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Pitch battle

Saturday, 25th February, 2017

Bailey Shepherd bowled well last week to take 2-19 in a low scoring game. He’ll be important in today’s must-win preliminary final. PICTURE: Tyler Hannigan Bailey Shepherd bowled well last week to take 2-19 in a low scoring game. He’ll be important in today’s must-win preliminary final. PICTURE: Tyler Hannigan

By Tyler Hannigan

Broken Hill’s A Grade cricket finals get underway today with defending premiers Central starting as favourites against an unpredictable North side. 

Central finished in second spot with 68 points after the 15 regular season rounds. North came in third on an even 50 but they have had two victories over the Magpies during the season.

The first came in round five when North managed to defend a score of 80, bowling Central out for just 67. The second win came in round 9 when Central’s batting again failed them, being dismissed for 83 and they fell to an eight-wicket loss.

The most recent meeting between the teams was also a low-scoring affair with North making just 67 before Central won with five wickets in hand.

Each team’s captains, Jarred Paull for Central and Tobias Hack for North, will play a massive role in the outcome of this game. 

North rely heavily on Hack to make the bulk of their runs and when he fails, North usually does too. 

In six games when Hack has not made more than 10, North have been bowled out for scores of 76 in round two, 67 in round three, 80 in round five, 58 in round 11, 67 in round 14 and 51 in last weekend’s game. The only exception was in round six when North amassed 151 in a losing effort against West when Hack only made 2. 

Without the likes of Shayne Staker or Codie Howard in the lineup, the experienced quartet of Jordan Vella, Scott Rogers, Josh Savage and Matt Letcher must stand up, especially if Hack fails to fire. 

Central are not quite as reliant on Jarred Paull as North are on Hack but the team is certainly poorer without him in it. 

When Paull missed the round 13 game against West due to representative duties in the South Australian Country Carnival, Central could manage only 117 in their 40 overs which West comfortably chased down in the 30th over. 

What makes Paull so valuable is his all-round skill and ability to impact the game in multiple ways, be in with the bat, ball or in the field where his baseball background allows him to create wicket taking opportunities. 

Central welcomes back Darren Salt, Matt Muscat, Luke Neal and Clint Jones while Jason Maalste, Lachlan Erskine and Riley Elvery drop out from last week’s side. Rory Schaefer also misses out, being named 12th man.

Each team had contrasting final games before today’s preliminary final with Central thumping South by 126 runs while North folded for 51 against West and lost by six wickets.

Paul Gauci continued his impressive season with the bat for the Magpies, making 89 from 92 balls and sharing a partnership of 148 with David O’Mally who made his highest A grade score with 54in the big win.

North’s batting faltered but their bowlers threatened to cause a massive upset, reducing West to 4-15 before the Robins settled and reached the target. Bailey Shepherd bowled well to take 2-19 and Jack Larkins also took two.

It’s tough to see North winning this one with the team that they have selected as opposed to Central’s seasoned finals specialists but finals are different beasts and strange things can happen.

Central deserve to go in as favourites but North are definitely capable of causing the upset and moving onto the Grand Final against West.

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