Greenock up for Irvine's challenge


After last Saturday's washout, Greenock will be hoping for better luck with the weather this Saturday when they welcome Irvine to Glenpark in the fifth round of the league season. And if the forecasters are to be believed, then play should take place in warm and pleasant conditions.

It would be fair to say that Irvine have been somewhat of a surprise packet this year and they currently sit in third place in the league, three places above Greenock. Both teams boast an identical record of two wins and one defeat but the Ayrshire side have gained more bonus points in their defeat than Greenock did, which means that their points percentage is 78.67 to Greenock's 74.67. Last year, Irvine finished in second bottom place so it can be seen that they have made big strides this season.

One look at their league results this season shows where their strength lies, with over 200 runs scored in each of their three matchex played so far. They scored 248 against Glasgow Accies, 236 against Stirling and 214 against West of Scotland, impressive tallies by any standard.

Irvine's batting is spearheaded by their long-serving coach, Sachin Chaudhary, a fine stroke-maker who has scored runs against Greenock in the past. He is surrounded by a number of robust strikers of the ball, such as Mahmood Alam, Abdul Ashraf and Gurupreet Singh, all of whom have been in the runs this season.

The Ayrshire team's bowling is not be overlooked either as they have bowled out Glasgow Accies and West of Scotland and come within one wicket of doing the same with Stirling. Chaudhary is a canny and economical slow bowler and he gets good backing from the two Singhs, Gurupreet and Inderjit, and Bhaumik Nayak.

Just to emphasise the advances that Irvine have made this year, on Wednesday evening, they defeated Premier Division Prestwick by 8 runs in the West League Cup with their batting again looking strong.

Greenock therefore must not underestimate their task on Saturday. The bowlers will need to be on their mark from the word go and the fielders on their toes if Irvine are to be held in check. In fairness, this is what has happened this season.

Australian amateur, Declan White, has been a potent weapon with the new ball while Phil McIntosh's swing bowling has led him to be the team's leading wicket-taker. Neil Flack has become an integral part of the attack this year, taking wickets and bowling economically and there has been good backing from skipper Hempsey, Greg McDougall, Louis Ware and the team's other Aussie, Damon Rootes, although if White bowls his full quota of 10 overs, then league regulations limit him to just 5 overs. This varied attack gives Jonathan Hempsey plenty of options and should pose Irvine a much sterner test than they have encountered to date.

Greenock's batting, the Poloc game apart, has looked good with Neil Flack, Phil McIntosh and Chris Hempsey already notching league half-centuries. Damon Rootes has the potential to hold the batting together at the top of the order and with support from the likes of Jonathan Hempsey, Louis Ware and Declan White, who is surely due a score, Greenock will be confident of setting a winning target or overtaking whatever score they are set.

With a dry week affording groundsman Roger Hardie plenty of time to prepare the pitch and a forecast of good weather, spectators can look forward to an entertaining match with plenty of runs. Greenock should come out on top but as has been said, they will need to be fully focussed or Irvine will take advantage.

The team for the match, which starts at the later time of 1pm, shows just one change from that selected last week with Rod Mountford replacing Sehmat Pandher.

This match is sponsored by Cleaning Supplies 4U

The Glenpark XI travel down the coast to take on Irvine's second string, Marress, in the Reserve League. Having suffered defeat in the two league games that they have played to date, the team will see this match as an opportunity to break their duck, as Marress have struggled on the pitch both last year and this. This match will also start at 1pm.

The Hillend XI have no fixture this weekend.

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