GREENOCK play their Renfrewshire rivals, Ferguslie, at their Meikleriggs ground on Saturday for the second match of the 18-fixture Premier Division programme.
Last Saturday, the Glenpark side suffered an opening day loss to Langside while Ferguslie recorded a fine win at Hamilton Crescent against West of Scotland.
The Paisley club, which won the Premier Division title in 2018, is likely to field a team which shows a number of changes to the side which last played against Greenock back in 2019, pre-pandemic, but the changes only seem to have strengthened their play.
Against West, the Meikleriggs side batted first and scored 279 for the loss of just 5 wickets. Mo Ghaffar was the mainstay of the innings scoring exactly 100 runs. He was ably supported for long periods by Taimoor Ahmad (83) and David Stafford (63)
These three batsmen rescued Ferguslie following a shaky start which saw them lose the wickets of Gregor Preston-Jones and Riyaad Henry in the very early part of the innings with few runs on the board.
The third and fourth wicket partnerships set up the large innings score and set West a total which they never looked like being able to chase. West were all out for 112 after only 30 overs.
Taimoor Ahmad followed up his fine innings by collecting five wickets for just 20 runs to gain the accolade of ‘man of the match’ for the Paisley side. Haroon Tahir was another notable wicket-taker with 3 for 14 from six overs
So Ferguslie will be in confident mood for the match with Greenock and keen to remain top of the Premier Division if a second consecutive league win can be achieved.
A number of 2nd XI players are being drafted into the Greenock side as Harry Briggs, Cameron Calder, Jamie Nowell and Sam Sanghera are all unavailable.
Two of the top three from last weekend’s batting line-up will be missing and also two of the bowlers Glenpark captain, Greg McDougall could have called upon.
However Neil Flack is available and has made an impressive start to the season. Last Saturday against Langside he batted through the Greenock innings for an unbeaten 87 and followed that up on Sunday with 55 against top Edinburgh side, Carlton, in the Scottish Cup.
If Flack can produce another fine innings and be supported by others in the team, then Greenock can post a sizeable total. Gregor Chambers is one such player who could build a solid partnership with Flack. At Carlton, he batted well for 37 runs and was unlucky to be given out leg-before-wicket when a big innings beckoned.
Chris Hempsey and Shailesh Prabhu both have the experience and potential to stay at the crease and score valuable runs. On Saturday, Prabhu may be asked to return to opening the innings with Flack. He was for several seasons ‘inked in’ at the top of the order but more recently has come in to bat in the lower middle order. His experience as an opener may well find team captain McDougall calling upon him to join Flack to lead the innings.
The Fischer-Keogh brothers, Sean and Lukas, both have the ability to make runs but need to focus at the front end of their time out in the middle in order to get a start and build confidence. Both are in national / regional age group squads and receiving training and advice from top coaches which is benefitting their cricketing development.
With no professional or overseas amateur this year because of the pandemic restrictions, there is more pressure on the team’s home-grown players to step up and produce runs and wickets.
Sean Fischer-Keogh will lead the attack with his pace bowling and will likely be joined by Neil Flack with his left arm slower action. Flack picked up a couple of wickets in both matches last weekend and could be a potent threat against Ferguslie.
Gregor Chambers, as first change-bowler, also picked up two wickets in each of last weekend’s games and his medium / fast pace will trouble many batsmen this season. Other bowling options will likely include Greg McDougall and Dave Sharma.
Greenock’s team for Saturday’s Premier Division match in Paisley against Ferguslie, which will start at noon, looks likely to be: GJ McDougall (capt), GM Chambers, LC Fischer-Keogh, SK Fischer-Keogh, ND Flack, CJK Hempsey, J Janampally, SS Pandher, SS Prabhu, AS Sanghera, DC Sharma. Scorer: R McGregor.
The Greenock 2nd XI (Glenpark) also have a derby match on Saturday afternoon, as the team will welcome Inverclyde CC to Glenpark.
The following squad is available for the Division Three league game at Glenpark with a 1pm start: J Hutchinson, M Ahmad, S Chaudhary, M Farrell, P Hempsey, J MacNab, U Mansoor, E Norris, C Prabhu, PE Robertson, N Stanton, E Stewart.
Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored by Cleaning Supplies 4U