Another classic battle in store
Saturday, 4th February, 2017
By Tyler Hannigan
One and two on the table lock up in their final match against each other before the finals as West takes on old foe Central tomorrow at the Alma Oval.
West are enjoying a brilliant season, sitting 19 points clear in first spot with a grand final place all but locked up and have dropped just one game. That was to Central back in round four by only three runs.
Most of the other games between these sides have also been tight with West prevailing by one wicket in round one, seven runs in round seven and one wicket in round 10. The only game not to be decided by a tight margin was the T20 final in which the Robins won by seven wickets although they had only two balls to spare.
Central are all but out of the race for top spot but could take a distinct mental advantage over West if they could win today, something that could prove invaluable come finals.
They easily took care of South last week, dismissing them for just 76 and chasing it down with nine wickets in hand although it took an agonisingly long time with a run rate of around 2.7 an over.
Darren Salt led the chase with 30 not out and retains his spot this week along with fellow opener Jason Maalste who scored 22. Jason will line up opposite son Michael in what should make for an intriguing spectacle.
Jarred Paull’s absence due to representative commitments leaves a huge hole in Central’s side. Paull is second only to North’s Tobias Hack on the run scorers list and has also taken 12 wickets at an average of just nine.
Paull, Hack, West’s Matt Handberg and Paul Attard will represent Murray Districts/Barrier in the annual Senior Country Carnival to be played next week.
Adam Rhodes will skipper the Magpies tomorrow while Jake Trengove and Luke Hall also return to the lineup. Central veteran Rob Devoy comes into the side for his first A Grade appearance this season.
All-rounder Jon Carrett, bowler Casey Paull and batsman Lachlan Erskine are all missing from last week’s team.
While Paull is a big loss, Central are still full of talent with big strikers in Rhodes and Paul Gauci, accumulators Salt and Maalste and technically correct batsmen like Trengove and Scott Mateer.
Where they will be tested is in the bowling department without both Paulls and Carrett but David O’Mally is still there to lead the attack. O’Mally has 17 wickets at an average of just 6.41.
West completed a tough three-wicket win over North last week thanks to five wickets by off-spinner Tristan Smith and solid contributions from their batsmen.
Clint Pearce top scored with a stodgy 25 off 60 balls while Dave Smith (22), Lachlan Harvey (21) and Michael Maaltse (21) all made starts.
Callum Rosewarn (11 not out) and captain Peter Christos (6 not out) saw the side home for a win.
Max Everuss returns this week along with pace bowler Kyle Jelbert. Paul Attard has also been named despite him being a part of the Murray Districts/Barrier squad set to play in Adelaide on Monday so it will be interesting to see if he still takes part in tomorrow’s game.
Jordan Meehan drops out, as does Judd Carpenter and Ash Byrne.
West have the greater firepower and will head in as heavy favourites with Central missing some key players but that was the case last time these sides met and it still went down to the wire with West scraping over the line by one wicket thanks to Pearce’s 38 in the chase of 101.
These sides never give in and have a habit of making these games tense and exciting and there is no reason for tomorrow to be any different.