SAFE KEEPING: Central Districts wicket-keeper Nick Truloff is one of the players captain Ben O’Connell will be looking to to help topple Northsiders.
SAFE KEEPING: Central Districts wicket-keeper Nick Truloff is one of the players captain Ben O’Connell will be looking to to help topple Northsiders. Rob Williams

Battle for last semi-final berth hotting up

WHILE Brothers and Laidley battle out top spot this weekend and next, the sub-plot of the IWMCA Division One competition thickens.

The race for third spot and the final semi-final place could become clearer once the matches between Northsiders and Centrals and Swifts and Eastern Taipans are resolved.

Northsiders are in the box seat and a win over Centrals at Keith Sternberg Oval will effectively end Centrals' finals hopes.

A Centrals' win will congest the ladder and give Swifts the chance to close in on third if they can beat Taipans at Strollers.

"The teams around us are the important games," Northsiders captain Paul Milne said.

"This will be a semi-final sort of game."

Centrals and Northsiders are in a similar position in some ways.

Both teams are rebuilding after losing a group of senior experienced players.

"I think they were working towards something," Milne said of Centrals' recent past seasons.

"They've had to regroup this year and had to blood some youngsters quicker than what they had in mind.

"But they've got a good set-up and will be hard to beat."

Perhaps the difference between the two teams this season has been Centrals' over reliance on skipper Ben O'Connell.

In last weekend's losing one-day cause, he took three wickets and scored 87 of his team's 183 and it wasn't enough.

It means opponents go into matches thinking if they can restrict O'Connell, they're on their way to victory.

"No doubt," Milne said.

"You've just got to minimise the free hit for him because he puts that away.

"When you put pressure on other guys, then bowl a bad ball, they'll miss it. Ben doesn't.

"They're the guys you like to challenge yourself against.

"But he's under a bit of pressure because he's had to carry their boys a bit."

Milne has avoided similar pressure because of the contribution of his senior players and the revelation of youngsters like Ryan Benson and Matthew Fairhurst.

But things are about to get tougher.

Benson returns to school cricket shortly while South African recruit Jean-Pierre Erasmus is playing his last game before returning home.

LADDER

  • Brothers 98.28
  • Laidley 89.47
  • Northsiders 56.09
  • Swifts 46.68
  • Centrals 43.15
  • Taipans 24.17
  • Thunder 13.73

*12 points for first innings win, 20 points for outright win.



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