DEFENDING premier West Warrnambool is set to make a bold bid for top spot on the ladder after claiming first-innings points on Saturday, but cricketer of the year, captain Ben Dobson, is under an injury cloud.
The Panthers will be chasing outright points against East Warrnambool-YCW when the penultimate round of Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one matches resumes on Saturday.
Evergreen medium-pacer Simon Johnson produced his third five-wicket haul of the season to dismiss the Broncos for 86 inside 33 overs on a bowler-friendly Davidson Oval pitch.
The Panthers, through brothers Ben (34) and Michael Threlfall (29), then made light work of the chase, racing to 6-181 by stumps, with captain Ben Dobson unbeaten on 53 and quality batsman Leigh Johnson yet to walk to the middle.
But Dobson suffered a hamstring strain while fielding before compiling his fourth half-century of the season.
He missed yesterday’s WDCA representative side practice match against Hamilton because of “tightness” in the hamstring. “I will be right — no quick singles,” he said.
Dobson was delighted with the way his second-placed side approached Saturday, entering the match 13 points behind ladder-leader Dennington.
“It was important we didn’t take them lightly,” he said.
“We had to make sure we got the job done. It was probably the best we had prepared for a game all year.”
He said the Panthers would push for maximum points on Saturday.
“I haven’t even thought that far ahead yet (about tactics). We are going to have a bowl again at some stage,” he said.
Top side Dennington is in a good position against 10th-placed Allansford after making 8-193.
Dogs captain Dustin Drew said number six Rodney Grant underpinned the innings with an unbeaten 57 after good contributions down the order from Jamie Fogarty and Terry Beks, who each made 29.
“It was a pretty good score. It was a pretty hard to bat on wicket,” he said.
“After I had faced the first couple of overs, if you had said we would make 193 I would have taken it.
“We’ve made 190 to 194 the last four games (and won) and we think we are a good bowling side.”
Brierly-Christ Church skipper Nathan Murphy said his side was an each-way chance of upsetting third-placed Woodford after restricting the Eels to 169.
Opening bowlers Anthony Love (4-37 off 21 overs) and Col Pascoe (3-15 off 14 overs) claimed seeven wickets as only Eels skipper John Houston (43) got away.
Brierly was 1-12 at stumps.
“It was a good day,” Murphy said.
“It’s probably 50-50.
“They have a pretty good attack. If we bat our 80 overs we will be close to winning.”
Fourth-placed Merrivale is in the box seat to tighten its grip on a finals berth after amassing 6-250 against sixth-placed Wesley-CBC at Merrivale.
English import Will Chapples (58) and veteran Matthew Wilkinson (52) combined for a 109-run stand after Richard McKellar and Josh Stapleton each made 36.
Number three Angelo Henke was a rock for Port Fairy as it posted a competitive total of 185 in its match against 11th-placed Nirranda at Avery’s Paddock.
Henke made an unbeaten 38 off 192 balls after wickets tumbled around him. Nirranda skipper Jason Mungean (5-52 off 12 overs) tore through the Pirates top order as they fell to 5-28 before Henke and Nayantha Weeraman stemmed the carnage with a 30-run stand for the sixth wicket.
After Weeraman was out for 18, Mark Jones joined Henke and together they added 63 with Jones responsible for 55 of them. His innings, his highest since joining the club, included five boundaries and came off just 49 balls.
Nirranda will resume the chase at 1-4 on Saturday.