Five points is all that separates first and sixth position on the McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket ladder as the competition enters round seven starting this Saturday.
Sydney University currently lead the way by a solitary point from both Sydney and UNSW with Penrith a further point behind.
Bankstown are in fifth five points behind the ladder leaders, Sydney University, and Sutherland round out the top six.
Sydney University meet Hawkesbury at Owen Earle Oval in one of the 10 two-day fixtures scheduled for round seven.
Leg-spinner Devlin Malone has been key to the success of the students so far this season. He has claimed 24 wickets at an average of 16.75 including two five-wicket hauls.
Malone is the equal leading wicket-taker for the competition with Bankstown and ACT/NSW Country left-arm orthodox spinner, Ben Taylor, who has 24 scalps to his name at 15.79.
Sydney University captain, Liam Robertson, earlier in the season scored his 3,000th run in the top grade and has been in good form throughout the campaign thus far.
Robertson has compiled 296 runs at an average of nearly 50 including a highest score of 105 in an 86-run first innings victory over second-placed Sydney in round three.
The Hawks captain is former Australian One-Day International batsman, Peter Forrest.
Two of the top six teams meet each other in a fascinating contest at Howell Oval. Penrith host Sutherland where Steve Smith will again be the headline act.
Smith is joined by Sydney Sixers left-arm quick Ben Dwarshuis in the Sutherland team and, on the side of the equation, Blues batting duo Ryan Gibson and Ryan Hackney are expected to open the batting for Penrith as they have done for the majority of the season.
Gibson is the leading run-scorer for Penrith with 434 runs at 48.22 across all forms.
Smith has 285 runs to his name at 35.62 from 10 visits to the crease. Blues leg-spinner Daniel Fallins will be unavailable on Saturday due to his involvement for the Cricket Australia XI against India at the SCG over the weekend.
However, Fallins is expected to feature for Sutherland on the second Saturday.
Three players celebrate their 100th match in First Grade on Saturday. Those three players include Sydney off-spinner Ben Manenti, St George pace bowler Thomas Ortiz and Tym Crawford from Gordon.
Manenti was the leading wicket-taker for Sydney at the end of the regular season in 2017/18 with 47 scalps at 23.3. During the current campaign so far, he has collected 16 wickets at 24 across all forms.
During round one this season, Sydney captain and former Blues wicketkeeper batsman Daniel Smith, reached 9,000 First Grade runs against Western Suburbs.
His opposing captain on Saturday is hard-hitting batsman for the Sixers’, Justin Avendano, who forms a formidable top order for UTS North Sydney.
In the last round of the McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket competition, Avendano made 141 from 167 balls during a comfortable first innings victory over Mosman.
Adam Crosthwaite also made 62 in that fixture for Norths. The former Victorian and South Australian wicketkeeper, batsman has amassed 541 runs at 60.11 this season. He trails Randwick Petersham opener, David Warner, by 34 runs.
Warner has recorded 575 runs at the excellent average of 71.88 this season, including two scores in excess of 150.
Ortiz was one of two players last Sunday to claim hat-tricks in the Kingsgrove Sports T20 Cup along with Campbelltown-Camden fast bowler Sam Skelly.
The St George bowler claimed 4-30 from 3.2 overs and will be looking for a similar performance in his 100th match against Fairfield-Liverpool.
Sydney Thunder allrounder Arjun Nair and, emerging Blues’ left-arm firebrand Chad Sammut, have both been named in the Fairfield-Liverpool squad for the two-day fixture at Rosedale Oval.
Like Fallins, Blues allrounder Param Uppal will be unavailable on the first Saturday due to his involvement with the Cricket Australia XI playing the touring Indians.
Fairfield-Liverpool top-order batsman Jeremy Cashman was another to bring up a significant milestone during the earlier rounds of the competition. He reached 3,000 First Grade runs in round one.
Gordon allrounder Tym Crawford will play his 100th match against Randwick Petersham at Chatswood Oval. He joins Blues seamer Charlie Stobo in the Gordon attack for the match, as the hosts seek to stay in touch with the top six.
Warner has been named in the Randwick Petersham squad for the clash.
Blues speedster Mickey Edwards will return to the Manly-Warringah First Grade side for the first time since he suffered a side strain during round two of the Sheffield Shield against Victoria at the MCG in late October.
He joins fellow Blues, Manly captain Jay Lenton and Sydney Thunder allrounder Chris Green, for the match away to UNSW at Village Green.
In round two, Green played his 100th match in McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket.
Blues batsman and, Parramatta captain, Nick Bertus has made a sound start to the season in Premier Cricket this season and will seek to continue the trend against Western Suburbs at home over the next two Saturdays.
Bertus has amassed 498 runs at 71.14 in his nine matches across all forms thus far.
In other matches, Bankstown host Campbelltown-Camden, Eastern Suburbs are away to Mosman and Northern District travel to Joe McAleer Reserve to meet Blacktown