Greenock look to get back to winning ways


Greenock's recent run of good form came to a somewhat shuddering halt last weekend when they were quite comfortably beaten by title-chasing Prestwick at the latter's ground.

The game had started positively for the visitors with a couple of early wickets putting the Ayrshire team on the back foot but as the batsmen regrouped, they gradually got on top of the Greenock attack and the last few overs in particular saw Prestwick post a challenging, but not unbeatable, score of 229 for 6.

Greenock's reply was steady with the openers seeing off the initial attack from the bowlers. But once wickets started to fall then there was no response from Greenock. The middle order in particular was removed far too easily and it was only thanks to another fine innings from Saurabh Bandekar that enabled Greenock to post 143 before being dismissed.

This Saturday, Greenock face another away match, this time in Glasgow at Titwood when they face Clydesdale and will be looking for a stronger response on this occasion.

The Glasgow side are presently enjoying a transitional season, having adopted a policy of bringing youth to the fore. This has resulted in them sitting in fourth position in the table, having won 6 of the 10 games that they have played. This could be considered to be a good return, given the relative youth of the team and Clydesdale are to be congratulated for putting their faith in their young players.

That is not to say that there is no experience in the Glasgow team. Foremost in their eleven is ex-Greenock player, Richie Berrington, who is rightly seen as one of the very best players in Scotland. Fortunately for Greenock, Berrington will not be playing this Saturday as he is currently playing in the Canadian T20 Competition with a number of his international colleagues, along with some of the best-known players in world cricket, such as Chris Gayle and Kane Williamson.

Also missing from the Clydesdale line-up will be Angus Guy whom many observers believe has a very bright future ahead of him. Guy is the captain of the Scotland Under-19 team which is presently in the Netherlands as it prepares to take part in the World Under-19 Cup Qualifying competition. With him is Daniel Cairns, another one of Clydesdale's complement of exciting young talent.

It could be said therefore that this is a good time to be playing Clydesdale but Greenock would be wise not to be complacent in their attitude, despite these high-profile absences. There are still a number of fine cricketers in the Clydesdale line-up, such as Zeeshan Bashir and Kasim Farid, who are experienced Premier Division cricketers and a newcomer to the team, Umar Razaq, had a very strong game last weekend against East Kilbride.

If Clydesdale will not be at full strength on Saturday, then so, unfortunately, Greenock will be too. Definitely missing are the Club's leading amateur all-rounders, Neil Flack and Jonathan Hempsey. The former is still struggling with his knee ligament problem, incurred when celebrating the dismissal of the West of Scotland professional two weeks ago, and there is every possibility that he will miss the rest of the season, which if that happens will be a grievous loss to the team.

Jonathan Hempsey has indicated that he too will be out for the rest of the season due to availability issues and his absence will also be keenly felt. Jack Griffiths is another who will not play on Saturday due to work commitments while both Chris Hempsey and Shailesh Prabhu are doubtful, again due to work pressures, although it is hoped that at least one of them will play.

All of this means that Greenock will also be fielding a youthful team on Saturday and inevitably a lot will rest on the shoulders of Saurabh Bandekar. So far this season he has stood up manfully to the task and has scored almost 200 runs more than anyone else in the Premier Division with 583 runs at an average of 64.78 while he is second in the wicket-taking table with 27 victims. He has also taken more catches (8) than any other outfielder so it is obvious just what an important job he has done for the team.

However, he cannot do it all himself and he will need as much support as possible from his team-mates on Saturday. Titwood is normally a fine batting pitch and that being the case, then Zac Barrenechea for one could find conditions favourable. He has threatened all season but has tended to get out when seemingly set for a big score. This Saturday would be a good time to change that.

A lot will also rest on the shoulders of the support bowlers. Young Sean Fischer-Keogh has looked good at times this season and it is hoped that his time with the Scottish Under-17 squad in Cumbria this week will stand him in good stead. The Pandher brothers and Sam Sanghera will also be counted on to keep the Clydesdale batting in check.

Greenock currently sit in eight place in the table and while there is a bit of gap between them and ninth-placed Drumpellier, they are by no means clear of the danger of relegation. It is likely that at least one more win from the remaining five games will be needed to guarantee safety.

The game at Titwood will start at the usual time of 12 noon. For the reasons stated above, the team selection will be a last-minute affair.

The Glenpark XI are at home on Saturday to local rivals Inverclyde and will look to resume their winning ways after last Saturday's defeat to league leaders, Kirkstyle. This game will undoubtedly be keenly contested as both sides vie for the local bragging rights. The Glenpark team selection will clearly be dependent on the team that eventually takes the field for the 1st XI. The match will start at 1pm.

The Hillend XI play Renfrew on Sunday at Glenpark in a friendly match that will start at 1pm.


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