Greenock start again at Ayr


Greenock make a trip down the Clyde coast on Saturday for their Premier League fixture against Ayr at New Cambusdoon. Both sides will be hoping for some fine weather to allow them the opportunity of playing their first competitive matches of the 2018 season following weather related cancellations last weekend.

At Glenpark, it was a frustrating and bemusing afternoon last Saturday for players and spectators alike, as the opening Premier League fixture against Dumfries was at first delayed in starting, and then called off by the umpires, who ruled that some areas of the outfield were not fit to allow play to start.

In the event, with the match called 'Off' both teams agreed to play a 'bounce' game of 25 overs a side as they felt the ground was suitable for play and wished to get some match practice.

For the match at New Cambusdoon, Greenock should be at, or near to, full strength for the match with Ayr, as the Club's professional Saurabh Bandekar from Goa in south west India has eventually overcome some visa issues and arrives on Friday. His inclusion in the side will be a big encouragement for the team, as he has the potential to be a major player for this season.

30 year old Bandekar, is a highly experienced cricketer having played for India at Under-19 level along with several of the current Indian test team, and also having had experience of First Class cricket as well as the Indian Premier League (IPL). He is a right arm medium fast bowler and also a useful batsman who will likely fill a middle order position.

Last season, it was honours even between the two sides with each gaining a win on home territory. In May, Greenock gained an important Premier Division win over much a fancied Ayr side at Glenpark following an absorbing afternoon of cricket. The Glenpark side scored 193 for 8 and then bowled out Ayr for 155.

In the reverse fixture in July, Greenock came close to gaining a winning double over the Ayrshire side who were then Premier Division title contenders. For two thirds of the match, the contest was played in pleasant sunshine, but after exactly 25 overs of Greenock's innings, rain arrived and there was a lengthy interruption. The match did eventually re-start but play was finally halted after 34.4 overs when a second period of torrential rain arrived. At that point the DLS system indicated the required total was 171, but Greenock were on 165 for 6, and so just six runs short.

Greenock captain, Neil Flack, has a full squad available for this Saturday's match, and the team selected must look to put in a top performance if a win is to be achieved. Getting runs on the board will be key to Greenock's ability to overcoming an Ayr side which has performed well in recent seasons.

However, for the first time in several years, the New Cambusdoon club have not been able to secure the services of New Zealand former internationalist Michael Papps. The opening batsman was a major player for them and was pretty much a 'run machine', topping the Premier League averages regularly when playing here in the west of Scotland.

Without a high scoring Papps' innings, the Ayr batting line-up frequently failed to deliver. But, like Greenock, the Ayrshire side does have various players capable of scoring well. Opening batsman Neil Smith could present a danger if not removed early in his innings and Andy McElnea has frequently been a problem player for Greenock.

This season Ayr are replacing New Zealander Papps with West Indian professional Kenroy Peters. The 36 year old played for the Windies Under-19 team in the 2000 Under-19 World Cup. He played a number of First Class matches for the Windward Islands and made his debut for the West Indies test team against South Africa in December 2014 so is a player with experience at the very highest level of the game.

The West Indian is a left arm medium pace bowler who like many of his countrymen is also a very useful batsman. He is a player whom Greenock will see as a danger in both of the main areas of the game on Saturday.

In last Saturday's 'bounce' match with Dumfries, several of the Greenock players made a decent start to their innings but then failed to build that on to a substantial score. More concentration and determination will be required at New Cambusdoon.

Of particular importance will be the runs scored by the top and middle order. Harry Briggs batted well against Ayr last season scoring fifties both at Glenpark and at New Cambusdoon and if he can weather the first few overs of his innings then he has the potential to gain another significant score.

His opening batting partner, Shailesh Prabhu, has started the season with a couple of innings in the twenties, but then lost his wicket just when it seemed as though he could go on to make a big score. On Saturday his aim will be able to stick around and build a major innings.

For both of Greenock's overseas players, Bandekar and young Laurens Smit, the visit to New Cambusdoon will be an opportunity to showcase their batting skills. The Ayrshire ground is usually a good one for scoring runs and the Glenpark side will be hopeful that the pair can find some early season form.

Others from whom runs should come include Neil Flack, the Hempsey brothers and Rod Mountford. Flack is a batsman with a wide array of shots and capable of a big score. He was Greenock's highest run scorer in 2017 with over 700 runs and topped the averages. If he can find form on Saturday then he can post a score which would put Greenock in a good match position.

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

The Glenpark XI got their league campaign off to a disappointing start last Saturday when they lost to Whiteinch by 9 wickets in difficult conditions. The Glenpark team is a young outfit, bolstered by a couple of veterans, and it is inevitable that they will take time to find their feet against older teams. This Saturday they welcome Marress (Irvine's 2nd XI) to Glenpark and have chosen a squad of 12 players for this fixture which will start at 1pm and will be a 40-overs per side match.

On Sunday, the Hillend XI welcome Torrance Community CC to Glenpark for a friendly match which will begin at 1pm.


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