Deniliquin charged its way into a second straight Murray Valley Cricket Association premier division grand final with a stirring 48-run win against Katamatite last weekend.
The Rhinos bounced back from consecutive losses to Cobram and Tocumwal to put forward their best batting performance of the season in the semi-final at Barooga Recreation Reserve, and will again face Cobram in the decider beginning tomorrow at Cobram Showgrounds.
A dominant day one on Saturday had Deniliquin bat the full 80 overs with an 86-run effort by Andrew Hogan and 48-run stand by skipper Brad Todd (four boundaries and one six) helping the Rhinos to a score of 8-298.
It was a nervous day two for the Rhinos with Katamatite’s Brayden Beaton smashing 15 boundaries on his way to 110 runs off 109 balls.
However, the bowling efforts of Nick Burnell (4-68 off 17) ensured that regular wickets fell for Deniliquin to take the victory, bowling the Tigers out for 240 after 60.4 overs.
‘‘It is a good achievement to get back to the grand final, the boys are keen and ready to go,’’ Todd said.
‘‘It was absolutely our best batting performance of the season.
‘‘Tocumwal showed us the way last match and we nailed our batting at the weekend. Hopefully we can continue that into this week.
‘‘After last week we said one of the top four batsmen had to go on and make a score for us, we all got starts, but didn’t consolidate (last week).
‘‘Hoges (Hogan) was definitely the pick of our batters and his efforts on Saturday showed why he’s one of the premier bats in the comp.
‘‘We knew it was going to take a superb batting effort from Katamatite to chase those runs.
‘‘Brayden Beaton batted really well and there were some nervous times, but we just had to get our bowling right and build pressure to take regular wickets.
‘‘Nick (Burnell) was the pick of the bowlers on the weekend, his line and length was fantastic. He got us off to a good start taking some early wickets and keeping the pressure on their batsmen.
‘‘It was also good to see Brenton (Loudon) roll the arm over. We will probably look to bowl him as a containment bowler (in the grand final).
‘‘Hopefully he will be able to build on the weekend just gone, as that was the first time he’s bowled since November for Penrith when he dislocated his shoulder.
‘‘The game against (Katamatite) was a great preparation leading into this weekend.’’
The Rhinos fell to a nine-wicket defeat at the hands of Barooga in last year’s decider and will look to turn those fortunes around against the Hawks’ cross-town rivals.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FINAL
Premier Division grand final
Cobram Showgrounds, tomorrow and Sunday from noon
Last time they met: Cobram defeated Deniliquin by seven runs at Memorial Park, defending an Adam De Cicco (79) led 157 with a team bowling performance.
How they got here: Minor premier Cobram knocked off defending champion Barooga in last week’s semi-final, while Deniliquin snuck past Katamatite in the other qualifier.
Most proficient performers: Cobram has comfortably been led by Wian Van Zyl with the bat, the South African pounding 881 runs at 73.4 this season. De Cicco has been outstanding with ball in hand, snaring 31 wickets at 11.5. Deniliquin’s Andrew Hogan has been the star once more, striking 413 runs at 45.9 and claiming 27 poles at 10.5.
Key contributors: Van Zyl is undoubtedly Cobram’s key cog. Although the import has unparalleled numbers across the entire campaign, his efforts since Christmas have nose-dived.
The bullocking opener averages just 10.2 since the holidays and will be aiming to rediscover his early-season form this weekend.
For the Rhinos, Brenton Loudon looms as an X-factor with bat and ball. Having only recently returned to the bowling crease after an injury, if Loudon can get somewhere near top-gear he could rip through the Tigers in a heartbeat.
Tip: Cobram looks to have more weapons — including a cannon which has been holstered since the calendar flicked over to 2019 — and will unleash its full artillery on the Rhinos to claim a 50-run or five-wicket win.