of 130 for 7. They were also forced to make a change in their batting order, as Phil McIntosh was unable to open the batting, having damaged a hand in the first innings.

Ty Gilmore took McIntosh's position at the top of the order but did not last long, being dismissed second ball, LBW to Ehlers without scoring. This brought Trent Keep to the crease and he and Neil Flack batted steadily to put Greenock into a strong position. However, Flack in attempting to attack the spinner, Lyon, edged him to slip where Kari Carswell took a good catch. Flack was out for 20 and Greenock were 65 for 2.

Chris Hempsey replaced Flack and played a number of fine attacking shots to the quicker bowlers, before being palpably LBW on the back foot to Lyon for 24. Greenock were now 101 for 3 but more importantly, Keep was still there and looking in total control. Jonathan Hempsey replaced his brother and scored 12 before being caught by Andy Carswell off Anderson for 12. Shailesh Prabhu did not last long, bowled by Anderson for 2 and Greenock were now 151 for 5 and still needing 40 for the win.

Darren Walker was next man in and was clearly determined that Greenock were not going to let the game slip. Keep was still going strong, being particularly strong on the pull and eventually he reached a well-deserved century with a boundary off Campbell. In the next over, Walker struck Tweedie for four down the ground and the game was won. Keep finished on exactly 100 not out, which contained 14 boundaries, and Walker was undefeated on 15.

This victory was exactly what Greenock needed after last week's defeat. In particular, the performance of Keep made all the difference, his calm and composed batting at number 3 allowing the other Greenock batsmen to play around him. This is just what Greenock have lacked in previous years and should give the rest of the team increased confidence for the second half of the season.

Greenock are now fourth in the league on 70.83%, behind Poloc on 77.78%. The top two, Stenhousemuir (100%) and Prestwick (92.71%) meet next Saturday which will bring one of them back towards Greenock, assuming of course that they beat Glasgow Accies at New Anniesland. The influence of Keep and Walker will be crucial if Greenock are to maintain a promotion charge and next week's game against bottom of the table Accies, the first of the return set of games, is a must-win if they wish to challenge for honours.