FOCUSED SKIPPER: Centrals captain Ben O’Connell will switch his leadership role to the Ipswich Lightning side contesting this weekend’s Bulls Masters Country Challenge.
FOCUSED SKIPPER: Centrals captain Ben O’Connell will switch his leadership role to the Ipswich Lightning side contesting this weekend’s Bulls Masters Country Challenge. Inga Williams

Ipswich players bid for higher honours

SOME of the region's most exciting cricketers have plenty to play for when they represent Ipswich Lightning at this weekend's Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge at Stanthorpe.

That includes furthering their representative careers and a chance to play on the hallowed Gabba turf.

Although having some experienced players withdraw, Lightning coach Craig Jesberg expects his team to make an impact in this weekend's tournament.

Jesberg coached the SEQ Thunder team that won the inaugural country challenge before backing up with the newly-formed Lightning side that made last year's final.

"I'm pretty confident,'' Jesberg said.

"We went into it last year not knowing how we'd go, but we went really well at Ipswich.

"We had a shocker in the final. That was the only thing that let us down.

"This year, we've got a few unknowns and Gold Coast will be a really strong side.

"But it's T20 and things can change very quickly and you're never beaten in a T20.''

The former Queensland player is being helped this weekend by experienced assistant Paul Milne with another ex-state achiever, Dick Tazelaar, as mentor.

The Lightning side is being captained by Ben O'Connell, who has progressed to higher honours from playing in past tournaments.

Queensland Bulls rookie and Australian under-19 all-rounder James Bazley is the marquee player joining the Lightning's locally-based combination.

Lightning open their campaign tomorrow morning against Wide Bay before a night T20 clash against Gold Coast.

Sunday morning's last qualifying game is against Darling Downs South West Queensland before the final at 1.30pm.

Among those withdrawing due to injury are all-rounders Mick Sippel (groin) and Taylor Peach (shin splints).

"We're taking a bit of youth away with Joel Hall and Jackson McQuilty, and Mickie Abbott is a new player to Ipswich cricket,'' Jesberg said.

"Most of the guys who played last weekend have a game under their belts, but we've had plenty of trial games so it's not like it's unusual for them.''

The added incentive is what the annual country challenge offers the players.

"If we win this, the guys play at the Gabba,'' Jesberg said.

"There's more to it this year because players can get picked to play in Brisbane against the three Brisbane sides.

"It's a great representative opportunity, to get their foot in the door, for people to see you, especially the youth guys.''

Another representative team will also be picked to play against Brisbane Heat in a trial game at Limestone Park in December.

"It's a great thing that they are producing. For the boys, it's something to have a crack at,'' Jesberg said.

No Ipswich and West Moreton Cricket Association first division games are scheduled this weekend due to the Bulls Masters format.

Game day

Ipswich Lightning team for this weekend's Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge: Tom Douglas, Joel Hall, Ged Sippel, Ben O'Connell (captain), Jackson McQuilty, Michael Ridgewell, David Roberts, Luke Barrett, Mick Abbott, Mark Sharrad, Jarid Greisbach, James Bazley (Bulls player). Bulls Masters mentor: Dick Tazelaar. Coach: Craig Jesberg. Assistant coach: Paul Milne.

Lightning schedule (all games at Stanthorpe): Tomorrow (10am) - v Wide Bay. 6pm: v Gold Coast. Sunday (9am): v Darling Downs South West Queensland.

The final is at 1.30pm.



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