GREENOCK traveled to East Ayrshire on Saturday and scored an important away win over third-placed Kilmarnock.
The result cemented Greenock’s second top spot in the Western District Cricket League (WDCU) First Division and significantly widened the gap between them and the Ayrshire side.
The result was another all-out victory for Greenock as the Glenpark side won by 88 runs and keep their promotion hopes alive.
Man of the match was Ryan Walker with a very well built innings of 130 not outs and then three wickets for 25 runs from nine overs.
The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes due to late morning rain and when the throw was made Kilmarnock captain Paul Flannigan invited Greenock to bat.
Greenock opened her innings with Tom Nicholson and Lukas Fischer-Keogh and made a rather tentative start against the bowling of Tom McFadzean and Waleeb Iqbal.
With just 16 runs on the board, Nicholson was removed when he edged a ball from McFadzean and was caught well on the first slip by former Pakistan A-player Abdul Muzammil.
It continued to be difficult to get runs as Fischer-Keogh and Harry Briggs were held at bay by Killie’s alternate bowlers Niamat Ali and South African amateur Ben Lombard.
In the middle of the 16th over, Fischer-Keogh failed to keep the ball down when he played a Lombard shot towards the square leg and Ali capitalized on the chance. The score was 33 for two.
Twenty runs later, Greenock lost wicket number three. Briggs (16) tried to clear the field but failed to gain enough height and was caught by McFadzean before bowling Adam Wilson for cover.
That wicket in the 24th over put Greenock in a potentially precarious position mid-innings at 53 for the loss of three wickets. But it brought Walker and Gregor Chambers together, both of whom have been in good batting form in recent weeks. And this partnership completely changed the game.
The first 50 from their partnership came around from the first ball of the 35th when Walker met McFadzean for a boundary.
His contribution to the 50 partnership was 36, and the limit signaled Walker’s own half-century.
With the innings being reduced to 46 overs instead of 50 due to a 35-minute rain break, Greenock was 105 at the time, having lost three wickets with just 11.5 overs remaining.
In those remaining overs, Walker and Chambers took complete control and runs flowed at high speed, with Walker in particular seemingly scoring with ease.
Walker’s century came in the 44th over when he picked up two runs from the third ball thrown by Iqbal.
Walker then faced another 11 balls as the innings drew to a close, adding a remarkable 29 more runs to take his own personal score to 130, not in the Greenock total of 212.
The Aussie amateur hit 14 limits and a maximum (six) in his innings.
Chambers, who had played an enormously important if secondary role in the partnership, was knocked out on the fourth-to-last ball of the inning for a very valuable 29 runs.
The partnership added 157 runs in 22 overs and put Greenock in a dominant position at half-time in the game.
With the Duckworth, Lewis, Stern (DLS) system in action due to the rain break, Kilmarnock was set a target of 228 to win from his 46 overs.
Scoring at a rate of five runs per over, the Ayrshire team’s first batsmen broke away at a frantic pace and had 33 runs on the board from the first four overs.
But the fourth ball of the fifth over, bowled by Chambers, produced the breakthrough Greenock was looking for.
Opener Maritz (12) prevailed against the delivery and Chris Hempsey made a good catch on the first slip.
Pace-bowler Chambers pitched Maritz’ opening partner Khan for 21 in his next over and then added a third wicket to his tally when he bowled home skipper Flannigan (five) to take Kilmarnock to 49 for losing three wickets in the ninth over leaving.
The loss of the third wicket brought together South African amateur Ben Lombard and former Pakistani A-player Muzammil, the Kilmarnock-paid coach.
Muzammil had sustained an injury to his right hand earlier in the game when he used the slips, resulting in him having to be taken to the hospital to be treated for a split finger strap.
The Lombard-Muzammil pairing was the key partnership for Greenock to break to ensure the game would go the way she wanted. Both players looked in good form and were scoring well until it was broken in the 22nd over of the inning.
Lombard (15) was the player when he misread a delivery from Walker, the left leg spinner and gave the bowler a straight back catch.
And Walker was the bowler who removed Muzammil just two overs later. The manager of the Kilmarnock team was rated LBW at 27 and the outcome of the game tipped massively in Greenock’s favor as a result. The score was 91 for five.
The home side’s run rate, which had been on target for the first six overs, had now fallen to just under four runs per over and after Kilmarnock’s top five batsmen returned to the dressing room, Greenock set about finishing the rest of their batting lineup .
Muzammil was removed at the end of the 24th over and it only took another 16 overs to take the last five wickets and win the match.
Walker took a third wicket when he bowled Waleed Iqbal, Tom Nicholson caught Niamat Ali LBW and there were one wicket each for Ewan Stewart, PJ Bryceland and Aryan Sanghera when Kilmarnock was bowled over for 140 with the first ball of the 40th.
Chambers took three for 30 from 10 overs and Walker three for 25 from nine overs.
The win keeps Greenock second in the top spot in the First Division behind leaders Stenhousemuir but increases their percentage lead over the Ayrshire side, who remain in third place, just ahead of Drumpellier in fourth place.
Greenock now has games against East Kilbride and Irvine, both at Glenpark, over the next two Saturdays.
l Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored by Cleaning Supplies 4U.