The time for pressure has now arrived and the tempo increases 10-fold – Finals are here again! In the eyes of some, only performances at this time of the season genuinely count and make for the best stories at the bar or around a campfire, while others use this time of the year to show the hours of practice put in to showcase their abilities in high-pressure situations.
Round 15 saw plenty of eyes on several results across the competition, with the determination of the Top 8 locked in just after 6pm on the Saturday Night.
Highlights from last weekend’s matches included:
The Men’s competition will see the 1st XI play Qualifying Finals for the Top 4 with the winners automatically qualifying for a Home Preliminary Final, while the loser gets a second chance. Teams from 5th to 8th will play sudden death Elimination Finals, with the winners to proceed to a Semi Final against the losers of the Qualifying Finals while the losers say goodbye to season 2019/20.
This week will also see several members of the Victorian squad in Finals action, with this to be seen as good preparation in light of the upcoming final round of Sheffield Shield action the following weekend against Tasmania, with a chance to play NSW in NSW in the Final on offer.
Men’s Lower XIs will play Sudden Death Semi Finals this weekend, with the winners to play Preliminary Finals next week.
NOTE: Men’s 1st & 2nd XI Semi Finals commence at 10:30am, with Men’s 3rd & 4th XI Semi Finals commencing at 11:30am.
Qualifying Final #1 will see Melbourne University (1st) host Northcote (4th) at the University Main Oval. These sides met in the recent rescheduled Round 16 One Day game with Uni taking the points but this time around there will be added pressure as the winner will get a ‘free pass’ into the Preliminary Final, while the loser will play the winner of the Carlton vs Essendon Elimination Final.
Uni’s dominance to top of the table was led by the performances with the willow by Alex Gregory (622 @ 56.55), Andrej Yaksender (607 @ 55.18) and Fergus McKenna (605 @ 46.54), while their bowling has been led by Steven Reid (29 @ 17.66), Mark Stafford (25 @ 23.12) and Gregory (22 @ 18.77). For the Dragons, their batting has been led by Joshua Sundberg (516 @ 34.40), Max O’Sullivan (471 @ 36.23) and Mark Phelan (441 @ 29.40), while Joe Medew-Ewen (33 @ 22.94), Sam Harbinson (27 @ 23.78), Michael Edwards (22 @ 31.55) and Jonty Rushton (21 @ 24.67) have led their attack.
While the Dragons will have a ‘free swing’ and come out with nothing to lose, the form that has been shown by the Uni team this season will give them the advantage in this match.
Qualifying Final #2 will see Footscray (2nd) host Melbourne (3rd) at Mervyn G Hughes Oval. These sides last met in Round 12 with the Bulldogs coming away with the points after a Demons batting collapse. Both sides will be keen to come out and give it their best with the incentive of a week’s rest potentially helping some experienced members through the campaign.
The Dogs have been led this season with the bat by Travis Dean (534 @ 44.50), Daniel Sartori (521 @ 37.21) and Dean Russ (488 @ 37.54), while Jordan Buckingham (25 @ 20.68), Russ (17 @ 15.18) and injured quick Hamish Winter-Irving (14 @ 33.64) have led the bowling. For the Demons, Blake Thomson (629 @ 52.42) has been their star, with support from Matthew Brown (398 @ 30.62) and Meyrick Buchanan (375 @ 34.09). With the ball, Kieran Elliott (33 @ 14.14), first year quick Fergus O’Neill (23 @ 20.48) and Jackson Koop (21 @ 22.33) have led the Dees’ attack.
On current form, the Dogs will look to take the momentum of their victory in the last round against Carlton to take them into the Preliminary Final but on paper, the Demons appear to have a stronger team and would go in as favourites in this match.
Elimination Final #1 will see Carlton (5th) host Essendon (8th) at Princes Park #1. These sides met in the opening round of the season with the Bombers taking the points in a one-day game. With the stakes having turned and the season now on the line for both sides, expect this game to be a high-stakes shootout between two sides that can play positive and attacking cricket.
The Blues have been led with the willow by keeper Brayden Stepien (523 @ 43.58). The Blues will be ruing losing Thomas Smyth (392 @ 32.67 + 14 @ 15.79) due to a finger injury, putting extra pressure on Nicholas Ross (355 @ 35.50) and skipper Evan Gulbis (343 @ 26.38) to find runs in the top and middle order. With the ball, Cam Stevenson (32 @ 10.81) and Xavier Crone (29 @ 17.17) will make life interesting, while Gulbis (24 @ 12.63) and Matt Wilson (16 @ 18.81) are more than able support. For the Bombers, their batting has been led heavily by James Seymour (666 @ 47.57), while skipper Michael Hill (391 @ 43.44) and Aaron Ayre (356 @ 27.38) are the other lynchpins to the Bombers chances, while their bowling has been led by Matt Doric (33 @ 18.64), Liam Bowe (24 @ 19.79), Seymour (22 @ 13.18) and Tom O’Donnell (22 @ 13.55).
On current form, this game has the potential of going to the wire, with the experienced heads likely to come to the fore. My gut feel suggests the Blues may just have enough firepower to overcome the Bombers in this battle.
Elimination Final #2 will see St Kilda (6th) play Prahran (7th) at Windy Hill (due to the Grand Prix lockdown in Albert Park). The last time these sides met was in Round 6 and the Saints took the points in a rescheduled One Day game on the Sunday of a Saturday/Sunday round. With both sides being long-time rivals, this game is likely to have plenty of ‘spice’ across the two days.
