Numurkah face Central Park-St Brendan’s in preliminary final

By Aydin Payne

Deakin Reserve will host to a rematch of last year’s preliminary final between success-starved Numurkah and Haisman Shield powerhouse Central Park-St Brendan’s.

Since the turn of the century the Tigers have taken home 10 two-day A-grade titles in a period of success that opposition clubs could only ever dream of replicating.

However, the Tigers have not featured in the final dance since their premiership in 2015-16 and standing in their way is a red-hot Numurkah that is hungry for success.

Only two points separated the sides at the end of the season and they roar into this preliminary final clash with strong performances against their semi-final opposition.

Central Park-St Brendan’s defeated Nagambie after inspiring performances from seasoned performer Ramadan Yze (6-37) and up-and-coming batsman Andrew Lloyd (52).

Numurkah defeated Northerners last weekend off the back of a brilliant century from Shaun Downie, his first in Haisman Shield, and will fancy its chances coming up against the Tigers.

Blues skipper Liam Gledhill said the team had enjoyed its semi-final win, but all eyes had shifted focus to the clash against Central Park.

‘‘We’ve had a nice and upbeat week so far, it was great to chase down a total over 200 and walk away winners,’’ Gledhill said.

‘‘But now we turn our focus to this weekend and we know that we’re coming up against a dangerous side with a mixture of young and experienced cricketers.

‘‘Their more experienced players will be vital for them in the pressure cooker that is finals cricket, especially Scott and Lau, Riley can take a game away from you pretty quickly.’’

The Blues have a bowling line-up that is littered with talent, with spearhead quick Tim Arnel sitting on 26 wickets with a strike rate of 20 from six games, and spinning duo Gledhill and Michael Eckard have combined for 51 wickets.

Gledhill believes the opening hour of the contest will be crucial in deciding the outcome of the preliminary final.

‘‘Early wickets will be the key come the weekend and the first hour will be really important for both sides,’’ Gledhill said.

‘‘If we bowl first I have full faith in Timmy and the bowlers to do the job and if we bat we need to survive the new ball.’’

Tigers captain Riley Lau is confident in his side’s ability to keep out Numurkah’s bowling trio and said it would look to rectify losing quick wickets like it did against Nagambie.

‘‘The boys had a really good hit-out the other night and we know we have to be smarter with the bat against their good bowlers, we can’t afford another collapse like last week,’’ Lau said.

‘‘Obviously Arnel is one of the better quicks in the comp, we need to be attacking and put him and the spinners under as much pressure as possible.

‘‘Being a final we need runs on the board early which will give us every chance of winning.’’

Lau said the team was looking forward to playing at home again this weekend and he expected the pitch to be more lively this time around.

‘‘It’s the same one as last week and it played a bit slower than usual, which made scoring hard straight down the ground,’’ he said.

‘‘But I expect it to quicken up come Saturday, it looked pretty good the other night.’’

The preliminary final starts at 12.30pm tomorrow and Sunday at Deakin Reserve.