BENDIGO United will contest its 11th-consecutive Bendigo District Cricket Association semi-final when it takes on Eaglehawk at Harry Trott Oval today.
While this is 11 years in a row in the finals for the Redbacks, Eaglehawk is back after missing the past two.
The two sides have met twice in the past seven weeks, with the ledger square at 1-1.
With both sides having strong bowling line-ups, one of the key determining factors in the outcome will be which batting line-up stands up.
Both teams have shown this season they are
suspectible to batting collapses, with it having been an issue for Bendigo United, in particular, since the
The Redbacks have opted to strengthen their batting this weekend with the inclusion of Wayne Fidler and Patrick Naughtin for Alex Culvenor and Alex Sutton.
Redbacks’ veteran Heath Behrens has produced another stellar season with the bat, belting 730 runs at an average of 60.8.
Behrens scored 50 and 52 in his two games against the Hawks during the season, while he has a super finals record.
Since 2000, Behrens has batted 18 times in finals for 789 runs at an average of 56.4.
Captain Leigh McDermott (433) has had his best season with the bat for the Redbacks, while X-factor Matt Pinniger (319) has averaged 45.6 in his seven hits since returning to the club.
Bowlers Marcus Smalley (35 wickets) and Miggy Podosky (30) have both had outstanding seasons, with one of the traits in recent games being the Redbacks’ ability to take early wickets.
In their past three matches the Redbacks – who have lost the past two grand finals to Strathdale-Maristians – have had their opposition 4-5, 3-17 and last week bowled Sandhurst out for 56.
Eaglehawk has an experienced batting line-up, with their top five run-scorers Anthony West (471), Andrew Smith (461), Matt White (431), Matt Fitt (257) and Shane Taylor (237) all players who have played a lot of cricket, as has captain Jason Abbott (193), whose home and away season was hampered by a calf injury.
One of the most impressive young players in the competition this season has been teenager Cameron McGlashan (230 runs and 16 wickets), who Bendigo United certainly don’t need any reminding of.
When they last met in round 13, McGlashan – who will play in his first final – made 91 and took 5-37 against the Redbacks.
As well as McGlashan, the Hawks will look to the in-form Smith (34 wickets), explosive paceman Richard Tibbett (26), Cory Jacobs (13) and Taylor (9) to keep the clamps on the Redbacks’ batsmen.
THE MEN IN CHARGE: Leigh McDermott (Bendigo United) – ‘‘Eaglehawk is a very good side with a lot of match-winners, but if all 11 of our guys play to their ability, I’m positive we can come away with the result we’re after.
“Finals is a different sort of pressure to a normal home and away season game.
“Whatever happened during the home and away season doesn’t count now. Finals are when the really good players and leaders stand up to be counted.”
Jason Abbott (Eaglehawk) – “Since that game against Strathfieldsaye when we got bowled out for 78 (in round 12), we’ve really turned the corner and everyone is positive going into this weekend.
“I know it has only been two games since the
Strathfieldsaye match, but our form has been consistent... we haven’t had a lot of standouts, but everyone has been doing their bit, which has been pleasing.
“Having been out of the finals for a couple of years, the boys are looking forward to getting into it again.”
LUKE WEST’S VERDICT: Eaglehawk. Toss of the coin, but I believe the Hawks are a more dangerous side.