Last chance to make top four

Liam Durkin

THE fate of sides looking to play in the Sale-Maffra cricket finals rests on the performance of the team currently in bottom position, as the final round of the regular season begins on Saturday.

Only six points separates second-placed Stratford from sixth-placed Collegians, with Bundalaguah, Rosedale-Kilmany and Maffra also in the mix to join minor premier Sale in the finals.

COLLEGIANS will travel to Stephenson Park to take on Longford in a match it needs to win outright to give itself the best chance of playing finals.

College can jump as high as four places if it secures 10 points by winning outright, and replace Stratford if the Redbacks fall short against Sale.

If the game only sees a first innings result, Collegians may not have enough percentage to break into the top four.

Collegians has been one of the top performers in the one-day format this season, winning five of eight matches, however, this form has not translated to the longer style, as the team has only been able to win one game while playing in full whites.

With this in mind, it would be dangerous to pencil in an outright victory for College, and given there hasn’t been a single outright result so far this season, history suggests Collegians will need to completely dominate across two days to get the points they seek.

Longford will also have something to prove, wanting to finish its season on a positive note. The Lizards can still mathematically avoid the wooden spoon if they win and Bundalaguah thrashes Boisdale-Briagolong.

If Collegians bats first, it will be looking to Zac Hurley, Adrian Burgiel and skipper Jack Tatterson to accelerate the run rate after the first 10 overs and put a total on the board to take the game away from Longford.

If it has to bowl, College will search for quick wickets and have faith in its batting group to claim a lead to make the Lizards bat again.

Longford has shown vast improvement this season and probably deserves to have more than one win to its credit.

A combination of nerves and inexperience may have cost the Lizards in a close loss to Stratford last weekend, and the side should take some confidence into this match as they made a score over 200 against Collegians earlier in the season.

ROSEDALE-KILMANY and Maffra are in control of their own destinies.

The equation is simple for either: win and you should play finals. “Should” is the key word in that equation, as the Warriors and Eagles need to rely on Collegians not winning outright against Longford.

Rosedale-Kilmany (fourth) and Maffra (fifth) are on the same number of wins, losses, draws and points. The Warriors hold the advantage on percentage, having lost less wickets and taken more scalps for the season than the Eagles.

The match, to be played at Rosedale, has all the ingredients to be an enthralling contest, as two teams who have flown somewhat under the radar this season face off.

Rosedale-Kilmany will take form into the game, having only lost one match since Christmas.

Maffra will also be feeling good, following last week’s game against Collegians. While the Eagles were disappointed to settle for a draw, they would have taken some positives out of the fact they were in a winning position after appearing to be out of contention at the end of day one.

Rosedale-Kilmany and Maffra match up well, with attacking batsman and skilful bowlers on either side.

For the Warriors, Brad Scott is a big game player and could prove the difference with bat and ball, while Rohan Diamond, Hayden Glover and Dylan Rowley all ooze class.

Maffra has resurrected a few players who have wound back the clock in recent times, with spinner Ben Durrant the most prominent example. Daniel Bedggood is also showing no signs of rust, and could make a sizable mark on the scorebook if he gets going.

SALE and Stratford will have different aproaches to their match at Sale Oval.

The Swans will sleep easy heading into the game as they cannot move from first position on the ladder. The same cannot be said for Stratford, which needs to win to sew up a finals spot.

Stratford has had a few strange weeks on the field, with back-to-back one-run losses followed by an eight-run win over lowly Longford last week. Had it not been for regular third grade captain Ben Channing batting through the Stratford innings against Longford, the Redbacks may well have kissed their season goodbye.

The Redbacks will want to put in a complete performance against Sale, and should be confident in the ability of Jack Wrigglesworth, coming off a five-wicket haul last week. Other players looking to fire will be Jack Rietschel, Taylor Tatterson and Dylan Bolton.

To prepare for the final, Rohan Blandford, Coenie Nel and Ben Jones will want to spent time out in the middle and contribute.

BUNDALAGUAH will play Boisdale-Briagolong in a match with more meaning than a game between teams ranked third and seventh would usually have.

The Bulls will miss the finals if they loss and Collegians defeats Longford.

Bulls all rounder Steve Spoljaric appears to be peaking at the right time. Since Christmas, Spoljaric’s run of scores has been 44, 52, 90 and 89, while with the ball he has taken 28 wickets at 11.68 for the season to lead the competition in both departments.

Boisdale-Briagolong will aim to take the game as deep as possible, and aim to make life difficult for a few other clubs looking to play finals.

The Saints will want to conclude their premiership defence on a high, and hope to see some fireworks from Toby Leeds to bring down the curtain on the season.