STRATHDALE-Maristians will this weekend chase their third-straight Bendigo District Cricket Association premiership.
The Suns are a phenomenal team that are not only the two-time defending premiers, but are yet to be beaten this season. LUKE WEST looks at how the flag favourites are shaping up going into what is their fifth-consecutive grand final when they take on Eaglehawk.
THE obvious standout feature of the Suns’ batting is they genuinely bat down to No.11.
That is shown by the fact that Braden Hocking, who has a highest score of 65 this season and is averaging almost 30, will bat at No.11.
Further up the order, the Suns have their top-four batsmen who have all passed the 470-run mark.
Red-hot opener Travis King (725 runs) is the standout batsman going into the grand final.
The left-hander is all class, with his 140 in last week’s semi-final win over Golden Square continuing a
brilliant post-Christmas run in which he has made 517 runs at 73.8.
King will open the batting with
Cameron Taylor (529), whose season has been a roller-coaster.
Taylor has scored the equal most centuries of any player this season with three, yet in his past eight innings has got to double figures just twice.
But when Taylor has reached double figures this season, he has gone on to average 100.6, so the Hawks will be desperate to get him early.
Jono Davidson (472) will bat at three and, while renowned as a semi-final specialist, no doubt will be keen to improve an ordinary record in which he has made just 29 runs in his past four grand finals.
And captain Linton Jacobs (612) has had his best season with the bat to round out the Suns’ top four.
But that’s just the top four. Then there’s the likes of Dom Taylor (217), big hitter Adrian Pappin (210), grand final specialist Ben DeAraugo (195), Craig Howard (167) and Nick
Baker (111) still to bat after the first three wickets fall.
JUST like their batting, there is no shortage of bowling options for the Suns, who boast a complete attack.
There has been no better bowler this season than Suns’ paceman Ben
DeAraugo, who has taken a competition best 42 wickets.
DeAraugo has been pivotal in getting early breakthroughs for the Suns, with 24 of his 42 wickets those of top-five batsmen.
Braden Hocking (14 wickets) will take the new ball with DeAraugo.
Hocking has only taken two wickets from 46 overs in his past four games, but the Hawks will still have bad memories of what he’s capable of.
When he last played in a final against the Hawks, Hocking ripped through their top-order in the 2010 semi,
taking 4-24 off eight overs as a
Seamer Ryan Haythorpe (14), who plays his 50th first XI game today, is an awkward bowler to face and has been unlucky not to have taken more wickets this season.
But where the Suns have an advantage over the rest of the competition is their spin bowling department in offie Craig Howard (25) and leggie Cameron Taylor (24).
Both are class bowlers who are wicket-takers – they combined for six against Golden Square last week – but also tie the opposition down.
BEN DeARAUGO – with the potential for a bowler-friendly grand final wicket, the Suns’ quickie looms as a real handful for the Hawks’ batsmen.
DeAraugo has picked up another yard or two in pace this season and will be fresh and raring to go after only bowling nine overs against Golden Square in the semi-final win last week.
He didn’t take a wicket against the Hawks in round three, but he was
super economical in conceding just 35 runs off 23 overs.
As well as his bowling strength, he also seems to enjoy batting in grand finals, having scored 72 and 86 n.o. in the Suns’ past two flags.
WHY THEY CAN WIN
CONSIDERING the Suns haven’t lost all season – and have an overall
unbeaten record of 24 games going back to December, 2011 – the answer is self-explanatory.
The Suns have clearly been the best side all season. No team has been good enough to beat them and they have a superb ability to win from any position, such as when they beat Eaglehawk against the odds in round three.
There’s no weakness in the Suns’ side. They are the complete team and cherry-ripe to go three in a row.
‘‘The boys have been terrific all year. I can’t question their hunger or appetite to keep improving and win games of cricket.
“We’ve had a really good year with 15 wins from 15 games, but it’s all about this weekend and if we don’t get the job done then it will be a wasted year.
“We’ll go in with a bit of confidence and from past years we know we can win from almost any position.
“Eaglehawk is a quality side and is similar to us in that their best 11 is very solid all the way down.
“We’ll turn up on the weekend, give it our best and hopefully, that is good enough.”– Linton Jacobs.