MERRIVALE and Russells Creek will have a keen eye on each other’s results as the penultimate round of the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association wraps up today.
The fourth-ranked Tigers and fifth-ranked Creek are vying to secure a top-four spot and extend their cricket seasons deep into March.
Merrivale has a 10.88-point advantage on its rival, a figure which could edge out to about 12 depending on performances this afternoon.
Both sides have runs on the board in their respective matches and fancy their chances to win.
The Tigers will attempt to defend 6-250 against Wesley-CBC at Merrivale, while Creek has 213 to play with against Nestles at Jetty Flat.
The two contenders play each other at Jetty Flat in the final round, making for a dramatic finale to the regular season.
That match will be “live” unless Merrivale wins and Creek loses today.
“We can make or break the season here. It isn’t really a good thing but we want to stand up and put our heads down,” Merrivale batsman Josh Stapleton said.
Stapleton said there had been little talk about the Tigers’ standing at training, but was adamant they knew the mathematics of the season.
He said he was confident the players could defend 250 despite Merrivale being “the best batting wicket in the comp”.
“We’ve done our part with the batting side of things,” he said. “Bowling has been our strength all year. Even though we’ve batted well the last couple of matches, we’ve been a bit more consistent with the ball. It’s in our control. We have to bowl well and they’d have to bat pretty well to make 250.
“We’ve got to focus on Cheesy (Andrew Cheeseman) at the top of the order, he’s been their main run-maker this season.”
Working in the Tigers’ favour is the return of frontline strike bowlers Adam Melville and Damien Barnes from injury. The pair, who have a collective 18 wickets this season, will ease the burden on Will Chapples, who laboured for 27 overs in a loss against West Warrnambool last round.
“We only went in with four bowlers,” Stapleton said.
In other matches, Allansford will chase ladder-leader Dennington’s 8-193 at Uebergang Oval.
Brierly-Christ Church (1-12) needs a patient batting display at Brierly to upstage Woodford, which made 169 last week.
West Warrnambool can push for outright points against East Warrnambool-YCW at Davidson Oval.
The Panthers routed the Broncos for 86 and are 6-181 in reply, with a full 80 overs still remaining in the match.
And Nirranda and Port Fairy are locked in an intriguing clash at Avery’s Paddock.
The Knights are 1-4 in pursuit of the Pirates’ 185.