THE Mid North Coast Premier League cricket minor premiership is already on Wingham captain Michael Rees’ radar.
Undefeated Wingham, currently second, meet third placed United in the match of the season tomorrow at Chatham Park.
Rees concedes there’s still plenty of cricket to be played before the semi-finals start on March 30. Tomorrow is round nine in an 18 round competition. However, he added points on the board at this stage are invaluable.
“There are two matches remaining before the Christmas break,’’ Rees said.
“If we can win them both we’ll be in the top two any maybe leading the comp going into Christmas. That’s where we want to be going into the semis.’’
While a top two berth is paramount, Rees said he wants to finish minor premier, a massive advantage going into the playoffs, as showed last season when rain intervened and the grand final was decided without a ball being bowled. Minor premiers Macquarie were declared premiers over the unlucky Wingham.
As ever, Wingham will be minus a couple of players tomorrow for the clash against United.
“Hayden Essery and Harry Clarke are both out at this stage,’’ Rees said.
Essery opened the batting with Rees last match against Nulla and watched as the skipper smashed 77 off just 30 balls. Essery made 23.
Rees isn’t expecting to see too much of Essery after Christmas as he’ll have rugby league training commitments in Sydney.
Consistent seamer Steve Allwood returns to the side after missing last week.
Rees said there’s always a bit of an edge in the games against United.
“We always like to beat the local teams,’’ he said.
Rees was reasonably non-committal about his swashbuckling innings last week.
“It was nice to contribute,’’ was all he would say.
He hasn’t been in great form with the bat, but he isn’t too concerned.
"You don’t want to waste your runs early,’’ he explained.
Go for the jugular urges United captain
UNITED captain Ricky Campbell will urge his bowlers to go for the jugular in the vital Mid North Coast Premier League match of the season against undefeated Wingham tomorrow at Chatham Park.
United sit in third place, with Wingham second going into the contest.
Campbell admits he has concerned at United’s inability to limit the opposition to a low score after making early inroads in recent weeks.
Last weekend Nulla recovered from 2/2 and 5/60 to scramble to a competitive 151. United then lost seven wickets in the run chase after making a disastrous start. Strong middle order input from Campbell, Tom Burley and Dean Mills saw United across the line.
In the previous game against Rovers the last wicket pair took the score from 156 to 181, although again, United went onto win the match.
Campbell said there’s plenty of depth in his bowling attack and added United should be able to cash in if they snare early wickets.
“Just about everyone in the side can bowl,’’ he said.
“But we’re allowing sides to make that extra 30 or 40 runs and that can be costly.
“I think we’ll have to bowl a bit tighter late in the innings’’
He added United won’t be able to afford the Wingham batsmen such a luxury or they could pay dearly.
United go into the game at full strength with the return of opening bowler Sam Whitbread, who has recovered from an ankle injury. Whitbread is the second highest wicket taker in the competition with 13.
Campbell said this will be a crucial game for his team.
“We have the bye next week, so if we win we could go into the Christmas break in second spot,’’ he said.
“But it we’re beaten we could drop back to fourth or fifth.’’
Campbell said his Wingham counterpart Michael Rees looms as a dangerman. Rees smashed 77 in 30 balls last week when Wingham beat Rovers. His form with the bat had been inconsistent but he has found his groove in the last couple of games.
“Of course he finds form before he plays us,’’ Campbell smiled.
“But he’ll be the key wicket – he’s one of the best players in the comp and if we can contain him it will be a big plus.’’
Campbell normally bats if he wins the toss. However, with a bit of rain around late in the week he’ll reserve his judgement until game day.
Campbell agreed Wingham will be a formidable rival. He noted that the teams have had some great battles in recent seasons and he believes tomorrow’s game shapes as another close struggle.
“There a fair bit resting on the result for both sides,’’ he added.