Semi spot on the line
ALSTONVILLE has been quick to promote 15-year-old middle-order batsman Mark Campbell for its must-win Far North Coast LJ Hooker League cricket match against Marist Brothers at Oakes Oval in Lismore today.
The seventh-round one-dayer is vital for both sides to break a semi-final drought in recent years, with only one point separating them in a tense battle for fourth spot on the ladder.
The last time Alstonville made the Hooker League semi-finals was 2002-03, when they lost to Tintenbar-East Ballina.
The previous season they won the premiership by defeating Tintenbar in the final with a team that included a teenage Brendan Drew, who now plays for the Tasmanian Tigers.
Brothers haven’t made the semis since they won their only premiership in 1996-97 with a win over Easts in the final.
This season, Brothers momentarily hold the pointscore edge over Alstonville, but both teams are coming off wins last Saturday.
The Brethren lost only two wickets in overhauling Pottsville’s meagre 113 and again captain Craig Ferguson led the way with a sound 47.
More worrying for Alstonville today is a recent slump in their middle-order batting and the knowledge that a loss would put them on the back foot to make up the leeway in the run to the semis.
Still to be played are games against competition front-runners Cudgen and Casino Cavaliers.
Alstonville captain Scott Petty is hoping his side can steady the ship with more than just openers Troy Cook and Kristiaan Ezzy withstanding the early pressure from Brothers’ bowling attack.
“Our middle order has been a little disappointing, especially in unexpected losses to Lennox Head and Terranora Lakes,” he said.
“Falling 20 runs shy of Lennox Head’s total was unforgiveable.
“Both games were there for the taking and we would not be facing this crucial outcome this weekend if things had gone differently.”
Making his game plan a little more difficult today is the loss of No 4 batsman Nathan Collins, who has been steady with consistent double figure innings, particularly in the earlier two-day games.
But he is overseas for the next two weeks, and Alstonville is confident Campbell can fill his shoes in what will be his first-grade debut.
The Alstonville High School student has scored consistently in the 30s and 40s in second grade all season, and Petty believes he could be the key to ending the middle-order troubles.
In other games today:
Brunswick-Byron face an uphill battle against competition leaders Cudgen at Thompson Oval, Bruns-wick Heads.
The Casino Cavaliers face the struggling Pottsville at Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino.
Lennox Head will be tested by defending premiers Ballina Bears at Megan Crescent, Lennox Head.
Southern Districts meet Tintenbar-East Ballina at Nesbitt Park, South Lismore.
On the Tweed, Murwillumbah play Lismore Workers and South Tweed Colts take on Terranora Lakes.