SMCA answers by the numbers

Liam Durkin

A CONCEPT many travelling English cricketers struggle to comprehend in Australian competitions is how a team can finish the regular season as low as fourth and potentially be crowned league premier two weeks later.

This idiosyncrasy has been around for generations and is not just confined to cricket.

The ‘final-four’ system is the most common in Gippsland cricket competitions, and sees first-verses-fourth and second-verses-third in semi-finals, with the winners going through to the grand final.

In competitions where there are more teams, other systems can be implemented.

The Traralgon and District association had a ‘top six’ in place from 2015-16 to 2017-18 to give more of its then 11 member clubs a higher chance of playing finals.

In a ‘top-six’ format, three weekends of cricket see teams ranked one and two earn a week’s break before playing the winners of the elimination finals, where three takes on six and four plays five.

The general concept behind finals is that it stops teams with the most depth or greatest home ground advantage from always winning the seasons title.

Other advantages to the finals system is that is gives underdogs a realistic chance of claiming a premiership if they are able to peak at the right time and string a few good days of cricket together.

Finals can also create some of the best stories, as for some unknown reason there always seems to be one player who does nothing all season and then makes a name for themselves in a final.

Delving into Sale-Maffra Cricket Association statistics and historical evidence from season 2010-11 to 2019- 20, the following sets out to provide some clarity on what is required for teams as they prepare for 2020-21.

ONCE a team has more than 50 points in the bank they should have a finals position sown up.

No team has missed SMCA finals in the past 10 seasons after securing more than 50 points. With six points on the line for a win, if a team can register at least seven or eight wins during the season, while allowing for perhaps two draws worth two points each, they should put themselves in some position to qualify.

In a 14-round season, if a team wins as many as it loses, it will probably miss out, or will need to go for an outright in order to grab 10 points at once.

Calculators often come out in mid to late February for teams occupying the middle parts of the ladder, in what usually culminates in a mad dash to the finish. The last round of the regular season can often see some adventurous declarations for teams needing an outright win, and it can often come down to percentage, as it did last season when Collegians piped Bundalaguah by just 0.051 of a per cent.

Staying on the ground while it spits rain in order to grab a wicket or two for more premiership points during the season can sometimes be the difference between playing finals and not.

THE old adage that getting to the grand final is the hardest part appears to be ringing true given how SMCA semi-finals have gone in recent years.

In the past five seasons, the majority of semi-finals have been close finishes, although prior to that, from 2010-11 to 2013-14 all semi-finals were fairly one-sided.

Rosedale-Kilmany has been involved in a number of exciting semi-finals.

In 2014-15 the Warriors ran out of time to potentially outright Sale after the Swans won on first innings after only establishing a lead of three runs.

In the next season, Rosedale-Kilmany was in a precarious position at 5-118 chasing Stratford’s 166 before going through to eventually win the flag.

In 2016-17 the Warriors were in with a show at 8-195 chasing Collegians’ 253 only to fall short, while in last seasons semi-final they had Stratford 9-70 defending a first innings score of 76, before the Redbacks got across the first hurdle and then set up an outright.

Sale was also involved in a heart-stopping semi-final last season after it was 8-117 chasing Collegians’ 156.

The Swans held on in the finish thanks to a defiant half-century from Nathan Massey.

HISTORY says yes.

Of the past 10 first grade premierships, eight have been won by teams which finished the regular season in the top two and played the semi-final on its home ground. The familiarity a team has with its home ground and the conditions, as well as being able to train there, can often help calm some finals nerves.

THIS probably sounds like a stupid question given how the last season went, but generally – yes.

The team that has finished the regular season on top of the ladder has won seven of the past 10 premierships.

Unlike football finals where the top teams momentum can sometimes be stifled by having a week off, the cricket team that wins the minor premiership holds a few aces up its sleeve should inclement weather or other outside factors intervene come finals time.

YES, although you will need to defy history to do so.

Since 2003-04 only two clubs have won the premiership after finishing the regular season in fourth position: Collegians in 2010-11 and Boisdale- Briagolong in 2018-19.

NOT overly, as grand finals are played at neutral venues and more work is put into the wicket for the landmark game of the season.

Only twice in the past 10 seasons has a team won the toss and the premiership, that being Collegians in 2010-11 and 2017-18.

In the past 10 seasons the team that has won the toss has elected to bat in every grand final except Bundalaguah in 2018-19.

GIVEN that in six of the past eight grand finals the team batting second has won, then no.

Maffra and Bundalaguah have successfully chased 200-plus scores in grand finals recently and only Collegians after making more than 300 in 2017-18 probably went to bed on the Saturday night thinking they had one hand on the cup.

ANOTHER age-old adage, although given how close SMCA deciders have been in the past 10 seasons it appears to be true.

The average score for teams batting first after winning the toss in grand finals since 2010-11 is 201.12, and teams successfully chasing have on average lost seven wickets doing so, indicating grand finals have tended to go right down to the last few partnerships.

As they say – ‘anything can happen on the day’.