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Friday, March 17, 2006

2nd Grade Semi-Final Preview

2nd Grade Semi-Final Preview
Kiama Cavaliers Vs Albion Park Eagles
Oakleigh Park


For the third year in succession, Kiama start out on a finals campaign with everything in front of them, and some work still to do. Last season's ugly exit to Lake Illawarra stills haunts them, as will Albion Park's similar effort to fall to Oak Flats. All of this after the still stinging wash-out of the final between these same two sides two seasons ago with the game evenly poised, which left Albion Park as premiers.

The teams have met twice this season, with a victory to each side. Kiama have only won 2 of the past 14 clashes, however, and both were one day games.
In the two day match at Cavalier Park on October 22 and 29, 2005, Albion Park prevailed by 39 runs on first innings in a match that had just about everything. Albion Park were bowled out for 217, with Ferguson scoring 90 and Warren Campion 51 not out. Josh Elliott finished with four wickets with a good second spell, while Bill Peters also took four. In reply Kiama fought hard, but a middle order collapse, along with a questionable LBW on John Simon, brought them to a total of 178. John scored 48 with AJ Savage fighting heart palpitations to finish on 35 not out. In their second innings, Albion Park were cruising at 1/83, before Kiama then rolled them for just 126, leaving them 16 overs to score 166 for a surprise outright victory. This was beyond their reach, but had certainly put a scare into their opponents.
The return one day match at Keith Grey Oval on December 17, 2005, continued the competitive nature of the games between these two Clubs. Albion Park won the toss and batted, and was rolled for just 101. Josh Elliott took five wickets and Jason Dowling three in a superb opening effort with the ball. Kiama then marched to 0/59, before losing three wickets on that score, and 5/17 all up. Sav again saw the side through to victory by four wickets, but this time the scare had been put into the Kiama side.

Over the last three seasons, these two teams have played some outstanding cricket matches against each other. No quarter has been given, and none taken. Both sides are still looking for a clear advantage over the other following the premiership washout in 2003-04, and no doubt both sides would have preferred this to be the match for this year's premiership, rather than the semi-final.

Kiama have had a season where they have never really been able to maintain any momentum. Rain has played its part in this, and some ordinary opponents have hampered the enthusiasm of the side. In fact, Kiama have been looking at this weekend's clash for six months, with everything in between just a sideshow. Kiama are still looking for that revenge.

The pressure will be on the batting to produce a score that is competitive. Albion Park's bowling attack is a shadow of what it was two seasons ago, but is still competent for this level. Kiama's batting is a mixture of youth and experience, of defense and attack, and it will need to mould itself into a lineup that can do the job that is required. Youngsters Matt Unicomb and Ben King-Gee, in their first Grade final, will have an important role to play. Tim Wolf, Sav and Steven Holz are the keys to the batting, and must assume the responsibility of scoring the bulk of the runs. Mick Norris will be the stabling influence at number six, but the order gets shaky after him. The total must come from the top six.
There must be a great deal of pressure on the bowling attack. First year prodigy Jason Dowling has had a great debut in Grade cricket, but has struggled for wickets of late. Josh Elliott has again been either dominating or dreadful, sometimes on the same day. When he is on song he is the leader of the attack, and wins games on his own back. Kiama need him in this frame of mind if they are to succeed. Dan Reilly has not bowled enough this season to find his rhythm, and will at least be an unknown quality for Albion Park. Unlike two seasons ago, he will not be in a support role, he will be in the front line, and he needs to step up and show why he played First Grade this season by becoming the spearhead the team needs. Mick Norris has been by far Kiama's best player this season, and he will again need to probe through the middle order as he has been so successful at this season. Perhaps more importantly, an ageing leg spinner needs to rediscover his best quickly if he is to play any part, as his form is probably as ordinary now as it has ever been.

If this match had taken place six weeks ago, Kiama would have been raging favorites. Now, with the loss to Oak Flats, the difficult victory over The Rail, and two weeks without match play because of the bye, the match is wide open. This match will not be won by the team that starts the best. It will be won by the one that never drops its head, and never gives in until the final ball is bowled. Kiama have to make sure that they are the team that does this
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