Best in the bush
By STEVE SPINKS
LISMORE paceman Ian Gregory believes the NSW Country bowling attack is potent enough to ensure the Bush Blues are competitive when the Australian Country Cricket Championship starts in Lismore tomorrow.
Question marks have been raised about the strikepower of the NSW Country attack after they struggled against the ACT and NSW Colts in warm-up matches before Christmas.
However, Gregory ? probably the quickest of the three-pronged pace attack ? believes the best is yet to come from the Bush Blues bowlers.
"We didn't go too badly against ACT," he said.
"It was a reasonably close match, but we probably didn't get as many runs as we should have.
"Against the Colts we got a bit of a touch-up when they spanked 5-240 off 30 overs."
The match was washed out.
The Colts' massive total was down to a Manly batsman who hit 150 off 100 balls.
The day before the NSW Colts v NSW Country match, he had hit 140 in Sydney first grade.
"We've only gone into the carnival with three quicks and none are lightning," Gregory admitted.
"We're more into containing and putting pressure on rather than destroying a batting line-up.
"But Lismore wickets are not known for their flatness ... so we're not too worried."
Gregory, Dubbo paceman Daniel Hughes and Newcastle medium-fast right-armer Duncan McIlveen form the pace attack.
But Newcastle medium-pacer Brad Bannister will get his share of overs and is a wily competitor.
Chris Sargent (Dubbo) bowls off-spin and Ben Woolmer (Newcastle) leg-spin.
With only three pacemen selected in the squad, NSW Country could be vulnerable if one of them gets injured.
However, coach Graham Rose believes the selectors have covered all bases.
"Ian's been there and done that before," he said.
"Duncan McIlveen made the Australian Country team last year and Hughes has made it as well.
"Ben Woolmer might make a real difference because he could take a lot of wickets.
"Tim Kensell bowls medium pace or off-spin and Simon Moore can also bowl a few overs."
If NSW Country manage to win the carnival, it will be their first since 2000-2001.
One of Gregory's best mates, Lismore batsman Joel Henderson, was part of the team that won in Albany, Western Australia, that season.
Most teams arrive today and will attend a civic reception in the Gordon Pavilion at Oakes Oval, Lismore, this evening.
Play will start tomorrow. NSW Country take on defending champions Victoria at Oakes Oval.
Queensland will take on SA at Heaps Oval, Lismore, while East Asia Pacific meet WA at Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino.