NORTH Tamworth Redbacks enter tomorrow’s NICU Tamworth first grade cricket major semi final against reigning premiers South Tamworth at No 1 Oval as firm favourites and with a bit of confidence too.
The Redbacks have motored to the minor premiership on the back of some good top order batting from skipper Michael Rixon and fellow opener Adam Lole.
They also welcome back Kris Halloran from his Imparja Cup tour while Jason Stackpoole and Dave Fisher are also back.
Before he left Halloran was, along with South Tamworth’s James Psarakis the form batsman in the first grade competition.
“Kris was hitting the ball really well before he went to the Imparja Cup,” said club stalwart Don Lewington.
“By all reports he had a pretty good Imparja Cup too.
“Halloran has been playing despite a shoulder injury suffered playing rugby last winter.
“Wish he could bowl,” Lewington lamented.
“But that’s one thing we do have, good allrounders.”
Dave Fisher, Hamish Batley and Leo Steyn are all frontline bowlers who can bat anywhere in the top order although Steyn has a bit of an injury.
While Lewington expects him to play his bowling might be curtailed.
Add seamer Adam Greentree and off-spinning Jason Stacpoole and Michael Rixon and the Redbacks, on paper, are a settled side and looking the team to beat.
“We are confident,” Lewington said.
“It should be close to full strength.”
Even wicket-keeper Jack Cameron is in form.
He smacked 62 off 28 balls in a Ron George Trophy game for McCarthy Catholic College game earlier this week.
“I didn’t believe him at first,’ Lewington said.
“But then I got it out of him, they have these bonus runs for hitting successive sixes.
“Joey Holt hit a big hundred earlier in the year and he reckoned it was really about 70.”
Jack Cameron hit a 20 and a 10 in his 62 for McCarthy as they finished with 8-229 and then bowled out Oxley for 164.
Luke Paterson, who will be a part of Bective-Easts first grade minor semi final against Old Boys smacked 52, which also included a 20 and a 10 while Harrison Pettit smashed an eight and a 10 in his 46 for Oxley. George Harradine also swung lustily to snare a 10 in his unbeaten 50.
Ted Alderton claimed 3-16 and Isaac Searant 2-13 in the 65-run win.
North Tamworth’s settled form contrasts sharply with a South side that has chopped and changed all season.
The loss of Country keeper and skipper Tom Groth (touring overseas with his Narrabri rugby club) is a major blow.
Just who will keep wickets is uncertain while Josh Crowe takes over as skipper.
The return of Riley Ayre, dashing middle order bat Chris Skilton and left arm paceman Col Smyth, is a bonus.
Ayre’s left arm spin might be a key weapon along with Angus McNeil’s pace.
In the minor semi Bective-East Bulls tackle Old Boys at Dick Edwards Oval.
Bective welcomes back tall top order bat Nick Foster from a long injury layoff.
He forms part of a strong top order with skipper Nick Pearson, James Haling and dynamic Adam Jones.
Old Boys have been the most improved side of the new year and also have Will Howard back to open the bowling with Aaron Hazlewood.
They will form the nucleus of an attack offset by Josh Smith’s pace and the spin of Will Chesterfield and Ben Middlebrook.
If Simon Norvill’s lean season with the bat continues Old Boys might struggle to score enough runs but if he can find some semblance of his former master blasting then they could make it a tough outing for a Bective side which has a good bowling attack spearheaded by Nick Hird and Jarrard Abra.
Greg Tighe’s ability o move the ball around in the air and off the seam is a bonus while their spin twins – Greg Kellett and Luke Paterson – offer plenty despite the vast contrast in their ages.
And Paterson did warm up well with his 52 for McCarthy although his three overs of spin cost 33.
* The Ron George Trophy continues Monday with a below strength McCarthy playing Calrossy (Riv 2) and Oxley High tackling Farrer 1s at Dick Edwards Oval.