Greenock stumble in promotion race

GHK vs Greenock 1st XI
WDCU CSL First Division
Saturday 30th August 2022

Greenock 1st XI 220 for 9 RA Walker 38, SS Prabhu 34
GHK 221 for 5 A Izaz 75*, A Rafiq 75; GM Chambers 4 for 37


Greenock's promotion hopes received a major dent on Saturday when the team lost by five wickets to bottom side GHK through at Stirling. The loss may not be fatal, however, as third top Kilmarnock lost heavily to league leaders, and now champions, Stenhousemuir.

The results mean that it is all to play for next Saturday for the second promotion place. Greenock are at home to third bottom Hillhead while Kilmarnock are at home to fourth top Drumpellier.

Both teams have now lost three matches in the league but thanks to a greater number of bonus points, Greenock are currently ahead of Kilmarnock, having 83.2% points to Killie's 80.53% points. So a win for Greenock will ensure Premier Division cricket in Summer 2023.

Saturday's match against GHK was played at Stirling County's New Williamfield ground as Old Anniesland was unavailable due to the start of the rugby season. A delayed start and a short rain interruption reduced the match to 48 overs per side.

Greenock won the toss and chose to bat, but the innings started badly. Inside the first four overs GHK had removed both of Greenock's opening batsmen. First to go was high scoring Aussie amateur Tom Nicholson who edged a delivery from Iqbal and presented a straightforward catch to wicketkeeper Nadeem. That was the first ball of the second over and he had not got off the mark.

Second to be returned to the clubhouse was Jamie Nowell. He was bowled by Ihsan with the last ball of the fourth over having scored just one run and Greenock were reeling on 5 runs for the loss of 2 wickets.

A partnership of 37 runs for the third wicket gradually got Greenock into the game. But midway through the 15th over Lucas Fischer-Keogh was trapped LBW by Ahmad having scored 15.

Greenock's second Aussie amateur Ryan Walker was joined by Gregor Chambers and the pair moved the score on to 68 before Chambers (7) was bowled by Ahmad with the last ball of the 21st over.

A good partnership then seemed to be developing nicely between Walker and the experienced Shailesh Prabhu. Greenock's total had moved on to 93 midway through the innings when the drinks break was taken. But the break in play proved fatal for Greenock as Walker was removed with the first ball after the re-start.

GHK introduced Farzan Dar to their bowling attack and the move paid an immediate result. Dar bowled a loose ball on the leg side and Walker, looking to score a maximum six, only succeeded in falling to a good catch by Aziz Numan on the boundary. He had scored 38 and had been looking likely to make another high score following his century the previous Saturday.

Yet another decent partnership developed between Prabhu and Chris Hempsey which took the Greenock score on to 142. But for the third time in the innings, the last ball of an over resulted in a wicket. This time it was the wicket of Hempsey, bowled for 19 by Ihsan with the last ball of the 33rd over. The partnership had been worth 49 runs.

A further three wickets then fell, including Prabhu (34), as GHK reduced Greenock to 169 for the loss of 9 wickets at the end of the 40th over.

But Greenock's highest partnership of the afternoon (51 runs) was then scored by the last wicket pairing of Aryan Sanghera and Ewan Stewart. The two young players batted through unbeaten to the end of the innings to take Greenock to a very commendable total of 220 for the loss of 9 wickets. Sanghera was not out 29 with Stewart on 7.

So despite no single batsman making a big innings score, and various partnerships failing to really develop well, Greenock were reasonably satisfied that the total could be enough to bring the win required to secure promotion.

And when Greenock's opening pace bowler Gregor Chambers removed both Aziz Numan and Farzan Dar in the first two overs of his opening spell, most bets were on Greenock to be victors at the end of play.

The GHK score moved on 58 towards the end of the tenth over as the home side scored at a brisk pace. But opening bat Shakeel Ahmed (20) then became Greenock's third victim and all seemed to be going to plan.

But GHK's middle order pairing of Asad Izaz and Ahsan Rafiq quite quickly indicated that Greenock's total was seriously under threat.

The two batsmen soon became comfortable with the Greenock bowling and piled on the runs. In just 17 overs they built a partnership worth 113 runs to take their team to within fifty runs of victory and with 21 overs still to be bowled.

At that point Rafiq became Chambers' third victim as he returned for a second spell of bowling. Rafiq was caught having scored 75 runs from 63 balls. In his innings Rafiq had scored six boundaries and five maximum 'sixes' which demonstrated his aggressive and very productive approach.

Chambers then got his fourth and GHK's fifth wicket when he clean bowled Ihsan (3) with the score on 174.

There was still some hope that Greenock could find a way to break through the remainder of the GHK batting line-up to win despite the fact the home team needed just 47 more runs and had an abundance of overs to do so.

But with Chambers having completed his tenth and final over, the GHK batsmen safely negotiated the following eleven overs with Asad Izaz, Rafiq's century plus partnership team-mate, using his experience to take the side to victory.

Aziz was unbeaten on 75 with 9 boundaries and 2 'sixes' to his name when GHK gained the win in the 42nd over.

Gregor Chambers was Greenock's top bowler with 4 wickets for 37 runs from his ten overs.

It was an important win for GHK which moved them from bottom place to fourth from bottom which might yet see them remain in the First Division.

For Greenock, the result was a huge disappointment and leaves the team with all to play for next Saturday against Hillhead who, after Saturday's results, have now slipped into the relegation zone and need a win at Glenpark to survive in the First Division.