BARRING forecast rain, another round of one-day matches will take place on Saturday in Sale-Maffra cricket.
Sale is two wins clear on top of the ladder, while a logjam of teams occupies places two to six, meaning wins will be at a premium for Stratford, Collegians, Bundalaguah, Maffra and Rosedale-Kilmany.
STRATFORD will host Bundalaguah in what should be the game of the round.
The two sides sit second and fourth respectively on the table, with only one win separating them.
The Redbacks will welcome back a few key players who were absent from last weekend's loss to Collegians. Skipper Jack Rietschel and all rounder Jack Wrigglesworth will return after playing for Victoria Country, while opening bowler Jonny Lash should also come back from a hamstring injury sustained before Christmas.
Rietschel and Wrigglesworth will resume their usual positions in the Stratford middle order, and along with Lash, will more than likely bowl 20 or so overs between them as well.
Bundalaguah will enter the game with form under its belt. The Bulls have won their past three matches, including wins over the previously undefeated Sale and a gutsy two-day win over
Collegians, when they successfully chased 259.
South African gun Cloete Buitendag was the star of the show last week, cracking a 56-ball 104.
Stratford's bowlers will have to come up with something to curtail the influence of not only Buitendag but also Jason Langshaw, Sam Bedggood, Steve Spoljaric and Nathan Hibbins, who are all capable of scoring quickly.
If any one of the above mentioned names is either dropped or let off the chain, Bundalaguah could be looking at a score around the 200 to 220 mark.
Spin could play a huge part in the match, and both teams are well-serviced in this department.
The Bulls have Buitendag up their sleeve to bowl some tweakers, as well as Jake Wynd, who will rip them away from the right handers at the other end.
Stratford has the luxury of having two frontline options in the left arm orthodox of Rietschel and the right arm leg spin of Sam Anstee.
The challenge for batsman on either team will be to defeat the bowler and captain of the opposition and force them to adopt their least preferred plan as quickly as possible.
The result of this match could well decide a home final in weeks to come, adding more context to an already intriguing match-up.
ROSEDALE-KILMANY can climb as high as fourth if it defeats Sale at home and other results go its way.
The Warriors have flown under the radar for most of the first half of the season, and have gone about their business with minimal fuss.
The team had an easy victory over Boisdale- Briagolong last week, but will know a whole new challenge awaits them on Saturday.
Rosedale-Kilmany's top order batsman Rohan Diamond, Brad Scott and Cameron Freshwater will be chomping at the bit to have a hit after not being required to bat last week, and will have their eyes set on posting a strong total.
The Swans had a commanding win over finals aspirant Maffra last week, sending a message to many across the SMCA.
Coenie Nel notched a century in what continued a stellar season for the recruit, who has now scored 379 runs and taken 17 wickets. Sale stalwart John Mayman has enjoyed a good time with the ball since November, and currently has 18 scalps to his credit.
Sale will look to continue on its way against Rosedale-Kilmany, and get through the game with the six points in the bank.
MAFFRA will start favourite against Longford, although if the previous meeting between the two teams is anything to go by, spectators should be in for a good contest.
In that match, the Eagles scampered home by one wicket to deny the Lizards victory. With that in mind, Maffra won't be taking the Lizards lightly, especially given England international Steve Parry did not play for Longford when the two sides last played each other.
Longford will rate its chances of a win, and should take some confidence from the fact that as a team it has scored more runs for the season than Maffra from the same number of innings.
Lizards top order batsman Richard Bell has been a consistent performer this season, and his teammates will be looking for him to make a sizeable contribution.
If Longford can get up it could be an outside chance of playing finals, but the Lizards will be severely tested with arguably the hardest run home as it has to play Rosedale-Kilmany, Stratford and Collegians in two-day matches.
For Maffra, Lee Hopkins and Jack Egan will want to keep the scoreboard ticking over, while Josh Rurawhe and Ben Sly will be desperate to cash in after missing out in a few games.
Eagles veteran Brett Lanigan made 89 when he last played Longford, and should be gunning to make a similar score.
BOISDALE-BRIAGOLONG will play Collegians, which remain the only team the Saints have defeated so far this season.
Things have certainly changed since then, with Collegians sitting third on the ladder, while Boisdale-Briagolong has crashed to last.
The Saints have only managed below or par scores in their past three matches, and have lost 13 more wickets for the season than the team who has lost the second most. That being said, Boisdale-Briagolong has been something of a bogey team for Collegians in recent times, with the Saints winning their past three encounters.
If Saints skipper Toby Leeds and Tom Langshaw can do some damage with the bat, and bowlers Todd Mann and Jonathan Beech can snare a few early scalps, the match could come alive.
The Collegians middle order of Jack Tatterson and Matt Foster will want to assert their dominance on the contest with some boundaries, and the Morrisons will want to do likewise with ball in hand.
With nothing to lose, the Saints may look to blood some youngsters for the rest of the season.
One player in the mix could be Mason Annear, after he took 5-17 in the under 15s Junior Country Week final last week.