Shore look to claim back top spot
Friday, 22 February 2013
North Shore will welcome back keeper Blair Parlane this weekend
With only five weekends left in the Premier cricket season it is well and truly crunch time in both the Major and Minor Championships.
Birkenhead City currently enjoy a substantial lead of almost 11 points in the race for the Tom Hellaby Trophy, so it is now or never for the chasing pack who have only just three games left in which to make up the deficit.
North Shore led the Minor Championship race until last weekend, but they are now the ones doing the chasing after suffering two defeats in their last two outings.
They will be desperate to put an end to that losing streak when they face Barfoot & Thompson Waitakere City at Te Atatu Park this weekend, and Shore coach Ken Olsen believes that finding consistency is the key to his side remaining in the title race: "We believe we are still in with a chance of winning, we haven't played so well in the last two games and we had several players missing with weddings and injuries. We did have the opposition in trouble early in both of those matches and then played poorly to let them off the hook, so from here on we are looking to be more consistent."
While Shore are likely to start their match with Waitakere as favourites Olsen is well aware of the threat Saturday`s hosts pose to his side: "We have played them a few times this season and they are a good bunch of guys.
''They have some key players in Aaron Jeavons and Blayne Fraser, and a strong group of seamers. We will certainly not be taking them lightly. In a T20 game against them earlier this year we were off our game and they beat us comfortably, however we always look to implement our own plan and that has been successful for us in the past."
Shore bring in two players who missed the defeat at the hands of Auckland University with Zach McEwan and Blair Parlance back in the fold: "Zach returns after a foot injury and on the back of a seven wicket haul in the reserve grade. Blair is returning from his honeymoon, he is a key player for us and we expect some good banter from him and perhaps a free drink or two after the game."
Auckland University are in third position and they have the opportunity to put a dent in the HRV Birkenhead City lead at the top of the table when the two sides clash at Colin Maiden Park.
Ellerslie are almost 24 points off the pace in fourth position and realistically must win all their remaining games outright to have any chance of promotion. That quest begins on Saturday when they travel to Keith Hay Park to face Eden Roskill who are currently bottom of the ladder.
The destination of the Hedley Howarth Trophy has been narrowed down to just four sides with the Major Championship now split into top four and bottom four.
ILG East Coast Bays still have their sights firmly set on a triple crown after reaching the one-day final with a victory over Auckland University last weekend. They currently sit in third position in the two-day format and will make the trip to Onewa Domain tomorrow afternoon to face leaders Takapuna whom they trail by just 4.95 points.
Bays' success this year has come at a cost however with two of their most influential players, Cameron Fletcher and Brad Schmulian, called up to the Northern Knights and Auckland Aces squads respectively for the final Plunket Shield matches of the season. New Zealand U19 wicket keeper Fletcher is eighth on the Premier grades champion player charts, while his club skipper Schmulian leads the rankings after taking 44 wickets and scoring more than 600 runs at Premier level so far this season. Both are certain to be big losses for this match.
It's second versus fourth when Parnell welcome The Fox Suburbs New Lynn to Shore Road. The hosts are still in line for a double this season after reaching the one-day final, while Suburbs are only 7.11 points off the pace in their quest to retain the Hedley Howarth Trophy.
The battle to avoid the drop has begun at the other end of the table with Cornwall currently occupying the bottom position. With just three games remaining it is close to desperation time for the side from Cornwall Park, with a yawning gap to make up of almost ten points between themselves and Papatoetoe who are currently one place above them on the ladder.
This week Cornwall's quest for survival involves a trip to Lloyd Elsmore Park where they will face Howick Pakuranga for whom skipper Andrew de Boorder has already scored 1038 runs this season at an average of 57, an aggregate that includes five centuries.
In the final game Papatoetoe travel to Victoria Park to face New World Victoria Park Grafton United with both sides keen to put even more distance between themselves and Cornwall at the bottom of the ladder.