Cavaliers take on the Bears
CRICKET: The first of the Far North Coast LJ Hooker League cricket one-day semi-finals swings into gear this weekend, with the in-form Casino Cavaliers taking on Ballina Bears tomorrow at Oakes Oval, Lismore.
The Cavaliers finished the one-day rounds impressively with a comprehensive win over Alstonville at home but veteran Cavaliers all-rounder Michael Wood is wary of underestimating the Bears.
“We have to execute our plans well,” he said.
“Their strength lies with their batting, but they also have accurate and honest bowlers.
“We have to make sure we shut down their main top-order run-scorers – Adams, Jeal and Eddy.”
After filling in for injured players for several years, Wood is back playing again for the full season.
With former Cavaliers spinner Scott Shephard relocating to Broken Hill to become a teacher, Wood has had to lead the spin attack again with his off-breaks.
“I’ve only had to bowl around 30 overs this season,” he said.
“And it’s a good sign the team is playing well when, as a lower-middle order batsman, I’ve only had to bat five times.”
As one of the older players in the team at 40, Wood is confident his years in the game have made him tougher mentally, but the same cannot be said of his legs and eyes.
“I like to think that I’m still pushing the young guys through,” he said.
The Cavaliers have also welcomed back this season the prolific Adam Shields on a full-time basis and Wood believes he has made a big difference.
“Adam has been of tremendous assistance to the younger players”, Wood said.
“And Sam Irvine is also back from injury now.”
Since the start of the Hooker League in the mid-1990s, Casino has missed out on the semi-finals just three times.
Wood, who played in the Cavaliers’ last premiership in 2007-08, considers the side’s development of youth integral to its success.
“The team covers a good spectrum – there’s a blend of older guys, middle-aged guys and younger guys,” he said.
“It also adds to the stability of the team, and when there is someone injured, there is always someone who can fit in.
“Casino A-grade is very strong and competitive and has some exciting prospects, like Matt Barber.”
Although losing in unexpected circumstances last week to Terranora Lakes, Wood is confident it was only a minor hiccup.
“We deserved to lose last week, but it is a loss we had to have,” he said.
“We had them 7-56 on a wet pitch, but their batters down the order hit out and got lucky.”
Wood also has a word of warning for the other Hooker League teams in relation to the form of Casino captain Al Nowlan, who took 11 wickets last match and is seemingly peaking at the right time.
“Al’s been in third gear for most of the season, but he is really starting to bend his back and is bowling quick,” Wood said.
With showers forecast for tomorrow, the result could depend on the conditions – and toss.
The match at Oakes Oval is expected to start at 2.30pm.
The other one-day semi-final between Cudgen and South Tweed Colts will be played tomorrow week, also at Oakes Oval. The final will be played there on February 28.