By Lance Jenkinson
In an anomaly brought about by the Covid-19 delay to the start of the season, the West Gippsland Cricket Association is yet to even reach the mid-point of its fixture in a new calendar year.
The middle of the season will come when stumps are called around 6pm this Saturday, which is much later than last season’s mid-season marker, which fell in mid-December.
What it means is that more teams have entered the New Year with greater hopes of reaching the finals.
There are enough games remaining – eight left in the 14-game fixture – for even the lowliest of teams to make a run and claim a finals berth.
That makes for some mouth-watering cricket in the final two months of home-and-away rounds.
In the Premier competition, Pakenham and Kooweerup are out in front, as usual.
There was plenty that changed about life in 2020, but the dominance of these two powerhouse clubs showed no signs of abating.
The past five summers have ended with Pakenham and Kooweerup in the grand finals, with the record split at two apiece, while last year’s decider was cancelled due to the pandemic.
They have been the dominant sides over the opening six rounds, sporting identical 4-1-1 records, so you have to wonder if the two sides might still get that dream grand final dubbed ‘the decider’ this season to determine which club deserves the mantle as the best of the current era.
The most anticipated game of the season so far was undoubtedly that re-match of those old foes.
In a tense, low scoring battle in round two, Kooweerup scraped home by 17 runs over Pakenham, but it was hardly convincing enough to hand them premiership favouritism.
For now, the heavyweights are still neck-and-neck in the battle for the minor premiership, so they can rightfully share the favourites tag.
Cardinia is a team that commands respect and cannot be discounted from the race for first.
The Bulls are the only other four-win side in the competition and sit within touching distance of the top two – just half a game back in the standings.
Tellingly, their two losses so far have come against Pakenham and Kooweerup, so it suggests the Bulls still have some ground to make up on the leading two sides, but time is on their side.
Rounding out the top four is Tooradin, who are 12 points back from third-placed Cardinia and six points clear of fifth-placed Merinda Park.
The Seagulls are on an island of their own and will do anything to protect their position as it would mean finals cricket this season.
Knocking on the door of the top four are a trio of two-win teams, including Merinda Park, Clyde and Cranbourne Meadows.
The most intriguing side of that bunch is Merinda Park, who turned heads with a shock victory over Kooweerup before the Christmas break.
How much confidence will the Cobras take from that result?
Could it propel them to go on a run to break into the finals spots.
That storyline is one that WGCA followers will be closely watching when play returns on Saturday.
And that leaves Upper Beaconsfield – the side at the foot of the ladder.
The Maroons might only have one win, but they have eight more opportunities to add to that tally.
If the Maroons can build some momentum, it is not inconceivable that they erase their bad start to the season and make a late play for the finals.
The stage is set for an enthralling second half of the season in the Premier competition.
It returns on Saturday with a suite of one-day games, including Kooweerup hosting Cranbourne Meadows at Kooweerup Recreation Reserve, ladder leader Pakenham entertaining Tooradin in a top-four showdown at Toomuc Reserve, Cardinia and Clyde locking horns at Cardinia Recreation Reserve and Upper Beaconsfield welcoming giantkiller Merinda Park to Upper Beaconsfield Reserve.
The first ball will be bowled at 1pm.
|BATSMAN (Total Runs)|
|Manu Goraya||Merinda Park||239|
|Corey Joyce||Upper Beaconsfield||184|
|Daniel McCalman||Merinda Park||173|
|BOWLER (Total wkts)|
|Joraver Sidhu||Cranbourne Meadows||12|
|Tyson Bertrand||Merinda Park||11|