TESTING conditions await cricketers from 17 associations for the annual Bendigo Country Week carnival, with a week of hot weather forecast for central Victoria.
The annual carnival – first held in 1934 – hits off on Monday with the forecast temperature for Bendigo 35 degrees.
That will be followed by forecast tops of 38 on Tuesday, 33 on Wednesday and 39 on Thursday, while 40 is expected for finals day on Friday.
The Country Week heat policy is envoked on days in which the forecast temperature is 42 degrees and includes reducing games to 35 overs per side, starting earlier at 9am and extra drinks breaks.
Division one this year features defending champions Murray Valley, last season’s runners-up Goulburn Murray, Wangaratta, Castlemaine, hometown hope Emu Valley and Gisborne.
Wangaratta has been promoted after winning division two last year and takes the place in division one of Northern Districts.
Murray Valley coach Luke Quinn says the defending champions have selected a squad with an even spread of Country Week debutantes and players who have previously made the trip to Bendigo.
One of the most prized wickets of the carnival will be Murray Valley’s South African opener Wian Van Zyl, who heads to Bendigo with 844 runs – which includes a pair of double centuries – and an average of 105.5 for his club side Cobram.
“We’re missing a few of our regulars of recent years like Luke Carter, Ash Quinn and Liam Evans, who we’ve relied a lot on, but the 12 we’re bringing are all really keen to have a crack and experience Bendigo Country Week,” Quinn said at the weekend.
“It would be nice to get through to Friday, but if each player learns a bit from each day then that’s probably as good as making the final from my perspective.”
Meanwhile, there will be a bye in division three following the late withdrawal last week of Swan Hill.
Goulburn Murray v Murray Valley (Windridge Oval, Rochester), Wangaratta v Castlemaine (Moon Oval, Rochester), Emu Valley v Gisborne (Kangaroo Flat).
Grampians v Portland (Weeroona Oval), Colac v Red Cliffs (North Bendigo), Northern Districts v Grassmere (Castlemaine).
Maryborough v Grassmere (Maryborough), Wimmera-Mallee v Upper Loddon (Golden Square). Northern United bye.
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