The 50-over format is now at the halfway mark, and The Border Mail’sAndrew Moir takes a look at the clubs and predicts what the second half of the season holds.
LAVINGTON 8 WINS, 1 LOSS
Their opening bowlers are in the top four wicket-takers and, if you can get past David Tassell (22) and Ryan Brown (17), you’ve then got to worry about an ex-international bowler, a NSW Country quick and a Riverina star.
Only four players have scored half-centuries against them and only one - Tallangatta’s Sahib Malhotra - did it against the six seamers.
Now if the Panthers had purely just a gun attack, you might sneak a win, but opening batsman Sam O’Connor is in career-best form and former Test paceman Daryl Tuffey has hit three half-centuries in four innings.
Prediction: Premiers and undefeated
The big batting three will decide the season.
Opener Tom Johnson was the leading run-scorer until surgery in late November, Jack Craig has already posted his best season and Robbie Jackson has been the best batsman of the past 10 years.
It’s obviously harder to hit a century now - Johnson is the only player to boast one - under the shortened format, but Jackson hasn’t posted a ton in almost two years, so he’ll be desperate.
The Bulldogs don’t have a bowler in the top 10, but spinners Charlie Jackson (13 wickets) and Craig (13), plus last season’s leading wicket-taker Byron Hales (12) fill the spots just outside.
Prediction: Runner-up (but Jackson has to find his best form)
NORTH ALBURY 7-2
The only team to beat Lavington, so enough said.
Similar to Wodonga in that the gun bats must fire.
Brendan Simmons has been superb, racking up 346 runs at 58, with four half-centuries.
Captain Ash Borella (179 runs at 22), CAW captain Greg Daniel (84 at 21) and Ash Hulme (103 at 51.5) must shine.
North’s attack doesn’t carry the reputation of Lavington - mind you, none have in the past 25 years - but Englishman George McCormick (18), Haydyn Roberts (17) and Brandon Purtell (12) can bowl the team to a second successive grand final.
ST PATRICK’S 6-3
Vying with Wodonga Raiders for title of most improved team after missing finals the past two years.
The pace attack doesn’t feature one player in front-line rep selection, but left-arm medium pacer Kori Stevenson (15), Kieran Cowan (15), Paddy Parnell (11) and Will Keighran (11) have been terrific.
The Patties also don’t rely on batting veteran Luke Restall as much, while captain Matt Crawshaw has already passed last year’s disappointing run total.
If Sahib Malhotra returns, the Bushies are an outside chance.
If he doesn’t, they’re no hope.
The Indian import was around halfway to challenging the single-season run-scoring record, a remarkable achievement given Robbie Jackson achieved that (1032) in an 80-over competition in 2013-14.
Malhotra had 476 runs at 156 with Phil Neville next on 159.
Quicks Sam Stephens and young gun Ryan Bartel have 15 wickets apiece.
NEW CITY 3-6
Will test the theory that you can play finals largely on first-class players.
Indian Saurabh Bandekar sits sixth in the run-scorers with 274 at 39, while fellow first-class all-rounder Sam Grant rounds out the top 10.
The pair also tops the club’s wicket-takers.
Fifteen-year-old Coby Fitzsimmons has impressed (197 runs at 25 and nine wickets), but it will come down to opposition teams stopping Grant and Bandekar.
On batting alone, should walk into finals.
David Farrell, Drew Cameron, Nat Sariman and Josh Warren are a lethal combination.
However, the Eagles struggled in the first half of the year through availability with Sariman (five games) and Warren (four).
The question mark is the bowling.
Belvoir is the only club without a player in the top 20, with Cameron McCormack boasting 10 at 19.
If Albury makes finals, it can thank Irish all-rounder Aaron Gillespie.
He’s 12th for runs (227 at 38) and 16th in bowling (11 at 13).
Albury doesn’t have another player in the top 25 in either discipline.
If the club can sneak into finals, it would be a tremendous achievement as it doesn’t boast the names of teams around them.
EAST ALBURY 2-7
The disappointment of the season.
Stunned the association by playing finals last season when nobody expected it and now looks certain to miss when everybody had them in.
Kris Milosta is just two of his trademark aggressive shots away from passing his best year, 397 at 22 in 2016-17, while Eddy Ziebarth has been the pick of the three Burrumbuttock players to join CAW with 253.
Former Kiewa paceman Ryan de Vries has lived up to expectations after overcoming last season’s knee injury.
WODONGA RAIDERS: 0-9
It seems hard to believe, but Raiders should be finalists.
They had North 7-82, chasing 155, and had St Patrick’s 6-85, needing another 61, when Angus Kilby and Kane Arendarcikas combined and there’s others.
What they do have is the tightest bowler in Steve Keene (2.14 runs per over).
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