Greenock's losing streak continues

Poloc vs Greenock 1st XI
WDCU CSL Premier Division
Saturday 22nd June 2019

Greenock 1st XI 178 S Bandekar 69; H Zaker 3 for 25, L James 3 for 30
Poloc 179 for 8 K Sajjad 77, A Howard 46; ND Flack 4 for 29


The WDCU Premier Division reached its halfway point on Saturday and after a topsy-turvy game at Shawholm, Greenock find themselves stuck in second-bottom place in the table, having lost all seven games played to date.

That bald statistic does not begin to tell even half the story of a season where Greenock have contrived to throw away winning positions in the majority of games that they have played. Saturday was no exception to this as having recovered from a somewhat perilous position of 74 for 4 to reach 178 all out, they then had Poloc in all sorts of trouble at 41 for 5 only for the Glasgow side's sixth wicket to put on 130 to secure the victory.

Saurabh Bandekar called correctly at the toss and elected to bat first on what looked to be a good pitch. Neil Flack and Zac Barrenechea made a steady start but with the score on 25, Flack fell, caught by Poloc's overseas amateur Abdul-Raoof Howard off the bowling of Kess Sajjad - what an influence on the game these two would have later on - for just 5.

Barrenechea was joined by his captain and together they moved the score along quite steadily until the former was dismissed lbw for 24 to the bowling of Lewis James. 67 for 2.

Worse was to follow as James quickly captured the wickets of Rod Mountford (1) and Jonathan Hempsey (0), caught of disappointing shots, to leave Greenock in some difficulty at 74 for 4. Sehmet Pandher was next in and he decided to take the attack to Poloc. Two sixes quickly ensued off his bat but this couldn't continue and he too perished to a catch by Kess Sajjad off the slow left-hand bowling of Zaker, having scored a brisk 14. 94 for 5.

Chris Hempsey was next to the crease and he made it his job to stay with Bandekar. At the halfway point of the innings, the score had reached 110 for 5. Bandekar was doing virtually all the scoring but Hempsey's contribution, which may look limited in the scorebook, was absolutely invaluable. When he was finally dismissed, bowled by Arfat, the score had moved on to 143. Hempsey had scored just 7, having faced 80 balls.

Sam Sanghera and Bandekar then combined for a further 21 runs, before the professional finally fell for a fine 69, scored off 82 balls (just 2 more than those faced by Chris Hempsey!) and containing 10 boundaries. He was caught by Young off the bowling of Ngoepe, Poloc's South African professional and Ngoepe captured a second wicket when he had Sanghera caught behind by Saif Sajjad for 13. Sean Fischer-Keogh was bowled for 6 and Ewan Stewart was caught for zero, both off Zaker as Greenock's innings subsided to 178 all out.

Once again, Greenock had failed to bat out their overs. Perhaps if another 10 runs or so had been garnered off the final two overs, that might have made all the difference at the end of the game but of course that is pure conjecture.

Greenock would have been happy to reach 178 given where they stood at one point in their innings but there would have been a feeling that they were possibly 20 or 30 runs short of a winning total. For Poloc, Zaker took 3 for 25, James 3 for 30 and Ngoepe 2 for 22 off his 10 overs.

Greenock opened their attack with the pace of Bandekar at one end and the slow bowling of Neil Flack at the other. The pair made immediate inroads into the Poloc top order. Opener Ramzan was the first to go, trapped lbw by Flack without scoring. The other Poloc opener, Dar, started positively but on 22, he was caught by Barrenechea off Bandekar's bowling to leave Poloc at 24 for 2.

Flack then trapped Poloc skipper, Craig Young, in front for another duck in the 10th over, Saif Sajjad was bowled for 2 in the twelfth over by Flack and the spinner captured the prize wicket of professional Ngoepe, caught by Jonathan Hempsey for 9. Poloc were 41 for 5 in the 14th over and Greenock were completely on top.

Poloc's overseas amateur, Howard was joined at the crease by Kess Sajjad and they began a salvage job. Flack finished his spell with no more victims, his analysis a splendid 4 for 29 in 10 overs. Bandekar kept himself back for 3 overs and brought on the Greenock change bowlers.

Unfortunately for Greenock, Jonathan Hempsey was still not fully fit and could only bowl 4 overs and Sam Sanghera was suffering with a back injury and his introduction into the attack was delayed. Poloc's sixth wicket pair gradually got on top of the bowling and the score mounted. After 20 overs it had reached 69. Ten further overs and it was now 118 and when the 35th over ended, Poloc were 147 for 5 and the momentum had changed completely.

Eventually, Sanghera was brought on and he immediately broke the partnership, having Howard caught by Bandekar for a fine 46. The pair had put on 130, giving only one difficult chance, and they had turned the game on its head. Sean Fischer-Keogh then had Sajjad caught by Bandekar four runs later for 77 and when Armour was lbw to Sanghera at the same score, Greenock had a glimmer of a chance.

Poloc needed 4 to win with just two wickets left but there was to be no fairy-tale ending for Greenock as Arfat knocked off the necessary runs for the win.

Disappointment for Greenock and they will rue yet again a winning position being given up. Credit must be given that they continued to fight to the end and heads didn't drop but the fact remains that team is now in a perilous position in the table.

Next Saturday they play East Kilbride, who sit at the foot of the table and like Greenock have yet to win a game this season. To say that this is a vital match would be an under-statement and Greenock quite simply must win this game to have any chance of retaining their place in the top division.