PLAYERS across Sale-Maffra cricket will be hoping for a full day's play tomorrow, after rain in the past fortnight has seen the majority of matches called off.
Stratford and Collegians will meet in what should be the match of the round.
Stratford will be playing at home for the third week in a row and have begun to settle into the season. Collegians secured virtually six bonus points last round thanks to its victory over Rosedale-Kilmany when all other games were declared draws.
Stratford and Collegians possess a good mixture of experience and talented young players, with onlookers to expect a fierce style of cricket to be played.
Batsman will need to have enough conviction to come down the track, and bowlers will need to keep their wits about them to know when to bowl their variations.
If either Collegians or Stratford's batsmen don't apply any pressure and rotate the strike, then bowlers will just sit on an appropriate length, and similarly, if a team has bowlers who just become like a pinball machine and put the ball into play, they will be asking for trouble.
There are some intriguing subplots within this match, which could make for compelling viewing.
Stratford spinner Jack Rietschel and Collegians batsman Adrian Burgiel will meet in what could well be billed as the SMCA equivalent of Muttiah Muralitharan verses Kevin Pietersen.
Collegians opener Zac Hurley has begun the season well and is averaging 62 at the top of the order. Hurley will be tasked with negotiating the tight lines of Jonny Lash and the knowledge of Simon Williams, who will look to make the new ball talk before returning when it starts reversing.
The Redbacks have no shortage of bowlers, with pacers Jack Wrigglesworth and Taylor Tatterson able to bowl to a standard seven-three field for long periods. Stratford also has a plethora of slow bowlers who all bowl different types, with finger spinners in Dylan Bolton and Rietschel, and wrist spinners in Sam Anstee and Tom Wrigglesworth, who more than held his own on debut in first grade last week.
THE other battle between teams in the top four will see Sale travel to Maffra.
The Swans remain the only unbeaten team this season, in what is their best start to a season since the early 1990s.
Recruits Coenie Nel and Daniel Croft have made their mark at the bowling crease, with the pair sitting second and fourth respectively on the league aggregate table.
A new challenge will await them on Saturday in the form of Maffra captain Josh Davis, who has begun his 2019-20 campaign in sublime form.
Davis has already chalked up 206 runs and is averaging more than 100, and will not want to drop off after such a dominant start. The Eagles skipper has also carried himself with the ball, and took 5-68 in last week's draw against Stratford.
Recent rain has meant players from both sides haven't had much opportunity to make runs or take wickets, so all will be eager to get onto the park on Saturday.
Subconsciously, Sale will be wary of its early season form and will want to ensure it maintains a high level of professionalism and performance standard to avoid claiming the moniker of 'November Champs' come Christmas.
LONGFORD will host Bundalaguah in what should be a welcome challenge for the home team.
The Lizards would have taken some confidence from their fighting performance last week against Boisdale-Briagolong, which was led by Mathew Johns and Andrew Tyson, who ensured the side held on for a draw in difficult conditions.
Longford has shown marked improvement from this time last year, and will be looking to put together more complete performances as the two day games roll on.
The hallmarks of a team in development can sometimes see things fall apart quickly, meaning the onus will really be on the Lizards' senior players at the top of the order to show leadership and not leave the young and inexperienced players exposed batting together in the middle.
The Bulls have not tasted victory in over a month, but given the fact the season is still in its early stages, will be a long way off hitting the panic button just yet.
Recruit Steven Spoljaric leads the SMCA bowling aggregate, and is getting his wickets at an unbelievable rate-of-knots, currently averaging nine runs per wicket.
If Bundalaguah bats first it should look to post a total up near the 300 mark, and after two torchings last week, will want to do it without any run outs.
ROSEDALE-KILMANY and Bosidale-Briaglong will play each other at Rosedale.
Both sides would have left their previous round matches will differing emotions, in what saw some promising form on day one evaporate on day two.
The Warriors may well have labelled their loss to Collegians as a write-off, as the game saw more overs than it perhaps should have, while the Saints would have been ropeable after only taking two Longford wickets in close to 50 overs.
Both teams will look forward to the chance to start afresh on Saturday, in what is a vitally important game for the reigning premiers, who are yet to register a win in 2019-20.
A return to form with the bat by a number of Saints players was a welcome sight two weeks ago, but the team can ill-afford to just go through the motions and expect results to fall their way.
Rosedale-Kilmany has been well served by top order batsman Rohan Diamond so far this season, who is averaging 49, while bowler Dylan Rowley is coming equal third in the league bowling stakes.