Greenock need to keep winning run going at Hillhead

Greenock travel to the west end of Glasgow on Saturday to play Hillhead at their Hughenden ground near to Great Western Road. The team will be keen to continue the good form of this season which has taken them to second top spot in the Western District Cricket Union (WDCU) First Division as the halfway mark in the league programme approaches.

With five wins from the six league matches completed, the Glenpark team is on track to make a quick return to the Premier Division. The only loss so far was to league leaders Stenhousemuir at the end of May. That was a game which Greenock will look back at and recognise that they had the opportunity to win but ended up fourteen runs short.

The Larbert side have a fine 100% record including wins over both Greenock and Kilmarnock who are their nearest rivals at the top of the table. Only Greenock have given them any problems in the first half of the season and the Larbert side seem odds on favourites to be one of the two teams who will gain promotion to the Premier Division.

If form is anything to go by, Greenock should be able to return back down the M8 on Saturday evening with a win and so retain their second top position in the First Division. Hillhead have won only a single match out of seven played in the league to date. That win came in round five of the league programme at the end of May against Poloc who are currently in third bottom position.

Despite Hillhead's lowly position, New Zealander Ben Ward occupies the fourth top position in the First Division batting statistics. He has scored 234 runs at an average of 39 runs per innings with his highest score being 81 against Kilmarnock in mid-May.

Ward has been the Hughenden club's most consistent player and has been promoted from mid-order to be the side's opening batsman in the last five league matches. But he has had four different opening partners in that time as the team's line-up has shown constant change.

While Ward may be Greenock's main target, Hasan Azhar, James Lindley-Dawe, Jack Holland and Ross Jones have all shown ability with the bat in the four most recent matches. And although only winning one of these matches, Hillhead have scored more than 150 runs in each one.

The Glasgow side's bowling attack like its batting line-up has had little consistency over recent weeks and is perhaps one of the least threatening in the league. In the last two matches against Drumpellier and Stenhousemuir a total of only eight wickets have been captured from 91 overs bowled and with 351 runs conceded.

Greenock will need to ensure that its team is fully focused in order to bring back the points. And the team to play Hillhead will be without Jamie Nowell, Shailesh Prabhu, Aryan Sanghera, and Chris Hempsey all of whom are unavailable this weekend. But back into the side come Lukas Fischer-Keogh and Cammy Calder.

With Nowell missing it is likely that Harry Briggs will move up a place in the batting order and open alongside Tom Nicholson and these two will be followed by Gregor Chambers and Ryan Walker. If their good form continues then another sound platform can be produced from which the lower middle order of Fischer-Keogh, Calder and Greg McDougall can capitalise.

Nicholson scored his second century of the league season last Saturday in the win over GHK at Glenpark and was well supported by Harry Briggs and Ryan Walker who both scored into the sixties. A repeat along these lines at Hughenden on Saturday afternoon will produce a total which will be challenging for Hillhead.

And Greenock's bowling attack has been a huge strength in the team's success so far this season. In the six matches completed, each opposition has been bowled out within 40 overs whether batting first or chasing Greenock's total. The highest total achieved against Greenock was the 156 scored by league leaders Stenhousemuir and that apart the 141 scored by GHK last Saturday was the only other innings which was higher than 130.

Gregor Chambers will lead the Greenock attack alongside team captain Greg McDougall and they will be followed by Ryan Walker and Tom Nicholson. The latter two have both been tearing apart opposition batsmen in the matches played. Walker is the First Division's top wicket-taker with 28 wickets and Nicholson is in fourth position with 17 wickets.

Also available to bowl if needed will be Cammy Calder and Ewan Stewart each of whom has a growing experience bowling in 1st XI matches.

On paper, the team that Greenock will field should be too strong for Hillhead but matches are not won on paper and the Glasgow side will be going all out to win and move out of the relegation zone. The Glenparkers must produce another good all round performance to ensure their winning form continues.

The match on Saturday at Hughenden will start at the usual time of 12 noon.

The Glenpark XI are still looking for their first league win of the season and will be hoping to do so against Galloway 2nd XI who are faced with the long trek up to Glenpark for the game on Saturday. Again, availability is a concern with so many missing from the 1st XI. Whoever takes over the skipper's role for the game, with Jayaraj Janampally promoted to the 1st XI, that person will be hoping that the selected eleven are able to capture the win points for the first time.


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