AFTER two consecutive home matches, Greenock are back on the road to play Stirling County at their New Williamfield ground.
Matches between Greenock and Stirling have tended to be quite high-scoring affairs in recent years with Greenock gaining the upper hand in most of these encounters.
But County have made a good start to the 2021 Premier Division season with three wins from the five matches which they have completed, and are looking very competitive this summer, while Greenock have only managed one win from six.
Stirling’s wins have been gained against sides lower in the league — Langside and Poloc — plus an exciting one-run victory over second-top Ferguslie. Both of their losses have been closely-contested matches. In the opening game of the season County lost out to Prestwick by 23 runs and last Saturday went down to West of Scotland by just 10 runs at Hamilton Crescent.
In all five matches, County have had a settled top three in their batting order and each has scored well consistently. In particular, Harry Booker and young South African Brandon McMullen have been in fine form.
Booker has scored 184 runs in his five innings and McMullen 193 runs. Booker and Matthew Tweedie, who has himself racked up 137 runs, are the regular openers for Stirling and the pair have given their side a good start in all bar one of the matches played. McMullen is number three in their batting line up and he averages over 60 from the four most recent Premier Division matches.
The statistics clearly indicate that Greenock must remove these top three batsmen as early as possible or County are liable to build a very large score. Batting is the team strength.
As a bowling unit, Stirling regularly use six or seven bowlers in each match. Akram Shakoor and McMullen spearhead their attack and between them they have a tally of 18 wickets from the five Premier Division games to date.
Others likely to bowl will be Paul Bielby, Tom Jones, Harry Booker, Euan Smith and Sri Lankan, Rukman Hewage. Of these, only Hewage and Jones have gained a three-wicket haul in a game so far.
Greenock will be keen to continue their good form of recent years against County and will take confidence from the win against West of Scotland two weeks ago and look to notch up a second Premier Division win for this season.
But once again, the Glenpark side will have to do without leading run-scorer Neil Flack who has work commitments and is unavailable. However, Jamie Nowell does return and will fill one of the top-order batting positions, possibly alongside the experienced Shailesh Prabhu.
Harry Briggs has shown good form in recent matches at number three in the batting order and he will likely continue in that position with Gregor Chambers coming in at number four.
If these players at the top of the order for Greenock can settle in and build good partnerships then the Glenpark team will be very much in the game at New Williamfield on Saturday.
Harry Weld-Forester is back in the side for the game at Stirling. He is a capable middle-order batsman who played state level cricket during his stay in Zimbabwe and will be keen to get in amongst the runs against County.
And under-19 Scotland international Sean Fischer-Keogh, who is a frontline pace bowler, has shown that he is also capable of contributing with the bat, as his 32 at Dumfries just a few weeks ago clearly demonstrated.
But Fischer-Keogh is first and foremost the leader of Greenock’s bowling attack and, along with Gregor Chambers, will provide a challenging opening spell of pace bowling for the Stirling top order batsmen. Between them they have collected 19 wickets from the Premier Division matches played this season plus another ten from other competitive matches.
Compared with County, who have a significant number of bowling options, Greenock are much more limited, and so team captain Greg McDougall will think carefully how he can make best use of the bowlers he has in his side.
The most likely supporting bowlers for Fischer-Keogh and Chambers will be Jamie Nowell, Harry Briggs and McDougall himself with further options possibly provided by Usman Mansoor, Aryan Sanghera or Ewan Stewart depending on who is moved up from the Glenpark XI.
Greenock’s team for the match, which will start at noon, will be from: GJ McDougall (capt), HR Briggs, GM Chambers, LC Fischer-Keogh, SK Fischer-Keogh, H Weld-Forester, CJK Hempsey, U Mansoor, J Nowell, SS Prabhu, A Sanghera, E Stewart. Scorer: R McGregor.
The Greenock 2ndXI (Glenpark) play Glasgow Accies 2nd XI (Anniesland) on Saturday. The team for the Division Three league game at Glenpark with a 1pm start is likely to be from: J Hutchinson (capt), M Ahmad, PJ Bryceland, A Caskie, S Chaudhary, P Hempsey, J Janampally, U Mansoor, E Norris, C Prabhu, PE Robertson, N Stanton, E Stewart.
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