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Friday, March 17, 2006

3rd Grade Semi-Final Preview

3rd Grade Semi-Final Preview
Kiama Cavaliers Vs Albion Park Eagles
Bonaira Street Oval

Is this the year? Is this the year Kiama finally lifts its maiden Third Grade premiership? There are obstacles yet to clear before that becomes a reality, but surely they are closer than they have ever been before to fulfilling this dream. Their opponents are wily campaigners, however, and have fought out almost every semi-final series in the history of the Third Grade competition. They are widely experienced and cannot be underestimated, for they will be fighting every last inch of the way – and not only that, they will BELIEVE they will win.

The teams have met on one occasion this season, with Kiama coming out on top. Both sides were rather different to the ones that will play this weekend. The two day game was played on October 22 and 29, 2005 at Des King Oval. Albion Park won the toss and made 172 in their first innings, with surprise packet Tom Mayes taking four wickets and Rob Wakeham three. In reply, Kiama were eventually dismissed for 236, with Tom scoring 63 at the top of the order, and Luke Bombaci 53 in the middle order. Albion Park batted out time as everyone got a bowl and remained at 6/126 at stumps.

That match will have no bearing on the result of the semi-final. Nor will last season's semi-final result. Kiama has a new team, and they are hungry.

Kiama have suffered somewhat from unsettled teams this season, but it has eventually worked to their benefit. Though they have had a range of players in and out of the side this season, they now have the benefit of choosing their strongest squad, and their only complaint could be that there are now too many players to choose from.
The side's bowling is as strong and diverse as it can be, which is a good thing playing on the synthetic. Matt Cook has been a revelation this season, coming into the team early, and having a hugely successful season. His foil at the other end, Luke Bombaci, has continued with his success of previous seasons, and must surely be considered the most consistent all-rounder playing in the competition. These two will need to work well in tandem again, along with the returning thunderbolts of Nathan Simpson, whose presence should be an enormous benefit to skipper Jeff Lawler. The mercurial Russell Park will no doubt dry up the runs from one end when introduced into the attack, with Rob Wakeham's leg spin the variation in the attack. The bowlers will need to be well supported by their fieldsmen to restrict the total to the low one that will be required.

In recent times, the batting has been held together by the veteran brigade, and this final is the perfect opportunity for the younger players to stand up and contribute heavily to the cause.
Tom Mayes has had a terrific debut year in Grade cricket, and will be looking to continue that here in the semi-final. The return after Christmas of timeless veteran Joe Murphy has been a bonus for the team, molding opening bat and wicket keeper into one. If he comes off with the bat he will get the team off to a wonderful start, and no matter what, his experience will be invaluable in the circumstances. Luke Bombaci has been in good touch after his five ducks in six innings toward the end of last season. He will want to put in a better effort with the bat at the conclusion of this season. Jeff Lawler has had yet another superlative season with the bat, and along with Russell Park, who has been dismissed just the once this season, these two will provide the stability that the middle order will be looking for. Simon Pearson, who has struggled to score good runs after his early century, will see this as an opportunity to rectify that, and surely Andy Sheehy has been playing dead for two seasons, waiting for this very match to break out and make the big score he is necessarily due.

Kiama have now secured their first ever minor premiership in Third Grade, but the job isn't over. This weekend they go into a semi-final as favorites for the first time in many years – perhaps ever. They are expected to win, and that can be a tough burden to handle. As long as the team plays to its potential, they should have no problems, but finals cricket is a whole new ball game, and everything that has happened in the season before it matters for nought. The phrase “Never give a sucker an even break” applies in this match – give Albion Park a sniff, and they will take it with open arms.
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