Welcome back from the Christmas break, hope everyone is raring to go.
Junior country weeks have been played, whilst not getting a win, I'm sure the kids gained a lot of experience from the week.
U/16s Grampians played Ballarat at Central Park on day one with the Grampians batting first making 91. A bit in the wicket early. Jade McMurtrie 22 and Charlie Leishman 19. In reply, Ballarat Gold 226 with Floyd Burmeister 3 for 21.
The Grampians then played Castlemaine at Newstead with Castlemaine making 253. The best of the Grampians' bowlers were Zak Peachey with 2 for 17. In reply, Grampians were 9 for 120, with Cam Wickham not out 32 and Sonny Kettle making 22.
On day three, they played Gisbourne Green at Bacchus Marsh with Grampians making 8 for 121, with Sonny Kettle making 31 and Jack Cann 28. Gisbourne made 226, with the best of the bowlers being Jack Cann with 2 for 24.
Finally, Grampians played Gisbourne White at Buninyong, making 162, with Sonny Kettle making 55 and Sam Phillips 44. Rain stopped play early with Gisbourne on 1 for 127 with the game being awarded to Gisbourne on the Duckworth Lewis system.
Boys enjoyed a good week of cricket, with at least two competitive losses playing against some very strong teams.
U/13s, day 1 v Ballarat Gold at North Park Stawell. Ballarat batted first and made 256. Grampians were all out for 88. The highlight was a well made 36 from Deakan Hemley in a good partnership with Brodie O'Donohue.
Day 2 v Castlemaine at Muckleford. Grampians batted first and were all out for 85. Castlemaine made 7 for 143. The highlight was a very nice 40 from Brady McMahon.
Day 3 v Gisborne at Kyneton. Gisborne batted first and made 8 for 222. Grampians all out for 54. Highlights, 2 wickets for Caleb Summers and a very quick fire 24 from Brady McMahon including 3 fours and 1 six, after taking 3 wickets in Gisborne's innings.
Day 4 v Ballarat Blue. Grampians batted first and were 9 for 154. Ballarat Blue innings suspended due to rain. Ballarat Blue won the game on the Duckworth Lewis System. Highlights were a very determined 31 from Brodie O'Donohue and a very quick 40 not out from Jim Jennings, which included 9 fours.
Overall, the boys had a terrific week. Their skills improved throughout the week, in particular, their fielding. A big thank you to all the parents.
In A grade, we continue on with the two-day games. Halls Gap takes on Pomonal in a game that was scheduled for Central Park, but due to some damage to the pitch area, the game has been moved to North Park.
Pomonal was struggling for numbers prior to the break but if those players return for this game, it will make it difficult for the Gappers, who lost its last game outright inside a day. It's difficult to see them winning this game if Pomonal is close to full strength.
St Andrews take on Youth Club at Alexandra Oval. This game could show where St Andrews are at coming into the finals. At its best, they are quite capable of getting over the top of the clubbers, especially if they can get the in-form Nic Baird out cheaply. With cricket being the strange game it is, it wouldn't surprise if they get up. In the other A grade game, Chalambar take on Swifts Great Western at Gordon street. With Sam Cocks and Matt Hefer in the side, Swifts should prove too strong for Chalambar, who have struggled at times this season.
In B grade, two of the three top sides in Buangor, Tatyoon and Aradale meet at Buangor. This will be an interesting game and the result will hinge on which players are available after the break, with the winner staying at the top and the loser falling back into the hunting pack of sides below.
SGW take on Pomonal at Great Western. Pomonal had to forfeit the last two games due to harvest. Hopefully, they have finished and can field a side this week.
A win for SGW will see it remain in the top two. Wickliffe Lake Bolac takes on Rhymney Moyston at Wickliffe in what could be a close game.
W/LB was in form leading into the break putting them into contention for a finals berth, while a loss for Rhymney Moyston could almost see them drop out of the race.
Halls Gap takes on Navarre at Halls Gap. The Gappers are really struggling in B grade and it's hard to see them being able to get over the top of Navarre who won't want to drop this game if they want to play finals.
My selections for this round are A Grade: Pomonal, Youth Club and SGW. B Grade: Buangor/Tatyoon, SGW, W/LB and Navarre.
Good luck to all players and teams, with a special welcome onto the umpiring list to Marcus Marrow. Marcus has played with Youth Club during his long career and has decided to give something back to the game by becoming an umpire.