LAST Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Stirling County means Greenock are still seeking their first league win of the season.
Once again, their batting failed to capitalise on a strong showing by their bowling attack, an issue that has been a recurring theme this season. This Saturday, they travel to the south of Glasgow to take on Poloc at Shawholm.
Their opponents have started to show some form, having endured a difficult start to the season. Last weekend, they inflicted a comprehensive nine-wicket defeat on East Kilbride which condemned the Lanarkshire side to remain at the bottom of the league table, one place below Greenock. And the week before that, they defeated Drumpellier quite comfortably.
These two wins have resulted in Poloc climbing to seventh place in the table, putting some distance between them and the three sides below, East Kilbride, Greenock and Drumpellier.
The Poloc side has shown quite a change from that of previous years, with a number of young, promising players in their line-up, not least their two openers, Muhammad Dar and Amaan Ramzan, who both scored heavily against East Kilbride. However, they also possess experience in the shape of their captain, Craig Young, and their South African professional, Lesiba Ngoepe, who played for Aberdeenshire in 2018, and these two were the leading run scorers in the Drumpellier win.
Their leading wicket-takers have been their two recruits from Glenrothes, the well-travelled Mohammad Arafat and Zaighum Ahmed, while Ngoepe has also weighed in with some useful wickets. Poloc also have a young overseas amateur from South Africa, Abdur-Raoof Howard, in their ranks but a combination of poor weather and dominant batting displays from their top order have limited his chances to shine so far.
Greenock have not met with much success at Shawholm in recent years and last year they suffered one of their heaviest defeats on record when they went down by 277 runs after the Poloc professional Jurie Snyman hit 209 and Craig Young hit 128 not out.
This season has seen Greenock contrive to lose a number of games from seemingly certain winning situations and there has to be a sense that a win is just around the corner.
Greenock’s bowlers, led by professional Saurabh Bandekar, have done extremely well in most of the league games this year, restricting the opposition to achieveable scores but unfortunately the batting has failed to turn these performances into victories. Only Saurabh Bandekar has regularly batted with any great success and even he has shown a tendency to get out at the wrong time with the winning line in sight.
Neil Flack has suffered a difficult start to the season, so much so that he has decided to relinquish the captaincy to Bandekar, but there have been recent signs, against Grange in the Scottish Cup and last week against Stirling, of a welcome return to the form that everyone knows he is capable of.
In the six matches played this season, Greenock have batted second in all but one of them and their inability to chase down the opposition total, no matter how small, has been a telling factor. It may be no coincidence that their best batting display of the season came in the one game, against Prestwick, when they batted first, when there is less pressure on the batsmen.
Injuries and a lack of availability have hit the team hard all season. Last Saturday showed only too clearly how the team missed the experience of Shailesh Prabhu, Jonathan Hempsey and Greg McDougall.
There are a number of promising young players in the Greenock squad but it is asking a lot of them to make an impact against experienced players when they have played relatively little senior cricket.
The team for Saturday will be selected from the following squad: S Bandekar (Capt), ZJ Barrenechea, CS Calder, S Fischer-Keogh, ND Flack, CJK Hempsey, JPC Hempsey, RP Mountford, CS Pandher, SS Pandher, SS Sanghera, E Stewart.
The match at Shawholm will start at noon and the forecast for once looks quite promising.
Greenock’s 2nd XI -– the Glenpark XI -– are again without a league game this Saturday but a friendly match with Marress (Irvine’s 2nd XI) has been arranged at Glenpark with a 1pm start.
Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored by Cleaning Supplies 4U