EVCA flag race wide open at halfway mark

THE Emu Valley Cricket Association begins the second half of its season on Saturday with the premiership race wide open.

After seven rounds, just one game separates the top four sides - United, Marong, West Bendigo and Emu Creek.

Entering the second half of the season, here's how each team is performing.

AXE CREEK

8th: 2-5.

Runs: Travis Nolan (236), Rob Fisher (183), Ash Dixon (167).

Wickets: Travis Nolan (15), Daniel Saaghy (13), Nick Skeen (12).

It has been a challenging season for the Cowboys, particularly their bowlers, who in their five losses conceded an average first innings score of 351.

Captain Travis Nolan has been the standout, leading the Cowboys in both batting and bowling.

EMU CREEK

4th: 5-2.

Runs: Daniel Chamberlain (368), Simon Marwood (317), Shane Hamilton (248).

Wickets: Simon Marwood (20), Anthony Collins (16), Daniel Chamberlain (8).

The Emus made a perfect start to their premiership defence, winning their first five games.

But they've hit a mid-season bump, losing their past two games to Marong and Spring Gully, during which they've tumbled from top to fourth.

And it doesn't get any easier with their next three games against United, Mandurang and Marong, which will test the reigning champions.

They have two of the competition's top-four run-scorers in captain Daniel Chamberlain and all-rounder Simon Marwood, who has also taken 20 wickets.

GOLDEN GULLY

5th: 3-4.

Runs: Brendon Lummis (215), Nathan Hamblin (206), Phillip Moore (120). * Rd 7 batting stats versus Mandurang not supplied.

Wickets: Cameron Moore (19), Shaun O'Shea (10), Travis Eckardt (10).

It has been an improved season for the Cobras, who have already matched their tally of three wins from last season.

The Cobras are 3-4, but should at least be 4-3 after they blew a first innings lead against Spring Gully in round three, while they were unable to deliver the knockout blow against Emu Creek in round five and were beaten.

Recruit Cameron Moore has been one of the dominant bowlers of the EVCA this season with 19 wickets, which includes a five-for and six-for.

MARONG

2nd: 6-1.

Runs: Jeremy Ross (313), Nick Ede (240), Andrew Gladstone (184).

Wickets: Dean Cosgriff (12), Adam Brown (12), Jayden Laubsch (8).

The Panthers are shaping up well for a tilt at the flag and have somewhat flown under the radar behind United and Emu Creek.

But if it wasn't for a five-run loss to West Bendigo in round two, they'd be undefeated and on top of the ladder.

They're getting the job done with both bat and ball. They've only conceded one score above 175, while with the bat their average score is 258, which was helped by blasting 410 against Maiden Gully in round six.

Captain Jeremy Ross has been consistent with the bat in making 313 runs, scoring at least 44 in four of his six innings.

MAIDEN GULLY

10th: 1-6.

Runs: Rob Brown (264), Paul Martin (160), Brenden Pearce (131).

Wickets: Glenn McCoomb (10), Rob Brown (9), Simon Cole (8).

Have been stuck on the bottom of the ladder since round two, with the Gully's sole victory a 107-run win over Axe Creek in round five.

It has been a battle for the Gully with the bat. Apart from making 266 against Axe Creek, their average first innings score has been just 135, which tells the tale of their struggles.

MANDURANG

6th: 3-4.

Runs: Matt Giri (300), Ben Rodda (217), Phil Berry (169).

Wickets: Michael Healy (10), Warrick Behrens (8), Ben Rodda (8).

The Rangas have played in the past three grand finals, but their finals aspirations are hanging by a thread with only three wins.

On paper they still shape as a dangerous unit, which is why they shouldn't be written off just yet, but they haven't been able to match the top sides, with their four losses all against the sides that are currently in the top four.

SEDGWICK

9th: 1-6.

Runs: Dustin Elliott (254), Scott McKenzie (142), Jordan Ilsley (128).

Wickets: Scott McKenzie (14), Jordan Knight (14), Sam Alcock (10).

The Rams' only win so far has come against bottom side Maiden Gully.

Yet to make a score of more than 200, with the side having had a heavy reliance with the bat on captain Dustin Elliott, whose 254 runs are 112 more than any other Sedgwick player.

The recent inclusion of Brannon Stanford should help to improve the batting.

SPRING GULLY

7th: 3-4.

Runs: Jayden Mannix (206), Shaun Makepeace (111), Jarrod Harris (95).

Wickets: Damien Dunlop (20), Liam Pilcher (13), Jason Tovey (9).

Yet another side that has had its share of problems in the batting department, which is highlighted by the fact captain Jayden Mannix (206) and Shaun Makepeace (111), who has batted just once, are the only players to have scored more than 100 runs.

The side has been somewhat of a revolving door, with 27 players having already lined up in the division one team.

Former coach Damien Dunlop had been consistent with the ball in taking 20 wickets, but is no longer at the club.

The Crows are the only team to have an outright win so far when they defeated Golden Gully in round three.

UNITED

1st: 6-1.

Runs: Tim Elliott (347), Andrew Gaul (246), Josh Filo (208).

Wickets: Alex Collins (16), Rod Smyth (14), Andrew Gaul (12).

Sitting on top of the ladder, with the Tigers' sole blemish a 26-run loss to Emu Creek in round three.

A key to the Tigers' strong start has been their depth. Tim Elliott, Andrew Gaul, Josh Filo, captain Forbes Klemm and Luke Kairn have all posted scores of at least 50, with Elliott and Gaul both making tons.

And Alex Collins, Rod Smyth, Gaul and Filo have all taken at least five wickets in an innings.

It's looking good for the Tigers at this stage, but can they shake an ordinary finals record of recent years?

WEST BENDIGO

3rd: 5-2.

Runs: Matt Dwyer (326), Ken Bell (290), Joel Purdy (185).

Wickets: Dion Prange (14), Trent Bysouth (11), Ashley Durie (7).

Built some momentum heading into the break with three wins in a row to move into third position and have a favourable run home, so would need to capitulate to miss the finals from here.

Coach Matt Dwyer (326 runs) is having a fine season with the bat, with strong support coming from veteran Ken Bell (290).

Only twice have the Redbacks failed to reach 200, while in their past five games they've only conceded two scores above 160.

• Saturday's matches:

Golden Gully v Spring Gully

Axe Creek v West Bendigo

Sedgwick v Maiden Gully

Emu Creek v United

Mandurang v Marong

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