Greenock look for winning start to the league


The 2018 Premier League cricket season gets under way this Saturday with Dumfries CC the visitors to Glenpark.

When the sides last met towards the end of the 2017 season, each was battling to secure their future in the Premier Division and eventually both did just enough to survive ... but it was Dumfries who gained the victory at Glenpark on that occasion.

Indeed, it was the south of Scotland side who were the victors on both occasions the teams met last year, so Greenock will be very keen to make amends this weekend.

The local side's ability to put runs on the board will be a crucial factor in the game. There is plenty of potential in the team to do so, but the players need to show a strength of commitment and concentration to remain at the crease and build an innings if a good total is to be achieved.

Shailesh Prabhu and Harry Briggs formed a regular opening partnership in the latter part of the 2017 season with Neil Flack, an early season opener, dropping down the order to improve the middle order performance.

Prabhu is an experienced opening bat used to dealing with pace bowling and teenager Harry Briggs is maturing into a useful player at the top of the order. Neil Flack, who has taken over the Greenock captaincy, began last season in fine form and runs flowed easily from his bat. He will be keen to get off to a similar start this season and Saturday's opening Premier League fixture would be the perfect time to get a good innings under his belt.

South African amateur Laurens Smit who has only just arrived in Greenock this week, is a top order batsman for his side in Boland Province and could fill the number three spot this season. Jonathan Hempsey may be asked to move up to the number four position this weekend, as Indian Pro Saurabh Bandekar has been unable to get his visa through in time to arrive this week. Flack could then come in at number five and have an important role to play in the middle order. This may well be how the Glenpark side looks to line up in the top half of the batting order as the competitive season gets going.

While run-scoring was Greenock's achilles heal at times last season, the team's bowling attack was one of the best in the Premier Division. The club's two overseas players in 2017, Australians Kyle Scrimegour and Julian Hulbert, were two of the top wicket-takers in the Premier Division and it will be the hope of the Glenpark 'faithful' that this year's overseas players can have a similar impact.

Indian Professional Saurabh Bandekar is a right arm pace bowler who has impressive career statistics and if he can adjust to the west of Scotland conditions, should collect a good haul of wickets during his stay. So his absence from the team on Saturday is a considerable blow. Young South African amateur Laurens Smit, while mainly a top order batsman, is also an off spinner and will bring a much needed, additional slow bowling variation to the Greenock attack.

Jonathan Hempsey and Sam Sanghera were Greenock's opening bowlers against West of Scotland in the friendly match which beat the weather last Saturday and may well do so against Dumfries in Bandekar's absence. Both made a good start to the season with Sanghera, in particular, in amongst the wickets with 3 for 25 from his eight overs.

Greg McDougall, Neil Flack and Rod Mountford could be others who will be asked to come into the Glenpark attack on Saturday afternoon.

Whatever the bowling decisions eventually are, Greenock will hope to put the Dumfries batsmen under pressure from the start and if the first few wickets can be captured relatively cheaply, then it will be important to push home whatever advantage has been built up.

Fielding, which has been a very positive part of Greenock's performances in recent seasons, was noticeably off the mark at times last weekend and Neil Flack will want his players to be much more focused against Dumfries. In particular, when catching opportunities present themselves, it is important that they are taken

When the sides met in the early part of the 2017 season at the Dumfries club's Nunholm ground, Greenock batted first and scored their highest total of the season, 250 for the loss of 8 wickets. But that was not enough to win. Dumfries scored 252 for 6, hitting the winning runs with just five balls of the match remaining.

Yet it had seemed a reasonable bet that Greenock would win when Dumfries needed 76 runs with just 9 overs to go and their two top batsmen Tom McBride 89 and Chris Bellwood 39, both out. But Dumfries were not finished and some hard hitting by Josh Forsyth and Stuart Corbett-Byers turned the game on its head as the Greenock bowlers could do little to stem the flow of runs.

So, the lesson to be learned is that an innings is not over until it is over. Also, tactically, the team must carefully consider how to approach the tail end overs in order to minimise the opposition run-scoring.

Saturday's match against Dumfries will be one which the Glenpark team will undoubtedly be targeting as an important one from which to gain a win, Doing so on the opening Saturday of the Premier League season would be a huge confidence booster. Firstly, of course, what is needed is some dry, warm and sunny conditions which after the recent poor weather may be a lot to ask !

Greenock's selection for Saturday shows two changes from last Saturday's team with Smit and Sehmat Pandher replacing Chris Hempsey and Jamie Nowell. The match on Saturday at Glenpark will start at 12 noon.

The Dumfries side is likely to be : C McCutcheon (Capt), M Abnett, S Alexander, D Armstrong, S Beveridge, S Corbett Byers, A Davidson, A Dawson, R McBride, J Smit, C Telfer. 12th man L McBurnie.

The Glenpark XI are now in the WDCU Third Division and will come up against a number of new opponents this season. The first of them is Whiteinch, who are the 2nd XI of Victoria, and the Glenparkers have a squad of 13 players to choose from for their fixture at Bellahouston which will start at 1pm. Like the 1st XI they will be keen to get their season off to a winning start.


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