The Saints have been led with the bat by skipper Adam Crosthwaite (424 @ 42.40), while Jonathan Merlo (310 @ 38.75) has provided support on occasions. With the ball, the Saints’ have been led by upcoming spinner Todd Murphy (23 @ 19.83), with support from Will Lovell (19 @ 24.05) while Matt Hennig (16 @ 20.75) has been coming back in recent rounds from an injury that occurred around Christmas. The True Blues have been led in the runs by skipper Jake Hancock (458 @ 32.71) and Adam Bull (356 @ 27.38), while injured opener James Billington (520 @ 43.33) has missed recent games after suffering an injury as a result of a call-up to the Victorian 2nd XI. With the ball, the True Blues have been positive with the ball through the efforts of Andrew Perrin (26 @ 16.58), Matt Wilcox (25 @ 15.96), Sam Grimwade (19 @ 24.47) and Stephen Seymour (16 @ 14.25).
On recent form, while the Saints may have done Essendon a favour last weekend, the gut feel suggests that they will need to find something big with their batting card to keep themselves in the game. Prahran to start with their noses in front.
Women’s Premier Cricket will see their Semi Finals play this Sunday across their two grades. Each side will be keen to give it their best and leave no stone unturned after last weekend was left vacant due to the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Final at the MCG.
Games start at 11am for 1st XI and 12 Noon for 2nd XI.
Semi Final #1 will see Essendon Maribyrnong Park (1st) host Plenty Valley (4th) at Aberfeldie Park. The Bombers finished on top primarily as a result of every win they achieved they also claimed the Bonus Point in that match, while the Bats secured their Finals spot with a round to go after a Tie against Carlton-Brunswick. Both sides were on the receiving end of a loss in their last game (to Box Hill and Melbourne respectively) and will be keen to come out firing in this sudden-death showdown.
The Bombers have been led with the bat by Makinley Blows (318 @ 39.75), with support from Elyse Villani (212 @ 42.40), Alyssa Humphries (166 @ 18.44) and Briana Binch (162 @ 27.00). With the ball, Chloe Rafferty (20 @ 16.05) and Binch (19 @ 12.89) have been the Bombers’ mainstays, with support from Mikayla Haddow (12 @ 12.92) and Blows (11 @ 14.73). For the Bats, their batting has been led by Sophie Reid (448 @ 40.73), with support from skipper Rhiann O’Donnell (235 @ 26.11), Sophie Day (229 @ 20.82) and Meagan Ciavarella (208 @ 17.33). With the ball, the Bats’ attack has relied on the spin twins of Grace Jones (19 @ 16.79) and Beth Harvey (13 @ 23.38), with O’Donnell (12 @ 15.00) and Day (10 @ 30.90) providing support.
On current form, the Bombers appear to be the stronger team on paper and will be keen to secure another Grand Final appearance, while the Bats will be keen to produce an upset to secure a trip into unchartered waters for them. EMP to start as favourites.
Semi Final #2 will see Prahran (2nd) host Box Hill (3rd) at Toorak Park. The True Blues finished 2nd with a strong campaign during the middle of the One Day season with an 8-game winning stream, while the Mustangs have played a lot of solid cricket over the season to finish their Home & Away campaign in 3rd. Both sides came away with the points in their last game (against Dandenong and EMP respectively) and will be keen to come away with another big game result.
The True Blues have been led with the bat by Sterre Kalis (382 @ 38.20), along with skipper Emma Inglis (372 @37.20), Alana King (196 @ 21.78) and Gaby Lewis (171 @ 15.55). With the ball, the True Blues have been led by Alana King (20 @ 14.35), Robine Rijke (11 @ 19.00), Meika King (9 @ 21.56) and Merinda Hale (9 @ 23.56). The Mustangs’ batting has been led by skipper Rebecca Carter (658 @ 73.11), with strong support from Zoe Griffiths (337 @ 42.13), Anna Lanning (268 @ 53.60) and Tahlia Meier (162 @ 23.14). With the ball, the Mustangs’ attack has been led by Griffiths (20 @ 11.75) and Paris Rafferty (20 @ 13.90), with Stephanie Butler (18 @ 18.39) and Danielle Montague (17 @ 17.41) providing strong support.
On paper, both sides are likely to take the game deep, with the depth in experienced players likely to be the key factor in this game. On current form, I feel that the Mustangs may just have the edge in this match on the strength of their bowling attack this season.
Congratulations go to the following members within Premier Cricket:
The following Milestones were achieved during play last weekend:
MEN’S PREMIER 1STS
QUALIFYING FINALS – SATURDAY 14 & SUNDAY 15 MARCH (10:30am Start)
MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY V NORTHCOTE at University Main Oval
Umpires D Brigham & J Leonard-Scott
FOOTSCRAY V MELBOURNE at Mervyn G Hughes Oval
Umpires M van Eck & A Medina
ELIMINATION FINALS – SATURDAY 14 & SUNDAY 15 MARCH (10:30am Start)
CARLTON V ESSENDON at Princes Park #1
Umpires D Ireland & S Olufson
ST KILDA V PRAHRAN at Windy Hill
Umpires G Azzopardi & C Grant
STANDBY UMPIRE: M Nolan
WOMEN’S PREMIER 1STS
SEMI FINALS ONE DAY – SUNDAY 15 MARCH (11:00am Start)
ESSENDON MARIBYRNONG PARK V PLENTY VALLEY at Aberfeldie Park
Umpires M Malmberg & S Fishley
PRAHRAN V BOX HILL at Toorak Park
Umpires W Downey & L McKay
STANDBY UMPIRE: C Rajhansa