Plenty on the line for Dees, True Blues
ONE team is looking to break into the top two, the other is teetering just outside the top eight. That is what confronts spectators when they head down to Albert Ground tomorrow morning for the clash between the Melbourne Demons and Prahran True Blues. It headlines a big round of Victorian Men’s Premier League cricket, with a large contingent of matches played between top eight, and bottom 10 sides. In fact there is just one top eight clash, with top of the table St Kilda Saints taking on eighth placed Fitzroy Doncaster Lions.
Melbourne vs. Prahran
Saturday, February 5 @ 11:00am
Both these sides enter the game with plenty on the line, and should provide value for spectators at one of the most picturesque grounds in Victoria. The Demons were unable to get out on the park due to weather against second place Carlton, a clash they dearly would have loved to have won given the ladder positioning. Instead, the third placed Dees last place against Northcote a fortnight ago, where a Jack Harper century (124 off 115 balls) lead the Demons to a score of 8/275. Northcote gave it a real shot by reaching 242, but a shared bowling effort – where four bowlers took two wickets apiece and saw Melbourne get the win.
Meanwhile, Prahran strung back-to-back wins together with a nail-biting six-run win over Dandenong Panthers. Putting up a score of 5/271, including a 97-run partnership between Damon Egan (68 off 70) and captain Jake Hancock (64 off 84), they managed to hold on by keeping the Panthers to 6/265, as James Boyce took 3/39 off nine overs. They will need much of the same against a Melbourne side possessing the red-hot Harper who is averaging 70.43 with two centuries and three half centuries in five of his seven innings.
Unsurprisingly Hancock has lead from the front for the True Blues, averaging 47.75 with four half centuries across nine innings. Egan is not far behind with less runs (due to only seven digs) but averaging 47.86 and having three half centuries for his 335 runs. Outside of Harper, the Demons have three players in the Top 25 runmakers this season, albeit in 21st, 22nd and 25th. They are Andrej Yaksender (48.33 from eight innnings including two not out), Fergus McKenna (41.43 from seven including a high score of 112) and Campbell Kellaway (57.0 from five innings, which featured two centuries including a 130).
In order to combat that batting depth, the True Blues will look to the likes of Boyce and Matt Wilcox who have taken 11 wickets apiece at identical averages of 27.64. Just behind them, Nicholas Boland has snagged 10 wickets, though at a higher average of 45.3. Fergus O’Neill has been one of the best bowlers all season in the competition, snagging 16 wickets at just 14.19 average, the second lowest of all the major wicket takers. He is well supported by Kyle Williamson (13 wickets at 18.46). Overall, Melbourne have the greater depth across the board and should get the win, but Prahran has some quality players capable of causing an upset.
AROUND THE GROUNDS
Top of the table St KIlda will travel to Schramms Reserve to take on Fitzroy Doncaster with sights on stretching their winning run to 10. They are eight points clear of Carlton and Melbourne, courtesy of being able to play last weekend unlike the Saints’ closest rivals. The major talking point will be whether Australian cricketers Marcus Harris and Glenn Maxwell will both return for a second games after smacking 97 not out, and 122 for St Kilda and Fitzroy Doncaster respectively.
The likes of Mark Phelan and Jack Lalor are having sensational seasons for Northcote, and will be looking to lead the Dragons to a win over Ringwood. The Rams are in a similar position in eleventh, and will be hoping to crack into the top eight if other results go their way. Northcote could well grab third, but only if the Demons slip up against Prahran, and Thomas Rogers is by far the premier batsman in the competition, smacking 717 runs at 119.50, including four centuries – and an unbeaten 200 – and five half centuries from seven innings.
Another mid-table team in Geelong sit twelfth and will be eyeing off a finals spot if they can cause a boil over against fifth placed Melbourne United. The Cats travel into the big smoke to take on the Students, with Hayden Butterworth not far behind Rogers, with 581 runs – including three centuries and two 50s – for the Cats.
Rounding out the top eight sides, and Footscray host Essendon at Mervyn G Hughes Oval, whilst Richmond lock horns with the struggling Kingston Hawthorn at Central Reserve North. The Bombers are on last rights as it stands, with three wins from 10 games, whilst the Hawks are a win behind them, and effectively needing to win all their remaining matches to make fiinals.
The best chance of regaining a spot inside the top eight is Casey-South Melbourne, with the ninth placed side hosting cellar dwellers Greenvale Kangaroos. Greenvale caused an upset back in Round 8 with its away win over Ringwood, but has dropped the past two games since then. The Bloods have been up and down this season, but can begin some momentum in the second half of the season after their victory over Camberwell last weekend.
Speaking of Camberwell, the Magpies are hosting 14th placed Frankston Peninsula in one of the black and whites best chance of winning. They are locked level with Kingston Hawthorn and Greenvale on two wins, but the Magpies can gain some separation with a victory. The Heat need a victory to remain in finals contention, just like Dandenong Panthers, who are on he same 3-6 win-loss record, and they have the stiff job in trying to take down Carlton.