Greenock face tough encounter with leaders Ferguslie


Premier Division leaders Ferguslie are Greenock's opponents on Saturday at their Meikleriggs ground opposite the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH). The Paisley side have a 100% record in the league so far this season, with five matches played and five won.

It is a fixture which matches top with almost bottom, as Greenock's win over Uddingston last weekend moved them up a placing to second bottom in the league table. But Greenock will take heart from their last two Premier Division outings against Clydesdale and Uddingston, both of whom are in the top four.

At Clydesdale two weeks ago, Greenock ran the much fancied Glasgow side very close and in a high scoring match were just an agonising ten runs short of their opponents total at the end of play. Last week at Glenpark, Greenock gained a dramatic, but well deserved win over Uddingston in a rain affected match which required the Duckworth Lewis Stern (DLS) system to be used.

Greenock's form, especially with the bat, has shown very encouraging improvement in recent matches and various players have shown their potential with good individual scores. Team captain Neil Flack hit a sparkling 119 against Clydesdale, and if he can make a start at Meikleriggs on Saturday, has the ability to bat deep into the innings and score big once again.

Jonathan Hempsey too has been in good form. He is the 1st XI leading run-scorer and in the last number of league and cup matches he has scored over two hundred runs with 70 at West of Scotland, 40 against Renfrew, 50 not out at Ayr, 44 at Kelburne and another 44 not out against Uddingston.

The Club's two overseas players have been getting used to the west of Scotland weather and wickets during the month of May. Indian professional Saurabh Bandekar is a class player and has made a number of decent scores without having gone on to make a match-winning innings as yet.

South African amateur Laurens Smit has also come into good form. In the Last two weeks he has scored a fine 63 in a partnership of 179 with Neil Flack against Clydesdale, 63 not out against Kelburne a week ago and on Wednesday evening 45 not out against Renfrew.

Putting runs on the scoreboard will be essential if Greenock are to challenge and defeat Ferguslie, as the Paisley side have a number of players in their side who are in good form so far this season. Opening batsmen Gregor Preston-Jones and Michael English enjoyed a run fest against Clydesdale last Sunday in a Scottish Cup match which the Paisley side won. Both scored centuries.

English in particular has been in excellent form with the bat having scored around 500 runs to date this season including an early league century against Clydesdale (he will want to play them every week!) and 77 against Ayr. English also hit a magnificent 98 on Wednesday evening of this week against Weirs in a West League Cup match.

However, his consistently good form still has not warranted selection for the Scotland international squad to face England in a One Day International on June 10, or Pakistan in the two T20s on June 12 and 13, nor for the Tri Series in Holland a few days later.

But Ferguslie do not have to rely solely on English and Preston-Jones for runs. The Paisley side has a very strong line-up with South African Elliot Moses, Scottish qualified South African Riyaad Henry, former Scottish international Omer Hussain who transferred from Paisley rivals Kelburne in April, and highly rated young cricketer Taimoor Ahmad also in their usual top six batsmen.

And then there is wicket-keeper batsman David Stafford, Hamza Tahir and team captain Jamie Carruthers in the lower order, all of whom are capable of getting runs.

While batting is Ferguslie's strength, the side is a good all-round one and bowling will be led by Carruthers and Henry with Moses, English and Greg Cameron all likely to be called upon to bowl during the afternoon along with the Tahir brothers Hamza and Haroon.

Just as last Saturday when Greenock had to have an eye on Uddingston's abilities with bat and ball, the Glenparkers must ensure that their own team performance is up to the highest standard against Ferguslie.

There are still too many extras being conceded and important catching opportunities put down. The number of wide balls bowled must be reduced, as these provide easy runs for the opposition plus extra balls to score from, and catches when presented need to be taken.

Another victory on Saturday would be likely to lift Greenock further up the table and in the weeks ahead with matches against teams in the lower half of the Premier Division, the month of June looks like being a very important period for the local team.

Greenock's selection shows two changes from last week with Fraser Godsman and Ewan Stewart coming into the team to replace Chris Hempsey who is unavailable due to work commitments and Sam Sanghera who is out with a torn muscle injury. Jonathan Hempsey is also struggling to be fit with a back injury and his absence would be a big loss to the team. The match starts at 12 noon.

The Glenpark XI are at home on Saturday to GHK Strathclyde who are currently second top of Division Three with four wins out of five matches played. Skipper Ally Calder will make his final selection from the usual squad of players. The match, of 40 overs per side, starts at 1pm.

The Hillend XI have another friendly match this Sunday when they travel to Paisley to play a Meikleriggs XI. Team selection is not known at present but there will certainly be a good number of youngsters in the team to gain more match experience. The match will start at 1pm.


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