JUST two more weekends of cricket remain in this summer’s Premier Division and Greenock’s goal of retaining their place in the top league is still in the balance.
This Saturday, the Glenpark side travel to New Williamfield to play Stirling County knowing that a win will seal their place for another season. Last weekend — for the second time in three weeks and the third time this season — the full league programme was washed out by wet weather.
Weather has disrupted quite a number of weekends of cricket but Greenock has fared better than most other clubs with only four matches cancelled, while some others, including Stirling County have had as many as seven matches lost to poor weather.
Player availability has been an issue for Greenock for much of the season as injury and work commitments, in particular, have prevented any consistency of selection. And it is an issue once again this Saturday with several first team regulars unavailable.
Pro Saurabh Bandekar will lead the team and his contributions with both bat and ball are likely to be very important. Bandekar currently tops the Premier Division run-scoring and averages tables with 604 runs at an average of 60.4 which is almost 200 runs more than West of Scotland’s Rory Kleinveldt who is in second place. The Indian professional is also second in the bowling stats for most wickets taken with 29 wickets, just two behind Prestwick’s Sachin Chaudhary.
Scotland Under-17 pace bowler Sean Fischer-Keogh is another who could have a big say in the match. The youngster gained his first senior hat-trick a couple of weeks ago when he ripped through league leaders Uddingston’s batting line-up and finished with four wickets. Another such performance would be very welcome for the Glenpark side.
And Fischer-Keogh, who is Greenock’s latest internationalist, is likely to play alongside Greenock legend and former senior Scottish internationalist, Tom Black, who has made himself available to play in the last couple of matches after a number of seasons in retirement.
Black has played for Greenock 1st XI in each decade since the 1970s and has a remarkable playing record. He has taken 932 wickets and scored 19,182 runs in 979 matches played for the club, a record unlikely ever to be beaten. Black’s presence will be a boost for the team. He will almost certainly be asked to bat in the middle order where his experience and run-scoring record will hopefully provide a bit of strength to the batting line-up.
The former internationalist is unlikely to be called upon to bowl as Greenock have competed well in this area of the game for most of the season. Bandekar and Fischer-Keogh will provide a testing attack for County’s top order and they will be backed up by Sam Sanghera, Chirag Pandher, Greg McDougall and Sehmat Pandher.
County have had a very mixed season, much like Greenock, but have managed to gain four wins from the nine matches which they have completed. Twice they have beaten Poloc and just a few weeks ago they defeated Ferguslie at Meikleriggs. The other win was against Greenock in a weather-affected match at Glenpark in mid-June, when the local side scored 123 for 6 but just failed by six runs to reach the target of 129 from 26 overs when County had scored 144 all out from 28.5 overs.
The Ferguslie match apart, when County amassed 253 for 9, they have had only two other innings with more than 150 runs scored. No one batsman stands out as a consistent good scorer and this Saturday, Amir Shahzad, who scored 50 against Greenock at Glenpark, is unavailable. County are perhaps more dangerous in their bowling attack with Akram Shakoor, Tom Bradburn, Rukman Hewage and Tom Jones likely to be their main bowlers.
Stirling have no pressure going into Saturday’s match as they are in mid-table, safe from relegation and no involvement in the title race. Greenock, on the other hand, have their Premier Division status at stake and will be focused on gaining the all-important win which will ensure that they remain in the top league in 2020.
Greenock’s team for the match, which will start at noon, looks likely to be: S Bandekar, Z Barrenechea, TM Black, S Fischer-Keogh, L Fischer-Keogh, GJ McDougall, CS Pandher, SS Pandher, SS Prabhu, SS Sanghera, E Stewart. Scorer: R McGregor.
The Greenock 2nd XI (Glenpark) are at home to West of Scotland’s Hamilton Crescent XI on Saturday. The match will start at 1pm at Glenpark and the team will be from: Al Calder, PE Robertson, PJ Bryceland, Am Calder, M Farrell, T Forrest, G Kelly, L McCahill, E Norris, , C Prabhu, D Sharma, N Stanton.
At the top end of the league, the Premier Division title could be decided on Saturday when Uddingston and Prestwick meet at Bothwell Policies. If Uddingston win they will be champions.
Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored by Cleaning Supplies 4U
2019 Premier Division