THE re-emergence of Bendigo United in the Bendigo District Cricket Association faces its toughest test on Saturday when the season resumes after a break of more than a month.
The second-placed Redbacks take on the ladder-leading Strathdale-Maristians at Harry Trott Oval, with both teams entering the keenly-anticipated clash with 5-1 records.
There was a period through the early 2010s when they contested three grand finals in a row against each other (2010, 2011 and 2012) that Strathdale-Maristians vs Bendigo United was the BDCA's marquee match-up.
But in recent years it has been a one-sided duel as the Suns have remained a force in the competition, while the Redbacks have spent the past four years in rebuild mode.
The Redbacks haven't beaten Strathdale-Maristians since 2015-16, but on Saturday under the captaincy of Clayton Holmes will field their strongest team since that last win as they strive to end the Suns' hoodoo.
It's a challenge Holmes and his side are raring to embrace, particularly off an extended spell in which the Christmas-New Year break was followed by a two-week season pause as clubs dealt with the impact of COVID cases and player unavailability.
"Strathdale has been the benchmark of the competition for such a long time, so you always want to be able to compare yourself to the best and we get the chance on Saturday," Holmes said on Friday.
"We're looking forward to it and, hopefully, it will be a ripper game and we can take a fair bit away from it."
Holmes has been instrumental in leading the Redbacks to their 5-1 record in his return season to the club.
The explosive all-rounder leads the Addy's BDCA MVP with 467 points, which includes 242 runs.
Holmes will lead what's close to a full-strength Redbacks' team, which would have been heavily impacted with unavailabilities had the season resumed as normal a fortnight ago.
And apart from coach Grant Waldron, the Suns are close to full tilt with their side, setting up what shapes as a cracking contest between two flag contenders.
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"Whatever the competition, there's no point going through just beating the lower sides, you want to challenge yourself against the best and I'm sure Strathdale will be thinking similar," Holmes said.
"We can't wait to get out there and give it a red-hot crack... these are the sort of challenges you thrive on."
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