Test of the best
Saturday, 10th March, 2018
By Tyler Hannigan
It all comes down to today when the Broken Hill A Grade cricket season is decided at the Alma Oval where Central takes on North for the premiership.
The Magpies held top spot from round one and never relinquished it throughout the 2017/18 season, although, North were within striking distance at times and eventually finished in second spot, five points adrift.
That put North in a semi-final last weekend against West and, thanks to their skipper Tobias Hack, they progressed to the Demo Club A Grade grand final. Hack belted a brilliant and unbeaten 118 off 92 balls including 34 off the final over of North’s innings.
Jordan Vella, A Grade’s leading bowler, then claimed four wickets as the Robins were bowled out for 139 to give North a comfortable 55-run victory.
While Hack’s season with the bat has been enormous (519 runs at 64.88) he’s hoping that others can also step up for the decider.
“At the start of the season I really wanted to improve my consistency and I feel I’ve done that but if a Jordan Vella or Codie Howard want to step up and make a hundred then I’m more than happy to step aside,” Hack admitted.
“I think our bowling is the key. We’ve been able to bowl a lot of sides out this season and that’s what we base our game around. We’ve only just started to bat out our overs consistently so if we can keep Central to around 110 to 120 then we’ll feel good about chasing it down.”
Central will be fresh after the weekend off but given the lack of cricket played after the Christmas break they might have preferred to be out on the park instead of in the stands.
Still, they can’t complain with yet another grand final appearance and the chance to become premiers for the sixth-time in a row, which would be a Broken Hill A Grade cricket record.
Central captain, Jarred Paull, who recently won his seventh Denis Watts Medal for A Grade Cricketer of the Year, said that the season as a whole was a little inconsistent.
“The season has been pretty patchy with the heat restriction days and breaks after Christmas so it’s been hard to get any momentum going,” Paull said.
“In saying that, to be able to go for six premierships in a row is pretty important but each year the teams have improved and continue to come at us. “North in the second half of this season have been the best team in the comp so we’ll have to try and raise the bar to get the job done in the grand final.”
As well as Paull, Central has been well served by the likes of Jon Carrett and Riley Elvery who both finished in the top five A Grade run scorers, although their form has tapered off after Christmas with Carrett scoring just 11 runs in three innings and Elvery six in two.
Paull said that while he hopes that his key players will stand up on the big day, sometimes grand finals are won by underrated players stepping up.
“Each week you feel that there are key players that will get the job done but in finals there could be someone that you don’t expect, who steps up and gets a 20 or 30 with the bat that could determine the game,” he said.
“Or a part-time bowler that gets a few wickets and one of those wickets could be a vital one. I feel like Scott Mateer and Jordan Vella (each team’s respective off spin bowlers) will be a good head-to-head contest and both will test the batsmen’s patience.”
One of those unexpected stars could be Central’s Tristen Smith who will be full of confidence after crashing 96 in the T20 final two weeks ago. For North, watch out for Codie Howard who is a classy batsman and will want to step up on the big stage.
The Magpies will be missing Justin Heath which does hurt their batting but other than that they’ll be at full strength for today’s clash. North are unchanged from the team that took down West last week.
These sides met four times in the regular season with both coming away with two wins apiece.
North will also be playing in the memory of David Cutting who suddenly passed away earlier in the week. Cutting, a fantastic cricketer in his own right, had been North’s coach for the past two seasons with senior players crediting him their return to this season’s grand final.
This game shapes up as a mouth-watering contest by the two best sides this season and is befitting of a grand final. The weather will be warm but perfect for cricket and with plenty of talent on both sides; it’s one you don’t want to miss. It will be a slightly earlier start at 12pm.
Central- J. Paull (c), S. Mateer, A. Rhodes, L. Neal, D. O’Mally, T. Smith, J. Carrett, R. Elvery, R. Casey, M. Maalste, D. Pettitt, C. Jones (12th)
North- T. Hack (c), J. Vella, B. Martin, M. Letcher, C. Howard, L. Larkins, B. Victory, J. Savage, T. Davey, A. Wilson, S. Dalby, L. Berryman (12th, E. Thomas (trainer)