Panthers on the prowl in WDCA's Merri conference

BALANCE and execution have made West Warrnambool the side to catch at the midway point of the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association season.

The Panthers have been clinical in winning their first four Merri conference matches and have the best record of any top-grade side.

Surprise packet Wesley-CBC and flag fancy Dennington have also started well, but neither has come close to the all-conquering pacesetter.

Wesley-CBC made just 68 from 35.4 overs — losing 7-11 late — in going down to West Warrnambool by 126 runs in mid-November.

Dennington fared slightly better, batting out its overs but labouring to 8-91 en route to a six-wicket defeat last month.

Port Fairy and Nirranda have likewise failed to reach three figures with the bat against the Panthers.

They are impressive numbers for a side seeking to avenge its semi-final exit last season.

But new coach Dean Hurford is not one to rest on his laurels and yesterday implored his players to seize the opportunity in front of them.

“It’s a great opportunity for this club this year,” he said.

Hurford said he had been most impressed by the spread of contributors with bat and ball.

English import Karl Turner leads the way with the bat, making 156 runs, but has reached double figures in only two of his four innings.

When he has failed, contributions from Alastair Templeton, Ben Threlfall, Michael Threfall and Leigh Johnson have proved telling.

With the ball, Ben Threlfall, Simon Johnson and Tom Smith have taken a collective 21 scalps between them.

All three are among the top 10 wicket-takers in division one. 

“Karl has only made two scores,” Hurford said.

“There have been scores of 18 or 20 by some of the younger guys and the more experienced guys that have gone a long way to winning us certain games, or getting us in a winning position.

“The bowling has been sensational and the fielding too. But we’re only halfway there. We’ve got the two-day format to go, which suits us.

“We’ve got four or five guys at the top of the order who can play their shots but have very good techniques. I think it suits them to go in and back themselves in.”

In rising to the top, West has had 11 cricketers play three or four matches — a sure sign of a settled side.

But Hurford insisted there were opportunities for players in the seconds to earn promotion.

Will Templeton has made 126 runs and leg-spinner Paul Campbell has taken seven wickets to press their claims.

The Merri conference resumes with round six tomorrow. West Warrnambool hosts Nestles at Davidson Oval, Nirranda welcomes Dennington and Wesley-CBC plays Port Fairy at Walter Oval.

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