Five games into the 2021/22 Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one season and Merrivale is already turning heads with its improved one-day form.
Soaring to the top of the ladder with a win over Wesley Yambuk, the Tigers' undefeated record prior to the ahead of the Christmas break has in part been aided by the work of young batter Theo Opperman.
Locking down the number four position, Opperman produced his best innings of the young season against the Beavers on Saturday.
Wielding the pine for 61 runs off 97 deliveries in just over an hour and a half at the crease, the 18-year-old also smacked a game-high eight boundaries.
With Merrivale well on track to better its 9-9 record of 2020/21, Opperman put his own hot start down to a growing maturity with the bat - his average already lifting from 11 runs last year to 66.5 this summer.
"I was always going okay as a junior, but it's probably having that confidence and time to work out who you are as a batter," he said.
"Obviously you can always iron out a few things, but I've been working on playing it straight those first 20 balls and doing the right thing for the team as that number four batter."
Opperman's 131-run partnership with Josh Stapleton (72) was crucial to the Tigers' round five win, which also handed Wesley Yambuk its first loss of the season.
"Just working with Josh, he's a good mentor out there and makes sure you aren't losing concentration or playing a false shot," Opperman said.
"I'm just trying to get him on strike a bit too, and working for those ones."
It was the second time the pair masterfully combined in the middle of the pitch, their 98-run partnership in round two securing the Tigers' winning runs against Dennington.
Another argument for Merrivale's perfect start this summer has been the blistering form of bowler Marcus Bunning, who sits equal first in the league for wickets taken with 11.
"He's been amazing and has carried his form through from last year, even when he wasn't getting as many wickets," Opperman said.
"He's been getting the ball in very good areas and is really good at making it hard for the opposition to score."
Merrivale will line up for round two and three of the Twenty20 Cup on Saturday, with their one-day season to resume on January 15.
Putting his team's current form down to an enjoyment factor, Opperman said he sees no reason the team couldn't carry their form into the new year.
"Yeah, obviously it's very pleasing; it's a pretty big turnaround from the last couple years," he said.
"I can't remember the last time we started the season undefeated before Christmas
"But I think everyone is just having fun and on the same wavelength and has just gelled together well.
"Everyone is playing good cricket, and there are no weak links.
"So if everyone tries to do something over the break to stay nice and fresh, hopefully we carry that same form and confidence through and win some more games."
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