Greenock come so close to first league win

Greenock 1st XI vs Stirling County
WDCU CSL Premier Division
Saturday 15th June 2019

Stirling County 144 A Shahzad 50; S Bandekar 3 for 26
Greenock 1st XI 123 for 6 ND Flack 37, S Bandekar 30; A Shakoor 3 for 27

DLS par score was 129 in 26 overs



Another summer Saturday dawned to leaden skies and intermittent rain. The net effect of that was that Greenock's match with Stirling County at Glenpark was unable to start on time, the wet state of the square in particular causing concern to the umpires. When play did eventually get underway at 3.30pm, the delay of over 3 hours meant that the game was reduced to one of 30 overs per side.

Stirling won the toss and elected to bat but Greenock made an early breakthrough when Sam Sanghera got a positive LBW decision from the umpire in the fourth over to dismiss the visitors' captain, Matt Tweedie for just 7 with the total on 9. Stirling's other opener, Shirish Shetty, was then joined by Amir Shahzad and these two began to get the scoreboard moving.

Shahzad did most of the scoring and he was especially severe on young Sean Fischer-Keogh who had replaced Bandekar in the attack. With the bowlers limited to just 6 overs each, Bandekar, who has taken over the captaincy of the team from Neil Flack after he stood down to concentrate on his own performance, had to shepherd his bowling resources. Rod Mountford took over from Sanghera whilst Flack was brought on for Fischer-Keogh.

And it was Flack who captured the next wicket, inducing Shetty to give a catch to Rod Mountford with the score on 55. Tom Bradburn, the younger son of ex-Scottish coach, Grant Bradburn, joined Shahzad and these two continued to maintain a good scoring rate of around five per over.

When drinks were taken at the halfway stage of the Stirling innings, the score sitting at 73 for 2, Chris Hempsey took over the wicket-keeping duties from Zac Barrenechea. This allowed the latter to replace Flack in the attack and in his second over, he bowled Bradburn for 9. Better was to follow in the next over, the last of Mountford's allotted spell, when Shahzad fell leg before for a fine 50.

When Barrenechea obtained a similar decision to remove the dangerous Tom Jones without scoring, Stirling had slumped to 96 for 5 and Greenock had gained some momentum with just 9 overs left in the innings. To their credit, Stirling were able to eke out another 48 runs before they were all out in the 29th over.

Neil Flack claimed the wicket of ex-Greenock player, Louis Ware, bowled for 8, and Akash Rawal was run out just after this for 1. With the score on 116 for 7, Greenock would have been hopeful of ending the innings quickly but Rukman Hewage and Akram Shakoor both scored 15 and saw the total up to 144. Bandekar claimed the last three wickets and ended with 3 for 26 in his 6 overs, although his last two overs went for 16, including an expensive 5 wides delivery. Neil Flack with 2 for 15 and Zac Barrenechea with 2 for 17 were the other chief wicket-takers while Rod Mountford took 3 catches.

With tea having been taken while the teams were waiting for the square to dry, play resumed after the ten minutes interval to roll and re-mark the pitch. Greenock's openers, Flack and Barrenechea, made a steady start but after 6.4 overs and with the score on 32 without loss, there was a brief rain shower which forced the players from the field.

Play restarted some 18 minutes later but the interruption resulted in DLS being implemented as 4 overs play had been lost. Greenock's target to win was now 130 in 26 overs, which was well within their grasp.

With the score on 42, Barrenechea became the first wicket to fall when he was caught by Bradburn off the bowling of Shahzad for 19. Bandekar was next in and he and Flack made steady progress towards their target, maintaining a run rate that was close to what was required. They seemed to be setting a good platform for victory when Flack was dismissed in the 17th over, caught by Shahzad off Hewage for a fine 37, as he continued his return to form.

Rod Mountford was next man in and while he and Bandekar kept their wickets intact, crucially the run rate began to rise. Mountford was dismissed in the 23rd over, caught and bowled by Hewage for 13. 22 runs were required for victory with 18 balls remaining.

Stirling now brought back their opening bowler, Akram Shakoor, and this was the decisive moment in the game. It was clear that Greenock's hopes of victory required Saurabh Bandekar to be there at the end but the second ball of Shakoor's spell saw him trap the Indian in front for 30. Chirag Pandher was bowled off the last ball of the over and the equation was now 19 runs off 12 balls.

Chris Hempsey and Sam Sanghera took 8 of the penultimate over which meant it was 10 for a tie and 11 for the win off the last over. Unfortunately for Greenock, Shakoor's second ball saw Hempsey bowled for 8 and the winning runs could not be found off the remainder of the over.

Not for the first time this season, Greenock came up just short with the batting not strong enough to claim the win. In fairness, the team was lacking the services of Shailesh Prabhu, Jonathan Hempsey, Sehmat Pandher and Greg McDougall and the loss of such experience was undoubtedly telling.

The one consolation to be taken from the loss was the gain of the full 9 bonus points but even these were not enough to see Greenock out of the relegation area. Currently they sit in 9th position, ahead of East Kilbride and just behind Drumpellier and it does look as if the two sides to go down will come from these three, as Stirling and Poloc have now put some daylight between themselves and them.

Next week sees Greenock travel to Shawholm to take on Poloc, still searching for that elusive first win. Hopefully some of those missing from this week's game will be available but whichever eleven players take the field they need to remain positive and believe that their luck will turn.