DENNINGTON will field one of its strongest line-ups this season when it squares off with Merrivale in a second-versus-third showdown today.
The Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one match is shaping as a pivotal contest, despite it being just round six.
It is the only match between the two teams this season and, being the final game before Christmas, both sides will be desperate for a victory.
Dennington coach Dustin Drew said the return of wicketkeeper/batsman Liam Youl and all-rounder Ryan O’Keefe had bolstered his side.
“We are the only side that hasn’t lost a game so far,” Drew said. “Win, lose or draw this week, we will know where we are.
“I think we are the most improved side in the competition. Just how much we will find out.”
Drew rates today’s opponent Merrivale highly.
“They are a very good side. I think they are the side to beat,” he said.
“They have a lot of depth. You look at their other grades and they are on top of the ladder.”
Drew said the pitch at Dennington would again be good but predicted a tight encounter likely to go the distance over the two Saturdays.
“We’ve taken the same amount of wickets and lost the same number. I don’t think there is much between the sides,” he said.
“We are just going to keep doing what we have been doing. This year we are winning the close games. Winning becomes a habit, I’ve got no doubt about that.”
While Dennington is 5-0, Merrivale has four wins and one loss from its five games, with top side Woodford the only team to upset it so far this season.
Powerhouse Allansford’s bid to resuscitate its season after one win from five games reaches a critical juncture when it hosts ninth-placed Nirranda today. With the top four sides starting to open a gap on the other eight sides, the Gators need the momentum heading into the Christmas break.
It’s a similar story for 10th-placed Nestles, which faces a confident Brierly-Christ Church (sixth). The Bulls have won more games in six rounds than they won last season.
Eighth-placed Port Fairy, another of the big improvers this season, hosts defending premier West Warrnambool, which is coming off a rare outright win over Russells Creek.
Fifth-placed Russells Creek is at home to seventh-placed Wesley-CBC at Jetty Flat, while top side Woodford plays bottom side East Warrnambool-YCW at Koroit.