I'll stand by it and say it, I think he's one of the best batsman in the comp when he's on.- Justin Lynch
Merrivale senior coach Justin Lynch has praised the work of newly-minted opening bat Theo Opperman following Saturday's four-wicket win against North Warrnambool.
Opperman, in his first game opening a one-dayer this summer, anchored the Tigers' round 12 167-run innings with a score of 78.
"We have been struggling with our opening partnerships in the last 12 or so months," Lynch said. "We've tried a few different things here and there, so we just rejigged the order and it paid dividends (on Saturday) with Theo up there. I'm really pleased for him, he's been working hard at it."
Opperman, who has batted mostly number four in division one, first opened the order in Merrivale's Twenty20 matches last month and was "more than keen" to continue at the top according to Lynch.
"He's a quality batsman," the coach said. "I'll stand by it and say it, I think he's one of the best batsman in the comp when he's on especially at a young age, he's only 20 years of age."
After tough losses to Brierly-Christ Church and Dennington before Christmas, Lynch won the toss and sent the Eels in to bat, with the latter aided by the return of skipper Bailey Jenkinson (57 runs) from a broken collarbone. Jenkinson's wicket at 2-98 was crucial for the Tigers, who quickly added two more to put the Eels on edge at 4-98.
"I thought at one stage they were looking at 200-plus so to restrict them to that 165 in the end, I was pretty pleased with how we fought back," Lynch said. "I thought 160-odd was about par on it and if we bat well we should get them."
Lynch was pleased to see opening bowler Daniel Hawkins (2-25), along with spinner Ryan Fleming (3-27) get reward for effort.
"He's (Daniel) been bowling really well and got a few wickets here and there but has probably been bowling without luck," he said. "Ryan, he's been a bit the same... it was good to see him get a few wickets and crack open that middle order."
Merrivale sit one spot outside the top six and equal on points with Dennington (sixth) and Northern Raiders (eighth). Lynch said his team, who play Mortlake next round, had plenty of room for improvement as they push for a finals berth.
Elsewhere in division one, Northern Raiders knocked off top-two Nestles with a dominant Jack Burnham unbeaten on 94. Russells Creek remain unbeaten after a 152-run win over Wesley-Yambuk, Port Fairy held off Mortlake by seven runs in the final over while Brierly-Christ Church skipper Mark Murphy's 44-run and 5-25 stand wasn't enough to defeat West Warrnambool.
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