Welcome back after the Christmas/New Year period. Hopefully you had an enjoyable break and we keep our thoughts out for those that have family or friends in the zones currently impacted by the bushfires.
Highlights from the last day of action prior to Christmas included:
This weekend sees the return of the coloured gear for a couple of weeks, with players keen to work themselves back into form after the Christmas/New Year break.
Footscray (6th) host Casey-South Melbourne (12th) at Mervyn G Hughes Oval. The Dogs have been in strong form in recent rounds with back-to-back wins, while the Swans returned to the winners list against Frankston Peninsula after a couple of losses. On paper, both sides have been batting well over the season, with the one area that may be exposed being the bowling, with the Swans only taking more wickets than two other clubs. With the Swans currently 7 points away from the 8th placed side, they will need to push hard for a win but I think that unless they get a roll on with the ball that might be a bridge too far on this occasion. Footscray to start favourites.
Frankston Peninsula (15th) host Geelong (10th) at AH Butler Oval for the ‘Two Bob’ Shield. The Heat won the first two rounds and have only received points for two drawn games since then, while the Cats rebounded off back-to-back losses with an outright win against Kingston Hawthorn. While it appears unlikely that the Heat can make Finals unless they can pull out some Outright wins, they can still play a large role in shaping the 8 and the Cats will want to win to keep their noses in with a chance. With the Cats’ bowling having been hot-and-cold, this game should be closer than expected. On recent form, the Cats start favourites to take the points with them back on the ferry.
Fitzroy Doncaster (11th) host Dandenong (14th) at Schramms Reserve #1. The Lions were taught a cricketing lesson last round against the reigning premiers Carlton while the Panthers took it up to the Camberwell Magpies before losing by 42 runs. The Lions are still a fair chance of sneaking into the Finals and will want to capitalize on opportunities like this match to stay in touch of the Top 8, while the Panthers are long-shots and can also shape the futures of sides still in with a chance. With James Nanopoulos bowling well, the Panther attack will need to support him strongly to take the points. On gut feel, the Lions may just have enough experience to hold the Panthers at bay.
Melbourne (3rd) host the Greenvale Kangaroos (16th) at the Albert Ground. The Demons will be keen to rebound after a close loss to Melbourne Uni for the Michael Sholly Cup last round, while the Kangaroos were outclassed by Footscray. The Demons have played together as a team this season with all players contributing, especially with the ball and has shown with their rise up the ladder, while the Kangaroos have been quite competitive in recent games under the leadership of Kaushal Silva and Michael Stretton. On paper, the Demons appear to have the strength to comfortably take this match but eyes will be on Silva and how he goes with the bat as to how close the game goes.
Northcote (4th) host the Camberwell Magpies (13th) at the Bill Lawry Oval. The Dragons have been a surprise packet this season and their outright win over the Monash Tigers prior to Christmas has been a prime example, while the Magpies defeated Dandenong last round. With spots in the Top 8 tight, the Dragons will be keen to keep winning to keep any chance of a finals double chance alive, while the Magpies will be looking to win to keep their slim finals chances alive. With Mark Phelan and Josh Sundberg batting well so far, the Magpies will need to find runs from Isaac Conway and Simon Hill to match or better their performance. On form, the Dragons to start favourites at home.
St Kilda (8th) host the Monash Tigers (17th) at the CitiPower Centre. The Saints will be keen to rebound after back-to-back losses prior to the break, while the Tigers will be looking to cause an upset and regroup after their outright loss to Northcote in the last round. The Saints will need to find some firepower from their batting card as have only made more runs than Dandenong and the Tigers so far this season, while the Tigers have been stronger with the ball with their younger line-up. If the Tigers are a chance of winning, they will need one of their batsmen to make a big score, but current form would suggest the Saints to hold their spot in the top 8 with a win.
Essendon (5th) host Prahran (9th) at Windy Hill. The Bombers defeated St Kilda at the CitiPower Centre last round, while the True Blues were upset with an outright loss to Ringwood at Toorak Park. The Bombers have recently seen Tom O’Donnell back from injury and this has strengthened the bowling, while the batting has slowly been on the improve in recent games. In return, the True Blues have only picked up 6 points in the last 4 rounds, costing them their position in the top 8 at this time on percentage. This game has the makings of a close one despite the ladder positions, with the battle of the batsmen to decide the match and gut feel suggests the Bombers just at home.
Carlton (2nd) host Kingston Hawthorn (18th) at Princes Park #1. The reigning premiers retained the John Scholes trophy last round with a resounding victory over Fitzroy Doncaster, while the Hawks were defeated outright by Geelong. The Blues will be keen to use this opportunity to secure some more form for some of their players that need some runs and wickets, with their batting card truly firing for the first-time last round. The Hawks will be keen to keep the Blues in check but may find this a battle for their inexperienced bowling card, while their batsmen will get a true test as to where their skills lie at this level. Carlton expected to win this match comfortably.
