Unbeaten sides battle

DOMINANT: Sandhurst captain Craig Howard has made a strong start to the season as his Dragons are undefeated and sit second.KANGAROO Flat and Sandhurst aren’t two sides that would normally be associated with the Bendigo District Cricket Association’s match of the round.
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But after their impressive starts to the season, they have earned that status for round five when they clash in a tussle between the BDCA’s only two unbeaten teams at Kangaroo Flat’s Champions IGA Oval starting Saturday.

Kangaroo Flat is coming off its first win over Strathdale-Maristians for seven years, and now has a chance to win four in a row for the first time since 2007-08 –the last time the Roos made the finals.

Of Saturday’s team, only Adam Burns has been a part of four first XI wins in a row for the Roos.

Burns produced a match-winning double against the Suns with6-57 with the ball and 65 with the bat in what has been another impressive start to the season for the veteran.

Burns sits second on the Bendigo Advertiser’s MVP ladder, while skipper Brent Hamblin is fourth.

Hamblin has adapted well to the added responsibility of the captaincy, combining seven wickets with an average of 85 with the bat.

Sandhurst was touted pre-season as potentially the biggest improvers and so far the Dragons, who are on their best winning streak since 2008-08,are living up to such hype.

Their scalps in their first three games already include last season’s two grand finalists in Strathdale-Maristians and Eaglehawk, giving them deserved billing as the “real deal”.

Captain Craig Howard (14 wickets and 79 runs) ranks No.1 on theMVP ladder, while fellow spinner Sam Sperling has made an early impact with seven wickets for his new club.

This shapes as a ripping clash between two emerging teams, with the result to go a significant way towards the winner making a long-awaited return to the finals in March.

Last time: Kangaroo Flat 143 dr Sandhurst 8-114.

Since 2000: Kangaroo Flat 13; Sandhurst 8.

Prediction: Sandhurst.

• Golden Square will start warm favourites to win its third game of the season when it hosts Strathfieldsaye at MyJet Oval.

Square has already beaten two of last season’s finalists in Bendigo United and White Hills in what has been a promising start to 2016-17.

Captain Tim Wood has been in solid form with scores of 60 and 70 in his first two hits, while Scott Trollope last week became match-winner with the ball.

Renowned more for his hard-hitting batting, Trollope proved just how dangerous he can be with the ball with his haul of 6-55 against White Hills.

Square has included teenage bowler Kyal Rasmussen, coming off four wickets in the last Twenty20 match,for his first XI debut, as well as Callum Tibbett playing just his second game.

Strathfieldsaye sits on the bottom of the ladder and must dig in with the bat, or else a long summer is ahead for the Jets.

Only Bodee Scullie (75) and Jack Stubbs (51) have made more than 50 runs so far from the first three games, while 17 of the 38 wickets the Jets have lost in their scores of 8-141, 137 and 135 have been single figures.

However, it hasn’t been much better with the ball either, with the Jets having so far conceded scores of 273, 6-277 and 2-142.

Last time:Strathfieldsaye 166 d Golden Square 148.

Since 2000:Golden Square 15; Strathfieldsaye 4.

Prediction:Sandhurst.

• The improved Huntly-North Epsom has the chance to dig a deeper hole for Strathdale-Maristians when it takes on the Suns at Sunline Plastering Oval.

The struggling Suns are winless and in ninth position on the ladder, while the Power have an opportunity to string together two on the trot after last round’s dominant 138-run hiding of Strathfieldsaye.

The Power haveshown this season they are going to be a much tougher nut to crack with the bat, having already made scores of 7-193, 8-201 and 273, with captain Elliott Massina (151 runs) and recruit Daniel Cruickshank (145) showing the way.

Renowned in the past for their batting depth, the Suns are the No.10 ranked batting side after four rounds. Perhaps after so many years with a target on their backs as the hunted, it’s finally starting to take its toll?

James Vlaeminck will make his first XI debut, while with the bowling stocks to be without Ryan Haythorpe and Dylan Bailie, this has all the hallmarks of a dangerous trip out to Huntly for the shaky Suns.

Last time:Strathdale 8-324 d Huntly-North Epsom 197.

Since 2000:Strathdale 18; Huntly 1.

Prediction:Strathdale.

• White Hills must have breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the Bendigo United team for their clash at Glen Loddon Homes Oval was missing Heath Behrens.

Behrens has cracked back-to-back scores of 114 and 109 in his past two hits –as well as 110 last season against White Hills – but is unavailable this game, with youngster Jasper Stewart given the opportunity to make his first XI debut.

The Redbacks now boast potentially one of the BDCA’s most lethal opening combinations of modern times in Ben Gunn and Clayton Holmes, who ifboth get going, any score is possible.

Although, it has been a lean past two games for Gunn with scores of eight and two following his season-opening century.

The Demons also have a first-gamer in English bowler Jack Rodgers.

Gavin Bowles is again shouldering a heavy load with the bat for the Demons, having started with scores of 68, 66 and 42, with his 176 runs equating to 30 percent of the 573 White Hills have scored.

Last time:Bendigo United 6-303 d White Hills 279.

Since 2000:Bendigo United 18; White Hills 3.

Prediction:Bendigo United.

• Eaglehawk will be aiming to put two disappointing batting performances behind it when it meets Bendigo at Axis Employment Oval where the Symes Motors Cup, which is held by the Goers, is up for grabs.

The season started on the right note for the Hawks with a win over Strathdale in the grand final rematch, but they have since followed it up with scores of 85 and 143 in heavy losses to Bendigo United and Sandhurst.

The Hawks get all-rounder Aaron Monro back after a spider bite sidelined him last round and have Josh Williams on debut, but Richard Tibbett and Zac East are both still out.

Bendigo is coming off an 81-run loss to Bendigo United, but if the Goers are to be taking the next step this season and challenging for a spot in the top four, these are the games –particularly at home –they need to be winning to get the rest of the competition taking notice.

Last time:Eaglehawk 297 d Bendigo 152.

Since 2000:Eaglehawk 11; Bendigo 5; Tied 1.

Prediction: Eaglehawk.

………………………………

LEADING RUNS:

223 –H. Behrens (BU)

176 –G. Bowles (WH)

151 –E. Massina (HNE)

145 –D. Cruickshank (HNE)

136 –A. Smith (Eh)

………………………………

LEADING WICKETS:

14 –C. Howard (Sand)

10 –A. Burns (KF)

10 –N. Fitzpatrick (Bgo)

9 –L. McDermott (BU)

8 –A. Monro (Eh)

………………………………

MVP LADDER:

1 point per run, 20 points per wicket, 5 points per catch, 10 points per run out/stumping.364 –C. Howard (Sand)

309 –A. Burns (KF)

293 –N. Fitzpatrick (Bgo)

230 –B. Hamblin (KF)

226 –G. Bowles (WH)

………………………………

Meanwhile, this round’scaptains for the BDCA Challenge have been announced:

Bourkey (1954) – Mitch Winter-Irving

Ozzie (1892) –Shane Koop

Westy (1858) –Tim Wood

Lucky Stew (1397) –Clayton Holmes

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