GREENOCK begin the second half of the Premier Division league programme on Saturday afternoon with a trip to Lanarkshire to play bottom team East Kilbride.
It is a match which Greenock must win to keep hope alive of retaining their status in the top division. The local side has failed to win a single game in the first half of the league season.
It is not all doom and gloom as the Glenpark side has shown that it has the ability to compete well and has got into several winning positions, but on each occasion has managed to ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory’ and so currently lies second bottom in the league table. Losing has become a habit and the time has now arrived for the team to learn how to win once again.
A key player to kick-start this revival will be Saurabh Bandekar, Greenock’s Indian professional. He has been the Glenpark side’s most consistent performer with both bat and ball. He is the top run scorer in the Premier Division with 283 runs at an average of 40.43 runs per innings. His top score has been 84 against Prestwick. He is also the second top wicket-taker in the Premier Division with 21 wickets so far at an average 9.24 runs per wicket. His best figures of 6 wickets for 28 runs came against West of Scotland.
But clearly, Bandekar needs to be better supported by others in the team in order for results to improve. And there are numerous players who have the abilities to provide that support but whose form so far this season has been less consistent than in past seasons.
Neil Flack is one such player. He is a talented all-rounder but has only shown some glimpses of the form of which he is capable. His form has been gaining some momentum in recent matches. Last Saturday at Poloc, Flack returned his best bowling figures of the season with 4 wickets for 29 runs and, in the last few weeks, he has scored 42 against top Edinburgh side Grange in the Scottish Cup and 37 against Stirling County. A continuation of that sort of form will be good for his confidence and a real boost for the team.
Jonathan Hempsey is another player to whom the team will look for some contributions in the weeks ahead. He is an important bowler and should have a key role at East Kilbride, if fit. He has been hampered by injury in recent weeks but looks likely to play on Saturday. He can also score valuable runs and has a top score in his Premier Division career of 76 but needs to play himself in more carefully when he goes in to bat if he is to build innings of any significance.
Australian amateur Zac Barrenechea has proved to be a more than useful wicket-keeper. He is also a top order batsman with potential to score significant runs and, while he has had a few decent starts to the innings which he has played in the league, he has not yet gone on to score a fifty. Perhaps the warm sunshine this week will bring out the best in his batting on Saturday.
A player who has been showing some good form is another Aussie, Rod Mountford. Normally a lower, middle order batsman, Mountford has had a few good knocks in recent weeks and in midweek scored 40 against Ayr at New Cambusdoon.
Back into the side for this Saturday are Greg McDougall and Shailesh Prabhu who are both experienced 1st XI players but who have missed recent matches because of injury and work commitments. But out for the next couple of weeks is Sehmat Pandher.
This Saturday’s opponents, East Kilbride, have also failed to win any league matches so far this season and Greenock must ensure that the Lanarkshire team’s record continues. Out of the nine matches scheduled in the first half of the Premier Division programme, East Kilbride have only managed to complete four because of the poor weather which has affected the west of Scotland, but the team has had success in the midweek cup competitions.
In the McCulloch Cup, East Kilbride qualified for the quarter-final stage with three wins out of six matches and also progressed through the opening round of the Rowan Cup.
Greenock’s team for the match against East Kilbride, which will start at noon at Torrance House, East Kilbride, is likely to be from: S Bandekar, Z Barrenechea, S Fischer-Keogh, ND Flack, JPC Hempsey, CJK Hempsey, GJ McDougall, RP Mountford, CS Pandher, SS Prabhu, SS Sanghera, E Stewart. Scorer: R McGregor
Greenock’s 2ndXI (Glenpark) have a match against Glasgow South at Glenpark on Saturday afternoon which will start at 1pm. The likely team will be from: K Flack, H Briggs, A Caskie, P Caskie, M Farrell, L Fischer-Keogh, T Forrest, P Hempsey, J Hutchinson, J Nowell, A Sanghera, D Sharma.
In midweek, Greenock lost to Ayr in the quarter final of the McCulloch Cup at New Cambusdoon. Batting first, Greenock scored a very commendable 148 for the loss of just two wickets. However, thanks to an unbeaten 86 from Andy McElnea, Ayr ran out winners.
Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored by Cleaning Supplies 4U