SCHOOL-based building apprentice Connor Richardson loves nailing opposition batsmen with his outswingers.
When his second-placed Woodford faces third-placed Dennington in a knockout semi-final today, the 17-year-old will be looking to take crucial wickets as the Eels chase their second grand final berth in three seasons.
Richardson, who stands 196 centimetres tall, is excited about his first Warrnambool and District Cricket Association (WDCA) division one finals appearance.
The medium-pacer, who bowls first-change, is aware he and his teammates have a big task against Dennington, which has two of the competition’s most damaging batsmen, Dustin Drew and Kahinagalage Silva.
“Anyone in the top five or six, I’m pretty happy to get one of them out,” he said.
“You always like getting an opener out or first or second drop.
“Even from seven down, I’m just happy to get a wicket.”
The Brauer College year 12 student is just happy being part of Woodford’s division one side.
He grew up and lives at Woolsthorpe but three seasons ago, when John Houston was appointed Eels captain, he opted to leave his battling country club and join Woodford. While Woolsthorpe has struggled to field senior teams regularly in the Grassmere Cricket Association, Richardson wanted to challenge himself.
“I thought I would make the move to see if I could improve my cricket,” he said.
Richardson said he was bowling faster, partly because of his maturity, but he believed his batting had improved.
He hopes his role today and tomorrow will be with ball rather than bat.
He has taken 12 wickets at an average of 11 this season.
“We are a pretty young team,” he said.
“There is always a few nerves before you play but you have to take it as it comes. I’ve been going all right. Hopefully that continues.
“I think everyone playing their roles is the most important thing. If everyone plays their role, we should win. Hopefully it will go our way.”
Richardson is one of several emerging bowlers with important jobs in the semi-finals this weekend, with Dennington’s Ben Rantall and Shannon Beks also involved in the match.
Dennington skipper Dustin Drew said his side was confident, despite stumbling in a low-chase last week against top side West Warrnambool.
“It was the ideal lead-up to a semi-final. I’ve played in six division one semi-finals and it was just like a semi-final,” Drew said.
“Semi-finals are the hardest games you will ever play in. The pressure, knowing it’s all sort of on the line — you can have a really good season and then it can be all over in one weekend.”
Drew said both sides were evenly matched but his team’s experience could be crucial.
Seven-time premiership player Terry Beks, co-coach Jamie Fogarty, Rodney Grant, Josh Squires and Drew have won more than 20 grand finals between them.
But Drew won’t be letting his side get carried away.
“You don’t over-complicate it. Saturday is the big day for us,” he said.
“The game can be set up on the Saturday. If we bowl first, we have to get early wickets and if we bat first, we have to not lose wickets and bat the day.”