Race to the GCL final

Liam Durkin

CALCULATORS could decide who makes this season Gippsland Cricket League final, with four teams still a mathematical chance of making it.

With the top two teams going through to the decider, Bairnsdale (second) and Leongatha (third) are neck-and-neck heading into the last home and away round. Bairnsdale holds second place from Leongatha, with only 0.29 per cent separating the two.

Traralgon and Latrobe Valley occupy the next two spots, and could sneak into the final if results go their way.

Any number of outcomes are a possibility, as Bairnsdale plays top of the table Sale-Maffra while Leongatha plays Traralgon.

If Bairnsdale and Leongatha win, whoever plays Sale-Maffra for the flag will be determined by percentage. The path to the final will be made simpler if Bairnsdale or Leongatha loses their match and

the other team wins, and there is also the chance that both sides could also lose their match and still make the final.

Traralgon and Latrobe Valley can also still make it, but they would have to win and make up a sizeable amount of percentage to get past Bairnsdale or Leongatha.

BAIRNSDALE will host Sale-Maffra. The home side is yet to win back-to-back matches this season, but will have a chance to do so on Sunday.

Bairnsdale will be gunning to put in a good performance, and may face the same opponent the following week in the final. Bairnsdale’s confidence heading into the final will surely receive a huge boost if it can get over Sale-Maffra seven days prior.

Francois Mostert is having a prolific season at club level for Meerlieu, with 30 wickets in 10 games and a batting average of 40.11. Bairnsdale officials will hope he is able to carry some of that form to representative level.

Hayden Erfurth is another who is capable of making match winning knocks, and top scored with 62 in the previous GCL game involving Bairnsdale.

With its position in the final secured, Sale-Maffra will approach this match as a serious dress rehearsal.

The Sharks won’t be complacent, as focus on making sure they can carry their form from Sunday’s game into the final, and then further onto Country Week.

Sale-Maffra has already finalised its Country Week side, and for the sake of continuity will try and get all 13 players heading to Melbourne playing the two remaining GCL matches.

The Sharks are blessed with a plethora of strike and stock bowlers, who will keep things under control.

Jonny Lash could come up against his old association, and will be eager to add to his tally of wickets.

Not only has Lash taken seven wickets in three games, but of the 23 overs he has bowled, 12 have been maidens – such levels of control are unheard of in one-day cricket.

LEONGATHA will take on Traralgon at the always windy Leongatha Recreation Reserve.

The equation for the boys in green is simple – win and hope Bairnsdale lose to make the final.

Leongatha has been able to resurrect its season after not getting on the board until round three, winning two consecutive games.

The side easily accounted for Latrobe Valley in the previous round, with the top four batsman in Mitchell Clark, Daniel Mock, David Newman and Luke Landers all contributing.

Leongatha will aim to put on a good show on its home turf, and is fortunate to have players of both workmanlike and X-factor quality in its line-up.

All rounder Tom Keily can be a game changer if he gets going, while Ryan Williams is a reliable operator in all departments.

Although a place in the final appears unlikely, Traralgon has plenty to play for in the lead up to Country Week.

The Tornadoes hold their place in the provincial Country Week grade with plenty of pride, and ensure players who make themselves available are looked after.

Having been the only team to defeat Sale-Maffra this season, Traralgon’s best cricket is good enough to topple anyone.

Captain Chris Lehner will lead from the front and put a sizeable total on the board for bowlers the likes of Keenan Hughes, Tim Shippen, Luke Henderson and Michael Warne to bowl at.

WARRAGUL will want to finish its GCL season the way it started it – with a win.

The Wilddogs welcome Latrobe Valley in a match that could serve more than one purpose.

Latrobe Valley will need to win to keep its slim chance of playing in the final alive, while Warragul may take a few mental notes from the encounter to use when the two teams meet again at Country Week in a fortnight’s time.

Not a lot has gone right for Warragul following its opening round win over Traralgon, with the side never really able to get its best team on the park.

The Wilddogs’ woes may be best exemplified by the fact only five players have played all four games, but 21 players have been used at some stage throughout the season. That being said, Warragul may feel there is nothing between it and Latrobe Valley given last season’s encounter.

In that match, arguably the main reason Latrobe Valley won was because Nat Freitag was drafted into the Latrobe Valley team from Tasmanian premier cricket and peeled off 128.

Warragul wont’s have to worry about Freitag this time around which should make it a more level playing field, although his brother Dylan could pose some problems with the ball.

Captain Fraser Duncan is averaging above 50 at club level and will want to move those numbers to the representative side.

Latrobe Valley will probably take a similar approach to Warragul as Country Week looms.

Deep down the side probably knows its chances of making the final are slim, so some momentum heading into Country Week will be welcome.

Latrobe Valley may pull some players from relative obscurity and reward some lesser knowns who have performed well at club level to see how they go on the GCL stage.

One player who has been touted is Ryan Bishop, who could come up against his old association. Bishop’s work in the field is of particular note, and his slower ball variations offer some handy overs.

With bat in hand, one would describe Bishop’s technique as totally self taught, and while it has given partners at the other end a heart attack at times, it has also proved strangely effective as the ball is hit to places people least expect.

JUNIOR grades will also be played Sunday, with Sale-Maffra taking on Latrobe Valley, at Wurruk Warragul playing Bairnsdale and Leongatha facing Traralgon.

In the women’s competition, Bairnsdale and Sale-Maffra will play each other, as well as Latrobe and Warragul. Centrals has the bye.

Sale-Maffra and Latrobe Valley under 18 teams will play for the twenty20 Cameron White Cup on February 23, while Sale-Maffra and Bairnsdale will play for the women’s twenty20 title on the same day.