WINGHAM captain Ben Scowen said the return of prodigal son Ben Cole has helped turn around his side’s performances in the McDonalds Mid North Coast Premier League cricket competition.
Cole had a late start to the season. However, in just three innings he’s compiled 133 runs at the improbable average of 133.
An aggressive middle order batsman, Cole is back at his home club after a stint with Old Bar.
“I rate Ben as one of the best batsmen in the competition,’’ Scowen said.
“He’s been showing why – he’s been awesome.’’
Wingham’s nadir came in the match against Taree West last month when they managed just 20. However, they haven’t lost a game since and sit in fourth spot with a game against United in hand. Wingham plays Nulla in the final match before the Christmas break at Laurieton on Saturday.
Scowen pointed out that Wingham struggled to get the strongest XI on the paddock in the opening weeks of the competition and that was the main reason for their trevails.
“We used nearly 25 players in the first few weeks – that’s two teams,’’ he said.
However, the side is more settled now. Scowen added that Dave Rees is starting to show some of his best form with the ball, while veteran Mick Stinson has played some valuable knocks down the order.
Stone goes up order for United
VETERAN batsman Danial Stone will be given a promotion in the batting order at United looks to end a three match losing streak in McDonalds Mid North Coast Premier League.
Stone has been batting at six or seven, but he’ll open with Josh Ferris in tomorrow’s clash against Port Pirates at Port Macquarie’s Wayne Richards Park. Skipper Ricky Campbell pointed out that Stone has a wealth of experience opening the innings and if he gets going, he can give United a whirlwind start. However, Campbell’s also looking to get some stability into United’s misfiring middle order, so he’ll move Matt Collier down the list. Collier has been opening the batting this season.
Campbell has described the game against the competition strugglers as a ‘must win.’
“All the top teams play each other this weekend, so if we get a win we could move to second,’’ Campbell explained.
However, he added a loss would leave United precariously placed and needing a string of wins when the premier league resumes next year.
United led the competition by six points a month ago. Now they’re down to seventh, although only three adrift of fourth. United is one of four teams still with a game in hand.
“If we’d won last week, we would have been second,’’ Campbell said.
“But we can’t worry about that now.’’
United said morale in the camp remains high, although he admits the players are becoming frustrated, particularly as the side was in the position to win all three games they eventually lost. Last week poor fielding and irresponsible batting contributed to their four run loss to Kempsey club Rovers.
Campbell’s also hoping to win the toss tomorrow and bat first, reasoning United is better at setting a total than chasing one. His side will be at full strength apart from allrounder Murray McCartney, who is recovering from a hamstring strain and will return after the Christmas break.
Pirates have yet to win a game and United cruised to a comfortable win in the first round encounter.
Meanwhile competition leaders Macquarie will meet second placed Wauchope at Wauchope tomorrow.
This will feature two of the competition’s leading batsmen, Wauchope’s Robert Parker, who has scored 181 runs and Macquarie’s Josh Hyde, who has 202 runs to his credit following the first round fixtures.
Taree West cricketers have the weekend off with the bye, finishing 2017 on a strong note last week with a win over Pirates at Johnny Martin Oval.
Eight sides still in the hunt for semi-final places
Eight of the nine McDonalds Premier League cricket sides remain in the hunt for a finals berth following the first round of the competition.
Macquarie leads on 37 followed by Wauchope 33, Nulla 33, Wingham 32, Port City 32, Rovers 28, United 27, Taree West 25 and Port Pirates on 13. Pirates would appear to be the only team not in contention. The competition will go into recess following tomorrow's round of matches, which will be the first of the second round.