Belvoir’s bowling stocks are so depleted, it won’t have any of its premiership attack in Saturday’s clash against Lavington.
It’s a vital match too as the Eagles look to retain their spot in the top six.
“It’s a crunch game for so early in the season, the typical eight-point match if you’re playing footy, so it’s a 12-point game in cricket,” all-rounder Mick Spiteri said.
Grand final star Matt Jaensch, who took 6-44 from a marathon 33 overs against Wodonga, has missed a number of games in the opening rounds, while fellow opener and Englishman Jack Holt didn’t return for a second season.
Brad Freake is out with a foot injury, while top-class spinner Zac Simmonds broke down with a back injury playing for Riverina last weekend and won’t play until the New Year.
“We’ve lacked continuity with the ball all season, and we’ll field a very inexperienced bowling line-up against Lavi,” Spiteri said.
And to make matters worse, the club’s leading wicket-taker Michael Booth is also unavailable.
Medium-pacer Gareth Dennis will make his provincial debut, while the club will field two leg-spinners, a rarity at any level.
Spiteri’s 17-year-old son Noah will play his second game, while captain Drew Cameron has rarely bowled in recent years, but could be forced to bowl spin against the Panthers.
Irish under 19 international Aaron Gillespie, now the club’s leading wicket-taker heading into the match with eight scalps, will open the attack with Cameron McCormack.
Belvoir’s severe bowling shortage could provide Lavington with the ideal chance to improve the one area where it’s struggled, and that is top-order batsman failing to make the most of a start.
“We had a few make 30s and 40s last week, but we do need someone to kick on and make a big score,” captain Sam Harris said.
Harris will miss the game himself as he’s in Adelaide for the Test match.
The Eagles and Panthers are the only fixture featuring two teams from the top six.
Elsewhere, Tallangatta will look to retain its undefeated record, albeit without in-form coach Matt Armstrong and ex-Sri Lankan international Dilhara Lokuhettige, when it hosts North Albury.
North needs a win too as it looks to unseat either Belvoir or East Albury in the six.
East Albury is coming off one of its best recent wins, against North, and is now home to St Patrick’s, while Albury and Wodonga hosts New City and Raiders respectively.