Greenock gain nail-biting win over Kelburne

Kelburne vs Greenock 1st XI
WDCU CSL Premier Division
Saturday 20th May 2017

Kelburne 68 ND Flack 4 for 25, JW Hulbert 4 for 25
Greenock 1st XI 71 for 9 J Porter 3 for 22



Greenock broke their WDCU Premier Division duck when they defeated Kelburne on Saturday but my goodness they made their supporters sweat as they struggled to overhaul their opponents' lowly total of just 68.

On first sight, this would appear to be a case of a poor pitch. Whitehaugh has gained a reputation in recent years for not having the best square but a lot of work was done on it last winter and Greenock have no complaints about how it played. The low scores were quite simply down to poor batting.

Overnight and morning rains meant a delayed start and when play finally got under way the match had been reduced to a 43 overs per side encounter. In the event neither side came close to using up their allowance.

Kelburne won the toss and decided to bat. Neil Flack, who was skippering the side again in the continuing absence of Jonathan Hempsey, elected to open the bowling with Julian Hulbert and himself. There was no sign of the mayhem that was to come when Kelburne took 16 off the first couple of overs but in Hulbert's second over, he had Eccles very well caught by Flack, the first of six Kelburne batsmen who would fail to trouble the scorers.

Flack bowled McMillan, also for a duck, and when Hulbert had opener Gilmour caught by his fellow Aussie, Scrimegour, Kelburne were tottering at 19 for 3 in the 7th over. It got worse for them when in Hulbert's next over, his fifth, he claimed the wickets of Hussain, caught behind by Chris Hempsey, and Porter, one of Kelburne's two South African players, bowled for just 4. Kelburne were now 27 for 5 and Greenock were cock-a-hoop.

The Paisley side's other South African, Joynt, then led something of a fight-back, scoring virtually all of the runs in the sixth wicket partnership with McLister, before the latter was caught by McIntosh off Flack's bowling for yet another zero, with the score on 48.

Kyle Scrimegour took over from Hulbert, who had taken 4 for 25 in his 7 overs, and with his very first delivery, he had Joynt caught by Sehmet Pandher for 23. Flack, who had come off to give McIntosh an over, then brought himself back on and quickly dismissed Maclean, caught by Pandher, and Macdonald, trapped in front, to leave Kelburne 56 for 9.

Ex-Greenock player, Dougie Wylie, swung the bat to some effect before last man Scott Hamilton was given out LBW to Scrimegour for yet another duck to leave Kelburne all out for 68 in 20.4 overs and less than 90 minutes play. Flack finished with the same analysis as Hulbert, 4 for 25, and Scrimegour was the other wicket-taker with 2 for 12.

The players went straight back out for the second innings without taking tea and any thoughts that Greenock may have had that they would have a straightforward stroll to victory were quickly dispelled. Having seen the effect of Flack's slow left-arm bowling in the first innings, Kelburne opened with Dougie Wylie and he struck in his first over, trapping Phil McIntosh in front for zero. In his third over, Harry Briggs was caught by Porter for just 1 and already Greenock were toiling at 15 for 2.

Neil Flack, however, was in confident mood and was doing nearly all of the scoring. But, having advanced to 27 with some splendid strokes, he was undone by Porter's second delivery and was caught by Jamie Macdonald. 36 for 3.

Kyle Scrimegour and the in-form Shailesh Prabhu then slowly but steadily took the total into the 40s before both were out in quick succession, Prabhu bowled by Porter for 6 and Scrimegour caught by Gilmour off the bowling of Hamilton for 14. 48 for 5.

Worse was to follow as Hulbert was dismissed for just 2, caught by Maclean off Porter and when Pandher was bowled by Hamilton for zero immediately after this, Greenock were in all sorts of trouble at 50 for 7. 69 looked a long way away at this point. The veteran Scott Hamilton and Porter had a stranglehold on the batting and it looked as if they would take Kelburne to victory.

However Aidan Forrest and Sammy Sanghera dug in and inched the score slowly towards the target. Hamilton finished his spell with the admirable figures of 2 for 14 off 9 overs and Porter likewise, having taken 3 for 22. Maclean and Joynt came into the attack and just as it seemed that Greenock would claim the victory, calamity!

Forrest was first to go, caught behind by McMillan off Joynt for a crucial 11. Greg McDougall saw out the rest of the over but in the next over, bowled by Maclean, Sammy Sanghera's long vigil was ended, given out LBW for 2. Both had batted for over 30 minutes and in the context of the game, their contribution was immense.

Two runs needed for victory for Greenock, one wicket for Kelburne. Chris Hempsey, who had badly hurt a thumb in the first innings and would really have hoped not to have to bat, came to the wicket, played out three balls and then hit the next one through point for the match-winning boundary, to Greenock's elation and Kelburne's despair.

A vital win for Greenock, one which takes them off the foot of the table, and they showed great spirit to eventually prevail but in truth this was not a great advert for Scottish cricket with batsmen on both sides showing poor technique.

There are definitely areas of the game which Greenock have to work on, not the least of which is the number of extras that they concede each week. In a low-scoring encounter, to concede almost a quarter of the total in this way is unacceptable. Kelburne, for their part, conceded just 4 extras when they were bowling.

The other area of concern is the inability to build partnerships when batting, especially in the middle of the innings. Forrest and Sanghera showed what could and should be done and theirs is the example that the rest of the team need to follow.

Having said all of that, Greenock have every right to savour this win. There is nothing better than winning a close encounter, especially when it looked as if the game was lost. This should do much for the team's self-belief and confidence in the coming weeks.