Finally, Ringwood (7th) host Melbourne University (1st) at Russell Lucas Oval. The Rams jumped into the top 8 with an outright win over Prahran while Uni took home the Michael Sholly Cup with victory over Melbourne. Uni’s rise so far this season has been led with the batsmen (3rd highest runs for at this point), while the bowling has also been strong. The Rams have been improved with the ball, while their batting can still find room for improvement on occasions. With recent form a factor, this game can go down to the wire if the Rams’ batting card fires and the bowlers can rein in the Uni batsmen. Gut feel suggests that Uni will come back down the highway with the points.
The last round before Christmas of Women’s 1st XI competition provided some standout performances.
This weekend sees clubs return to more One Day games, with the run towards the finals slowly beginning to come on the horizon. Most sides may see absentees with the WNCL games played this week, along with the Australian Country Cricket Championships in Toowoomba concluding at the weekend.
Essendon Maribyrnong Park (1st) host Box Hill (3rd) on Saturday at Aberfeldie Park. This battle will give both sides a true read as to where they sit, with the Bombers currently six points clear of the Mustangs. The Mustangs have come off some strong form in recent rounds with convincing wins over Ringwood and Melbourne in the fortnight prior to the break, while the Bombers rebounded after their loss to Prahran with a last-gasp win over Dandenong before a stronger performance against Carlton-Brunswick. Expect the battle to be the fought hard, with the Mustangs more than capable of the upset on their day if their batting fires and support Rebecca Carter.
Prahran (2nd) host Dandenong (8th) at Toorak Park. The True Blues prior to the break fell in over the line against Ringwood before getting home along similar lines against Melbourne, while the Panthers were stiff not to knock off the top side EMP at the CitiPower Centre before also just falling short against Plenty Valley. The key wicket for the Panthers to get will be Emma Inglis as she can win a match off her own bat, while their own batting needs to hold up strong against the hosts’ attack. On paper, I think that the Panthers may still be heavily decimated by the Country Champs and feel that that True Blues will still have enough players with experience to take this game out.
Ringwood (7th) host Carlton-Brunswick (6th) at Russell Lucas Oval. The Rams took it up to Prahran before lacking penetration against Box Hill in their two games prior to the break, while the Strikers have tried hard to take the points against Plenty Valley and EMP, with their batting struggling to put together key partnerships at crucial times a factor in dropping both games. The key player that the Strikers will be keen to keep quiet is Rams’ skipper Bhavisha Devchand, who has been in some strong form with bat and ball, while getting their batting card to fire against one of the faster improving attacks this season. On paper, this could go close, with the gut feel saying the Rams may sneak in.
Finally, Plenty Valley (4th) host Melbourne (5th) at Yarrambat War Memorial Park. The Bats have been on the rebound prior to the break with wins over Carlton-Brunswick and Dandenong and will be keen to keep it going, while the Demons have gone ‘off the heat’ dropping games to Box Hill and Prahran. The Bats will need to watch the tricks of Elly Donald after her 6-wicket haul last round, while the Demons will be keen to get early wickets, with Sophie Reid scoring 99 last match. On paper, I feel that this game is also likely to go either way and with the Bats back at home on Yarrambat after recent ground works they will be keen to recommence with the points.
Congratulations go to the following members within Premier Cricket:
The following Milestones were achieved during play in the last weekend prior to Christmas:
MEN’S PREMIER 1STS
ROUND 10 – SATURDAY 11 JANUARY (11:00am Start)
FOOTSCRAY V CASEY-SOUTH MELBOURNE at Mervyn G Hughes Oval
Umpires G Bawa & M Malmberg
FRANKSTON PENINSULA V GEELONG at AH Butler Oval
Umpires S Pitts & A Medina
FITZROY DONCASTER V DANDENONG at Schramms Reserve #1
Umpires B Sheahan & V Calabro
MELBOURNE V GREENVALE KANGAROOS at Albert Ground
Umpires D Brigham & D Henderson
NORTHCOTE V CAMBERWELL MAGPIES at Bill Lawry Oval
Umpires D Ireland & J Birchall
ST KILDA V MONASH TIGERS at CitiPower Centre
Umpires L Uthenwoldt & M Nolan
ESSENDON V PRAHRAN at Windy Hill
Umpires T Wendelken & M Muthugounder
CARLTON V KINGSTON HAWTHORN at Princes Park #1
Umpires L McCabe & G Azzopardi
RINGWOOD V MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY at Russell Lucas Oval
Umpires J Leonard-Scott & S Olufson
WOMEN’S PREMIER 1STS
ROUND 6 ONE DAY – SATURDAY 11 JANUARY (11:00am Start)
ESSENDON MARIBYRNONG PARK V BOX HILL at Aberfeldie Park
Umpires L McKay & W Downey
ROUND 6 ONE DAY – SUNDAY 12 JANUARY (11:00am Start)
PRAHRAN V DANDENONG at Toorak Park
Umpires G Bawa & T Wendelken
RINGWOOD V CARLTON-BRUNSWICK at Russell Lucas Oval
PLENTY VALLEY V MELBOURNE at Yarrambat War Memorial Park
Umpires C Francis & J Wyatt