The McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket competition has reached the business end with the top six teams to battle it out this weekend for a chance to progress to the semi-finals of the 2017-18 Belvidere Cup.
Campbelltown-Camden finished the season Minor Premiers and will play Sydney at Raby Oval No. 1. Parramatta host Gordon and Sydney University are at home to Sutherland in the other two qualifying finals.
Campbelltown-Camden, Parramatta and Sydney University will all progress to the Semi-Finals, unless it is defeated by their lower-ranked opponent. The highest-ranked loser will also progress to the Semi-Finals to take place on March 24-25.
Several current and former New South Wales Blues strengthen numerous sides involved in the first week of finals to take place over this Saturday and Sunday.
Some of the most notable inclusions are former Australian and Blues opening batsman Ed Cowan, who will again feature for Sydney University after an explosive innings of 75 not out from 41 balls in a convincing eight-wicket victory over Campbelltown-Camden last Saturday.
Blues quick Charlie Stobo and recent Sheffield Shield debutant, Blues rookie leg-spinner Daniel Fallins, are another two significant inclusions for Gordon and Sutherland respectively.
Blues opening batsman and Sydney University captain Nick Larkin, and Parramatta seamer Sean Abbott will be available for their clubs on day two, subject to fitness, after the completion of the NSW Sheffield Shield match against Queensland in Wollongong.
Stobo will take some great form into the elimination match for the fifth-ranked Gordon at Old Kings Oval. In the last two weeks, the Blues paceman has taken ten wickets across both the Toyota Futures League and McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket competitions.
He claimed 6-90 for NSW Metro in its final match of the Futures League season, and last Saturday, collected 4-38 from nine overs in a seven-wicket win over Blacktown.
Fallins was also impressive for Sutherland in its narrow six-run win over Sydney and will again be key against the students over the weekend.
He claimed 2-21 from 10 overs and scored a valuable 30 runs down the order.
Leading run-scorer for Sutherland, Jamie Brown, will be another important player for the fourth-ranked side against the students, who qualified in third. He has recorded 964 runs at 45.9 including three centuries and five fifties.
Brown finished the season as the fourth leading run-scorer in the competition. Bankstown opener Daniel Solway completed an incredible 2017-18 campaign at the top of the list with an amazing 1,268 runs at 79.25. He scored six tons and four half-centuries.
Cowan and Larkin will add significant depth to an already outstanding batting order for Sydney University.
Damien Mortimer has been the cornerstone of that success. He was just nine runs behind Brown on the list of leading run-scorers at the end of round 15 with 955 runs at 47.55.
Wicketkeeper-batsman and brother of Australian fast bowler, Pat Cummins, Tim Cummins is another vital element of the students’ achievements this season and was player of the match in the final of the First Grade Limited-Overs Cup Grand Final against Parramatta.
His maiden First Grade century in that game was a match-defining knock that ultimately got Sydney University over the line to claim the One Day title.
Cummins scored 121 not out from 100 balls in the first innings and combined with Mortimer (71) for a crucial 122-run partnership.
The gloveman has also been excellent behind the stumps for Sydney University. He was second in the competition for most dismissals taking 33 catches and claiming six stumps.
Cummins was just one dismissal behind Sydney wicketkeeper Beau McClintock who claimed 31 catches and nine stumpings.
A win for University will guarantee its place in the semi-finals, but whether it preserves home ground advantage for the next stage depends on other results.
Campbelltown-Camden completed a remarkable turnaround from the bottom of the McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket competition in 2016-17 to Minor Premiers in 2017-18.
Since arriving at the club from Bankstown this season, captain Jarrad Burke and top-order batsman Philip Wells have been pivotal to the success of the Ghosts.
Burke collected 47 scalps at an average of 20.55 throughout the regular season and was also very handy with the bat as well. He scored 492 runs at 41.00.
The wily left-arm orthodox spinner finished in fourth place on the list of leading wicket-takers for the competition.
