Ziggy still a chance for Country Week

MERRIVALE paceman Zashan Arshad remains in contention to represent the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association at Melbourne Country Week (MCW).

The English import was a surprise omission from the 14-man squad to contest division two at the five-day tournament from February 17 to 21.

But captain Brett Eldridge yesterday said the door was ajar for Arshad, nicknamed Ziggy, to make the trip should he continue his blazing run of form.

Arshad took a destructive 7-22 against Allansford at Uebergang Oval on Saturday and has 20 wickets for the season at an average of 9.60.

His match-winning display, which helped rout the Gators for 109, has forced selectors to consider taking a 15th player to Melbourne.

“At this stage he is the first emergency but he will continue to train with the squad and we’ll see how it goes from there,” Eldridge said.

“Whether he comes in and we take 15 or possibly look at making a late change through injuries or whatever in the next few weeks, we’ll have to wait and see.

“From our experience, we’ve learnt your better sides will often make changes during the week. They’ll bring in fast bowlers to freshen up their stocks.

“We’re keeping our minds open to that possibility. We may look at doing that. The beauty of this year is we’ve got the depth there to pick from.”

Eldridge said selectors were unlikely to change the squad of 14 just to include Arshad, who harbours ambitions of playing English county cricket. He said he was rapt with the depth in the squad, which includes two spin options — Allansford’s Matt Brophy and Nestles’ Geoff Williams.

Dennington skipper Dustin Drew, Merrivale’s Josh Stapleton and Brierly-Christ Church’s Mark Murphy are the top-order batting options.

Woodford workhorse Hank Schlaghecke and West Warrnambool young gun Tom Smith are likely to take the new ball.

The squad is filled out by Eldridge (Nestles), Jake McKinnon, Nick Butters (Woodford), Karl Turner, Michael Threlfall (West Warrnambool), Jason Mungean (Nirranda) and Ben Boyd (Russells Creek).

Williams, Smith, Turner and Threlfall will make their MCW debuts. Murphy was part of the squad last year but failed to play a match.

Eldridge said he was intent on going one better than last year, when Warrnambool lost the division two grand final to Bairnsdale by two runs.

“With the young group we had last year, we’ve kept the core of those guys together in the squad,” he said.

“They will be better for those pressure situations. They’ve identified what it takes to get through five days of cricket.

“(Other sides) were very balanced with their spin options and we probably didn’t have one, we created one when we got down there.

“Through a little bit more planning as far as team balance goes, we bowl deep and we bat deep and we’ve got two spin options we haven’t had before.”

Warrnambool plays Hamilton, Mornington Peninsula 2, Yarra Valley and Ballarat in its four matches. The final is at the Albert Cricket Ground in St Kilda.

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