Greenock defeat the league leaders and go top of the table

Stenhousemuir vs Greenock 1st XI
WDCU CSL First Division
Saturday 30th July 2022

Stenhousemuir 95 RA Walker 4 for 23, TJ Nicholson 3 for 21
Greenock 1st XI 99 for 6 RA Walker 39*


Greenock took a huge step towards winning the First Division title and a return to the Premier Division at the first time of asking by defeating league leaders Stenhousemuir on their own patch on Saturday afternoon.

The result also laid to rest a ten year 'hoodoo' which the Stirlingshire club has had over Greenock. On the eight previous occasions in the last decade when the teams have met in league or cup competitions, Greenock have failed to win a single game.

But that all came to an end at The Tryst ground in Larbert on Saturday when Greenock won by four wickets to take over the leadership of the First Division. The win puts Greenock on 94% while previously undefeated Stenhousemuir slip back to 93.71%. So Greenock go top by just 0.29%.

With only four matches in the league programme still to be played, Greenock can be First Division champions if they remain unbeaten in the run-in through August.

Confidence will play a big part in the outcome and the Glenpark side should be in a good place after not just Saturday's result but following the manner in which the side as played throughout the season to date.

The league is a 50 overs-a-side competition and Greenock's bowling attack has dispatched every side, with the exception of Hillhead, within 40 overs and 156 is the highest score an opposition has made. Greenock's batting has also been strong with several scores of over 200 and one score over 300 when batting first, plus four very comprehensive wins when batting second.

A continuation of this form will make Greenock difficult to beat.

On Saturday, Stenhousemuir won the toss and chose to bat. Their openers, Streicher and Vaughan-Davies, made a steady start putting on 40 runs from the first fourteen overs. However, they found difficulty in getting much joy from pace bowler Gregor Chambers who had just seven runs scored from his seven overs.

The first bowling change at the start of the fifteenth over provided the breakthrough for Greenock. With just his third ball, Aussie amateur Tom Nicholson had Vaughan-Davies caught at deep mid-wicket by Harry Briggs. He had scored 17 runs and was lured into a fatal big hit by the Greenock off-spinner.

Ewan Stewart was also introduced into the Greenock attack as team captain Greg McDougall made a double bowling change and the 22 year old very quickly made a big impact on the match.

In his second over, he bowled South African amateur Emile Streicher for 20 runs and just two balls later he had Stenny's South African professional Danie Roussouw brilliantly caught on the boundary by Aryan Sanghera before he had scored a run.

Stewart's over in which he had both South Africans dismissed was a huge turning point in the match as it left the home side on 43 for 3 with their top three batsmen back in the clubhouse.

The dismissal of Roussouw was particularly important as he has been Stenhousemuir's key batsman during the season, having scored three centuries and accumulated almost 900 league runs.

Ryan Walker replaced Stewart in the 21st over and once again the bowling change quickly proved worthwhile. In just his second over, Walker held on to a return catch from Bermudan internationalist Dennico Hollis (8) to leave the Stirlingshire side reeling on 71 for 5.

And worse was to follow as the spin duo of Walker and Nicholson ran through the remainder of the Larbert side's batsmen. The last five wickets were captured with only 24 more runs added to the total as Stenhousemuir were bowled out for just 95 in the 32nd over.

Walker with 4 wickets for 23 runs and Nicholson with 3 for 21 were the top wicket-takers for Greenock. But Ewan Stewart's removal of both of Stenhousemuir's South African batsmen in the 18th over was undoubtedly the key to the rapid downfall of the league leaders.

With only 32 overs played, there was a quick turn round and Greenock began their innings after just a ten minute interval.

Tom Nicholson and Lucas Fischer-Keogh opened the innings for Greenock. It was clear from the first ball that Nicholson was constrained by the hamstring strain which he had picked up the previous weekend.

However the pair put on 34 runs before Nicholson was out having scored 22 runs. The Aussie attempted to hit the league's leading wicket-taker, Calum Grant, over the in-field only to find the safe hands of South African amateur Streicher.

Just three runs had been added when new batsman Harry Briggs became Grant's second victim, bowled without scoring.

The tea interval was taken at this point.

The loss of Briggs, who has been a consistently good scorer for the team in recent weeks, seemed to unsettle the team. And shortly after the re-start when Fischer-Keogh was out LBW for 10 to Nic Lister with the score showing 42 for the loss of 3 wickets in the 19th over, the pressure of the importance of the game seemed to bear down on the Greenock side.

Only Ryan Walker seemed capable of scoring off the Stenny bowling as the middle order of the Greenock batting line up disintegrated.

Lister clean bowled Gregor Chambers in the same over as he had removed Fischer-Keogh. Jamie Nowell was LBW to Praveen Pinnameneni in the 23rd over. Team captain Greg McDougall then fell to Pinnameneni with the last ball of the 25th over as he tried to force Indian off spinner through the on-side field only to be bowled.

All three of these middle order batsmen failed to score leaving Walker dis-believing as the wickets tumbled.

When McDougall was removed, the score had moved to 60 for the loss of 6 wickets. Only 36 runs were then needed to overtake the league leaders score, but Greenock only had 4 wickets remaining and nerves seemed to have got the better of some of the players

Fortunately for Greenock, the new batsman was experienced former team captain Jonathan Hempsey. He and Walker brought some calm to the situation in the overs that followed as they batted sensibly and chipped away at the runs needed for victory.

Their approach put the pressure on to the league leaders and their bowlers. In the 30th over two loose balls from Tippu Sultan were dispatched to the boundary by Hempsey which released some of the tension in the Greenock camp.

The momentum was now with the Glenpark side with only 23 runs needed to reach the winning line.

Hempsey and Walker continued to reduce the margin by picking up singles as the pressure increased on the home side. And when Hempsey hit two more boundaries, one off Pinnameneni and another off Sultan, only eight runs were needed for the win.

The scores were levelled when Walker scored three runs off Pinnameneni from the last ball of the 35th over. And it was fitting that the Aussie scored the winning runs when he smashed Sultan to the boundary with the third ball of the 36th over. Cue celebrations from the Greenock team and supporters.

Walker had held the Greenock innings together from the sixteenth over and was not out 39 while Hempsey was unbeaten on 21.