Greenock face league leaders on Saturday


The Premier Division moves into its last quarter this Saturday and teams at the top and bottom of the league table are entering the crunch period of the season.

For Greenock and their opponents on Saturday, Uddingston, the priorities could not be more different. Uddingston are looking to win their first top league title since 1934, which was then the old Western District Cricket Union, while Greenock are seeking to ensure that they retain their Premier Division status.

Both clubs were among the original members of the Union. Greenock were joint champions along with Clydesdale in its first season in 1893 and have won the title on eighteen occasions while Uddingston were very strong in the first part of last century winning the title fifteen times up to and including 1934, but not since then.

This Saturday, another title win will not be in the Greenock team's thoughts, but rather the focus will be on gaining a fourth Premier Division win, and adding some further distance between themselves and Drumpellier and East Kilbride who occupy the two relegation positions.

The Glenpark side will be without some of its most experienced players in this final phase. Neil Flack is out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury sustained against West of Scotland three weeks ago and also out for the remaining matches is Jonathan Hempsey. Work commitments are likely to cause some further absences including Chris Hempsey this weekend and some others in the remaining few weeks.

But the local side is fortunate in being able to call upon some of its up and coming young players as well as some of its more experienced players who regularly turn out for the 2nd XI, to fill the spaces which will be vacant in these last few weeks.

Key for Greenock in these final four matches will be Indian professional Saurabh Bandekar. He has had an outstanding season for the team and currently is the leading run scorer in the Premier Division with 583 which is 200 runs more than Fazal Jawad of Prestwick in second place. Bandekar is also the second top wicket-taker with 27 wickets to his credit.

But for the local side to be successful in the games still to be played, runs and wickets must come from others too. Sean Fischer-Keogh, Greenock's latest young Scotland internationalist who is in his second season as a regular 1st XI player, will likely play an important part in the bowling attack. He has developed well in the last year and is now a very pacey bowler who has troubled a number of sides this season. He could join Bandekar as his opening bowling partner.

And Chirag Pandher has shown that he can fill the bowling gap left by Neil Flack's injury absence, while Sam Sanghera, Greg McDougall and young Cammy Calder from the 2nd XI could be others to make up the bowling attack this Saturday.

Run-scoring has been Greenock's achilles heal in a number of games and having a stable, regular opening pairing to get the innings under way has been all but absent throughout the season and it may be an issue once again this weekend depending on availability of certain players whose work commitments are still to be confirmed.

Aussie amateur Zac Barranechea has been opening bat in every league match but has had five different partners in the eleven matches played to date. Against Uddingston on Saturday, Greenock are hoping to have Shailesh Prabhu available to join Barranechea for a fourth time this season, and if the experienced former 1st XI captain and the Aussie amateur can get the innings off to a solid start, then the others can build on it. And if Saurabh Bandekar can continue his excellent form then Greenock will very definitely be in the game against the league leaders.

Greenock's form has shown significant improvement in the second half of the season, and reflects the positive influence on the team's performances by former 1st XI player Phil McIntosh who has stepped up as Team Coach. His experience has been of great value as the team has fought its way out of the relegation positions and will continue to be a major influence in the last few weeks of the season.

Saturday's opponents, Uddingston, have been at the top of the Premier Division from day one of the 2019 season, and have lost only one match, which was against West of Scotland in early June, when they went down by just four runs in a DLS adjusted, weather interrupted match.

Uddingston have had their side strengthened by the arrival of a number of new players this season. Anwar Hafeez, opening batsman from Ayr, Niall Alexander from Dumfries and Abdul Sabri from Glenrothes have all made impact within the Lanarkshire team. Alexander and Sabri have teamed up as Uddingston's regular opening bowling partnership.

Another key player in their side is former Greenockian Ross Lyons. A left-handed batsman and a slow left-arm orthodox spin bowler, Lyons made his debut for the Scottish senior international team in 2005 and played 61 times for Scotland in all formats, including 25 One Day Internationals.

Now aged 33, Lyons joined Uddingston in April 2017 following a spell with East Kilbride where he was their Player of the Year in 2016. He is a player who is well known to the Greenock side and his performances with both bat and ball could well have a very important bearing upon the outcome of the game on Saturday.

Others in the Uddingston side who Greenock will need to keep in check include team captain Bryan Clarke, Amir Gul, Mo Awais and Harmanjit 'Harry' Singh.

So this Saturday's match against Uddingston is a big deal for both teams. But for Greenock, a win will give them the opportunity to move some further distance away from the two bottom relegation placings, and possibly also a move up the Premier Division league table, depending on the result of the match between Poloc and Stirling County.

Greenock's team for the match, which will start at 12 noon at Glenpark, will be dependent on some late availability decisions but whatever the selection, the players will know that only their best will do against the strong Uddingston outfit.

The Glenpark XI have no game this Saturday as their intended opponents, Bute County, have been withdrawn from the league.

The Hillend XI play a West of Scotland Development XI on Sunday at Glenpark in a friendly match that will start at 1pm.


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