WITH pre-season warm-up matches completed, this Saturday sees the beginning of meaningful cricket for Greenock with the first league match of the season. And it is a trip to Ayrshire to meet Prestwick at the Henry Thow Oval that opens the 18-match league programme.

The Glenpark side will be very keen to begin the 2015 league campaign with a win and this is a game which, in past years, Greenock would be favourites to come out on top. However, as fate would have it, having had most players available for the pre-season warm-up matches, a number of key 1st XI players are unavailable this weekend.

Rod Mountford and Ty Gilmore are both away on business, Harry Briggs and Chris Hempsey have injuries sustained from rugby, while Ben Peterson, Sam Sanghera and Dave Sharma are not available for 1st XI selection. Greenock must therefore rely on a core of their 1st XI squad to get the job done.

The safe arrival of the Glenpark side’s second overseas player Danico Philmon from South Africa today will be met with some relief, as it has been touch and go to get him to Greenock in time for the first league fixture. Obtaining the necessary visa has been a long and difficult road but news came through at the start of the week that all was in order and the South African could fly the 6,000-plus miles north to join his new team.

Philmon is a top order, left-hand wicketkeeper/batsman. He is a proven run scorer from the Western Cape in South Africa and made his provincial debut for Boland in the 2012-13 season.

Opponents Prestwick got the better of the matches played between the sides in 2014 and Greenock will be keen to improve on that statistic and make amends. To do so, the number one aim must be to get substantial runs on the board and to achieve this much will depend on the top order of the Glenpark team. Neil Flack has shown good early season form with two 50s to his name already and Shailesh Prabhu, the Greenock captain, has also had one of his best innings in recent seasons scoring 76 against Renfrew two weeks ago.

Philmon, obviously, is a player from whom Greenock will expect runs to flow and Australian amateur Blake Taylor, brought over as a pace bowler, has already shown he is a more than competent batsman with an unbeaten 136 last weekend against East Kilbride.

Others who can contribute to run-scoring tomorrow will include Aidan Forrest, who is developing into a very useful middle order batsman, Jonathan Hempsey, Greg McDougall and the highly-promising Louis Ware.

Due to the number of players unavailable this weekend, team coach Darren Walker will come into the side. The Australian’s experience as a former top professional player should be of great benefit to Greenock, albeit that he has not played for a number of years. Walker has brought a real enthusiasm to training since taking over as team coach and his playing skills and cricketing knowledge will be a real bonus for the side.

The Greenock team to play Prestwick in the WDCU Division One West League match at the Henry Thow Oval, Prestwick, tomorrow with a noon start will be from: SS Prabhu, ND Flack, AP Forrest, JPC Hempsey, GJ McDougall, DW Philmon, MI Robertson, PE Robertson, BM Taylor, DK Walker, L Ware. Prestwick have announced their team for tomorrow’s match and it is as follows: S Rafiq, T Spence, A Rajadhyaksha, G Pitt, W Rowan, M Miller, M Rao, A Tennant, C Robertson, J Stafford, N Thakur.

Greenock 2ndXI (Glenpark) are at home to Prestwick2nd XI (St Ninian’s) in a WDCU Reserve Division One match which starts at 1pm tomorrow at Glenpark.

Greenock Cricket Club is proudly sponsored by Cleaning Supplies 4U.