1st XI unable to overcome Stirling in key fixture

Greenock 1st XI v Stirling County
WDCU Premiership One
Saturday 17th June 2023

Stirling County 252 M Khol 81, M Malik 78; GM Chambers 4 for 48
Greenock 1st XI 174 LC Fischer-Keogh 35; M Tweedie 3 for 36

DLS Par Score 234 in 44 overs


The 1st XI met fourth bottom Stirling County at Glenpark on Saturday in a Western Premiership One league game which had been billed as a 'must win' match for the local side. However, a second league win of the season was unable to be pulled off as they slipped to a 60 run defeat (DLS). It was another disappointing day at Glenpark.

The win hoisted County up to sixth top position but left the 1st XI firmly stuck at the bottom of the league table.

As is often the case, the pre-match toss of the coin had an important bearing on the play to follow. And on a warm afternoon, with Glenpark in splendid condition offering a hard, dry wicket and a fast outfield, both sides would have hoped to bat first.

Stirling, having won the toss the previous Saturday, had an excellent, high scoring win against Prestwick. And once again Matt Tweedie, the Stirling captain got the decision he wanted and immediately chose to bat.

However, the afternoon did not immediately go well for Tweedie. With just the second ball of the match he got an edge of his bat to a fast delivery from Gregor Chambers and a good catch was taken by Lukas Fischer-Keogh behind the stumps.

The early dismissal of Tweedie was right at the top of the team's gameplan. And with his 151 run opening partnership partner from the Prestwick game, Amir Shahzad, not playing at Glenpark, they had made a most promising start to the match.

But Stirling quickly showed that they could score well without the contributions of their regular top two batsmen, while the bowling was unable to capitalise on the early breakthrough.

South African overseas amateur Mornay Kohl, who had failed to make an impact in any of the previous league matches, was promoted to open with Tweedie and he soon found the Glenpark conditions and the bowling to his liking.

In a second wicket partnership of 52 runs with South African compatriot Deon Dupreez, Kohl hit five boundaries which boosted his confidence. The partnership was broken when Rahul Dalal came on to bowl in the tenth over and Dupreez was trapped LBW with just the third ball of the over.

If the second wicket partnership had settled County after the early dismissal of Tweedie, the third wicket partnership between Kohl and Manav Malik put the Stirlingshire side firmly in the driving seat.

The pair put on 113 runs in just 18 overs with Kohl racing to 81 from just 78 balls and taking his tally of boundaries to ten. But the young South African fell to a good catch by Gregor Chambers off the first ball of the 28th over with the score on 165.

Just eight balls later and a fourth wicket was captured when Rahul Dalal was reintroduced to the bowling attack for a second spell and new batsman Ollie Jones (2) was bowled.

With twenty two overs still remaining in their innings, Stirling were well placed to continue and take their total to at least 250 and that is what they did thanks to a fine innings from Manav Malik.

The number four batsman, enjoying his best innings of the season, had made 78 and had just hit Tom Polkinghorne for a boundary when he attempted a repeat shot only to be out to a good catch by Tom Forrest.

Malik departed with the Stirling score on 230 for 6 at the end of the 40th over and after his removal the run scoring slowed significantly.

Opening bowler Gregor Chambers was brought back with six overs of the County innings remaining and he quickly cleaned up most of the tail end wickets in a three over spell in which he collected 3 wickets for just 9 runs and finished with stats of 4 wickets for 48 runs from his ten overs.

Set a score of 253 to win, the team opened with Tom Polkinghorne and Harry Briggs and made the best start to a league innings so far this season. Forty six runs were scored from the first eleven overs and the team were looking good. But then in the space of just eleven balls being bowled, the side lost three wickets and the game altered hugely.

First Polkinghorne (16) was caught off the bowling of Zeeshan Sami. Then with no further runs scored Briggs was bowled by Stirling's second South African amateur Rowan Bailey's very first ball. And with the last ball of the same over new batsman Gregor Chambers was dismissed without scoring.

The score had moved from 46 without loss to 52 for 3.

A lot now rested on the shoulders of professional Rahul Dalal and the highly rated youngster Lukas Fischer-Keogh. To stay in the game, this pairing needed to stay together and build a big partnership.

But just six overs later with Dalal scoring quickly and looking set for another big score after his three centuries in four games, Stirling got the prized wicket of the pro when he was caught by wicketkeeper Malik off the bowling of Tweedie for 27.

A rain interruption earlier in the innings had reduced the number of overs to be bowled to 44 and the revised Duckworth Lewis Stern (DLS) target to 234, so the remaining batsmen then needed to score a further 149 from 25 overs. A not impossible task but perhaps an improbable one. And so it turned out.

Fischer-Keogh batted well and top scored with 35 runs from 45 balls faced before being the seventh wicket down when he was run out with the home score on 143 on the last ball of the 29th over.

The innings lasted only a further seven overs before being all out for 174. Teenager Usman Mansoor made his highest 1st XI score of 22 before getting an edge and being out caught in the gully off the bowling of Banks.

Six players who got into double figures but none was able to go on and score the really big innings which would have been required for the team to get the win which was so badly needed.

Next Saturday's match against second bottom Uddingston will mark the mid-point in the Premiership One league programme. A change in fortune must come quickly if the team are to find a way to climb to safety.