BACK-TO-BACK productive weekends have West Warrnambool and Nestles in control of the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association Twenty20 competition.
The Panthers and Factory are the only unbeaten sides after six rounds of the landmark tournament, which is opening the season.
The last three rounds are this Saturday. Victories in their two remaining fixtures will ensure the pair play in the January 8 decider.
But one defeat — particularly in the case of Nestles, which has an inferior net run rate to its pursuers — could condemn them to miss the final.
There are five clubs in the chasing pack with 3-1 records: Allansford, Brierly-Christ Church, Woodford, Merrivale and Russells Creek Blue.
Brierly-Christ Church and Merrivale were the big movers on Saturday, winning both their matches to surge into contention.
The Bulls defeated Dennington White by seven wickets, chasing down the Dogs’ 3-98 at Brierly Recreation Reserve.
They then accounted for Nirranda by 23 runs, posting 2-150 and limiting the Knights to 7-127.
Mark Murphy was the star, taking 1-10 against the Dogs and finishing with a stellar 62 not out and 3-21 against the Knights.
Stephen Easterbrook, who has crossed from West Gambier, hit 57 against the Knights.
New coach Jason Greer said he was pleased with the results.
“We’re definitely in contention now,” Greer said.
“We’ve got West Warrnambool first-up next week and that’s probably an elimination final, they’re undefeated. If we beat them and then win our last game (against East Warrnambool-YCW) we’re right in the mix for the final.”
Greer said Brierly-Christ Church was taking the T20 competition seriously.
“With the $15,000 on offer (at the Sungold Cup in January), I think most clubs would be mad if they didn’t take it seriously,” he said.
Brierly-Christ Church looms as one of the big movers when the regular season gets under way next month.
The club has netted Easterbrook and Benalla all-rounder Leigh Pollard during the off-season.
Shane Murphy, a cousin of Nathan and Mark Murphy, has also returned after a season away from cricket.
They join a young list which benefited from being thrown in the deep end last season.
Of the other sides to score two wins, West Warrnambool beat Russells Creek White and Wesley-CBC at Allan Oval.
Nestles scored wins against Port Fairy and Koroit at J. J. Colledge Oval in Port Fairy.
Merrivale defeated Dennington Red and East Warrnambool-YCW at Harris Street Reserve.
Wesley-CBC batsman Ryan McArdle posted the best knock of the weekend, 95 against Russells Creek White.
Tim McDonald hammered 70 for Allansford against Russells Creek Blue, to go with two half-centuries the previous weekend.
McDonald is the leading run-scorer for the tournament, with 192 at an average of 64.
Sri Lankan all-rounder Daminda Ranaweera made 69 not out for Dennington Red against East Warrnambool-YCW.
Josh Campbell, 61 not out against Wesley-CBC, and Ben Threlfall, 51 against Russells Creek White, were the best at West Warrnambool.
And Jay Wynd proved he will be valuable for new club Nirranda with 55 not out against Dennington White.
Of the bowlers, Jed Turland took the honours, snaring 4-21 for West Warrnambool against Wesley-CBC.