2017 season gets underway at Glenpark

The 2017 cricket season gets under way this Saturday when Greenock play their opening match at Glenpark against Glasgow opposition, Hillhead. This is a friendly encounter and will allow players from both teams an opportunity to get in some proper outdoor match practice ahead of the competitive league programme which begins on the last Saturday of April when Uddingston visit Glenpark.

Hillhead have been regular early season visitors to Glenpark in recent years and last summer played in the WDCU First Division along with Greenock. However, the fortunes of both teams were poles apart as Greenock were promoted as champions to the Premier Division, while Hillhead were relegated to the Second Division, having finished at the very bottom of the league.

Greenock's preparations for the new season have been going well with players using indoors nets on a weekly basis since early January. But it is outdoors where the real action takes place and players are keen to make a start on Saturday.

Neil Flack, one of Greenock's most talented cricketers and also Scotland Under-19 captain, has spent six months of the off season playing in Australia. He was based in Tasmania and played for the Latrobe Demons club from late September until March and has only just returned home to Scotland in the last couple of weeks. He enjoyed his experience playing First Grade cricket 'Down Under' and is now focused on doing well for Greenock, as the team prepares to play in the Premier Division once again.

The Glenpark side will have other Aussie connections this season. Joining the Greenock team for the coming season are two young Australian players, Kyle Scrimegour from Darwin in the Northern Territory, and Julian Hulbert from New South Wales.

Twenty year old Scrimegour is a former Aussie Under-19 international. He is a left arm pace bowler who is also an accomplished batsman and his talents are likely to be a key feature for the local side this season.

Hulbert, who has been living in the UK for the past year and who is moving into the Greenock area later this month, is also a left arm bowler, but medium pace. He bats middle order. His stats from playing in the Harrogate and District League in 2016 suggest that he too will be able to make a valuable contribution to Greenock's play during the summer.

However, neither of the young Aussies is available to play this weekend as they do not arrive in Greenock until the middle of next week. Scrimegour will fly in from Darwin on Tuesday and Hulbert will journey north from London in time for the pre-season matches next Saturday and Sunday.

Captaining the Greenock side once again this season will be Jonathan Hempsey who led the team to the Division One championship in 2016. He knows very well that the team will need to play consistently well throughout the season to secure its place in the Premier Division. Fixtures against top sides come week after week and there can be no room for any drop in standard of play from the local team.

This Saturday's friendly match against Hillhead will provide an early opportunity for the Greenock players to get some important practice with both bat and ball. Players such as Under-17 Scottish internationalist Louis Ware, who gained good experience at 1st XI level last summer, will undoubtedly feature prominently for the Glenpark side this season. As will Harry Briggs, not yet 18 years of age, who showed considerable talent in the Glenpark XI last season, and scored his maiden century which led to a promotion to the 1st XI, where he opened the batting for the latter part of the league programme with distinction.

Others keen to gain a place in the first team will include Chris Hempsey, Phil McIntosh, Shailesh Prabhu, Aidan Forrest, Chirag Pandher, Greg McDougall, Sehmat Pander and Sam Sanghera. All have first team experience, but with competition for places likely to be very keen this season, there can be no guarantee of a regular place for any of these players ... and there will be others from the 2nd XI pushing for a place also.

Greenock's team for the match against Hillhead will be a mixture of players who will feature for the 1st and Glenpark XIs during the weeks ahead. The match on Saturday at Glenpark will start at 1pm and is likely to be a 40-overs-per-side encounter.

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