GOLDEN Square will this weekend be aiming to do what no team has been able to achieve in the Bendigo
District Cricket Association this season – defeat Strathdale-Maristians.
The Suns and Square will meet in a semi-final at Bell Oval starting today, with the winner to advance to the grand final.
The Suns – who have won the past two premierships – have been the standout side of the season, winning all 14 games and finishing 22 points clear at the top of the ladder.
Those 14 wins have included two against Golden Square in their past four games – an eight-run victory in their one-day match in round 11 and a far more comfortable 95-run victory in their round 14 two-day game, which finished last week.
The Suns have made one change to their side, brining back batsman Nick Baker from a calf injury in place of Jacob DeAraugo.
Strathdale-Maristians’ batting has been headlined this season by the trio of captain Linton Jacobs (588 runs), Travis King (585) and the inconsistent Cameron Taylor (525), who have all passed the 500-run mark, while Jono Davidson has scored 409 runs.
Davidson has scored just 11 runs in his past three hits, but has proven himself to be a semi-final
specialist. The No.3 batsman averages 116 in the four semi-finals he has played.
With the ball, there has been no better bowler in the competition this season that Suns’ paceman Ben DeAraugo, who has taken a career-best 42 wickets, while spinners Craig Howard (22) and Cameron Taylor (21) have combined for 43 wickets.
Golden Square will take a nothing-to-lose attitude into the semi-final, but will certainly have in the back of their minds that three years ago they finished on top of the ladder, only to lose to fourth-placed Bendigo United in a semi-final upset.
Veterans Scott Johnson (599 runs) and captain Grant Connelly (332) hold the key with the bat for Square, but they are also going to need the likes of Jason
Johnson (377), Scott Trollope (247), John Lalor (166) and the recalled Alex Code (126) to contribute.
The bowling department that boasts Darren Clutton (24 wickets), Luke Baird (23), James Pietromonaco (21), Scott Woodman (12), Connelly (7) and spinner Johnson (27) on paper is good enough to keep the Suns to a losing score, but they will have to make the most of every opportunity, unlike Huntly-North Epsom in its semi-final against Strathdale last year.
THE MEN IN CHARGE: Linton Jacobs (Strathdale-Maristians) – ‘‘We’ve been pleased with the way we’ve gone so far this season. We’ve had a few close games along the way, but to the boys credit, you can’t fault their endeavour to win and improve.
“We know Golden Square is a quality team and has some of the top players in the competition in Scott Johnson and Grant Connelly, so we’ll have to be on our game and make sure we keep them on the back foot.
“If we do what we need to do right then I’m confident we’ll get over the line.”
Grant Connelly (Golden Square) – ‘‘Strathdale is undefeated and obviously the best side in it, so it’s just about us trying to play our best cricket.
“If our best cricket isn’t good enough to get us over the line then we’ll have no regrets... simple as that.
“If a few things go our way on Saturday and Sunday, then anything can happen. If we can get a few early wickets and expose their middle-order, you’re a chance to run through them, which Huntly-North Epsom showed a few weeks ago.
“It’s just about the boys having belief in themselves and having a bit of luck go our way.”
LUKE WEST’S VERDICT: Strathdale-Maristians. Now is not the time to be tipping against an undefeated side.