He was nine scalps behind leading wicket-taker Western Suburbs leg-spinner Jonathan Cook. He claimed 56 wickets during the season at 15.52.
Wells was a stand-out at No. 3 for the Ghosts throughout the campaign. He has amassed 850 runs at 47.22 without reaching the milestone of a century. The top order player was dismissed three times in the nineties.
Both men brought with them a culture of success and recent winning form in finals after reaching the decider of the Belvidere Cup with the Bulldogs last season and Campbelltown-Camden will be hoping that will be replicated against Sydney.
Aaron Yabsley will also be key to the fortunes of the Ghosts. The opening batsman has scored 877 runs at 43.85 this season which included two centuries and a highest score of 135 against Parramatta in round 10.
He will need to be reproduce similar form against a formidable Sydney attack which includes two of the top 10 leading wicket takers in the competition. Off-spinner Ben Manenti finished in third place with 51 scalps at 23.55 and opening bowler Nic Bills was seventh with 39 dismissals at 28.10.
Despite Campbelltown-Camden remaining in the finals race irrespective of the result against Sydney, a victory maintains the all-important home ground advantage for the next stage.
A loss for the sixth-ranked Sydney will end the Tigers season.
Parramatta will also be looking to preserve the same advantage as the Ghosts with a win over a strong Gordon outfit.
The hosts finished on an equal number of points with Campbelltown-Camden in second place on the ladder.
Captain Nick Bertus will be the major wicket for Gordon over the two days of the qualifying final in Parramatta. He has compiled 919 runs at 48.21 during the 2017-18 season including a highest score of 206 not out against Bankstown.
That innings was the only century of the season for Bertus to complement his six fifties.
Prodigious young opening batsman Axel Cahlin likewise has been the key batsman for Gordon. He finished one spot ahead of Bertus among the leading run-scorers for the competition with 948 runs to his name at average better than 50.
The season tally for Cahlin includes three centuries and four half-centuries.
MCDONALD’S NSW PREMIER CRICKET
Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th March 2018
FIRST GRADE TEAMS:
Campbelltown-Camden v Sydney at Raby Oval 1.
Campbelltown-Camden: Jarrad Burke (c), Aaron Yabsley, Mitchell Carruthers, Philip Wells, Jaydyn Simmons, Jordan Browne, Charlie Dummer, Nathan Baker, Jarred Lysaught, Samuel Skelly, Iain Carlisle, Luke Webb.
Sydney: Daniel Smith (c), Harry Dalton, Matthew Rodgers, Anthony Mosca, Suffan Hassan, Beau McClintock, Benjamin Manenti, Ryan Felsch, Alex Glendenning, Nicholas Bills, Thomas Ortiz.
Parramatta v Gordon at Old Kings Oval.
Parramatta: Nicholas Bertus (c), William Affleck, Luke Dempsey, Sean Abbott, Owen Simonsen, Timothy Ward, Brenton Cherry, Ben Martin, Ben Abbott, Scott Copperfield, Jack White, Adam Turrell, Trent Crittenden, Liam Lofts, Bradley Taylor.
Gordon: Steve Colley(c), Harry Evans, Elliot Richtor, Scott O'Brien, Alex Patterson, Charlie Stobo, Cameron Eccles, Matthew Junk, Axel Cahlin, Ashley Doolan, Tym Crawford, Reagan Klemt.
Sydney University v Sutherland at University Oval.
Sydney University: Liam Robertson (c), Ed Cowan, Nicholas Larkin, Tim Cummins, Ben Joy, Damien Mortimer, Ben Trevor-Jones, Timothy Ley, Devlin Malone, Lawrence Neil-Smith, Hayden Kerr, Steven Hobson.
Sutherland: Chris Williams (c), Jamie Brown, Jayden Brown, Jarryd Biviano, Tom Doyle, Daniel Fallins, Luke Hawksworth, Jake Wilson, Austin Waugh, Peter Saroukos, Tom Pinson.