The Hooker League gets back underway this Saturday after a weekend off watching the virtually uncontested first Ashes Test between Australia and England. Considering tickets to the event were rarer than long-haired Patagonian hens teeth, I presume that most of our boys in flannels were watching the massacre from their own couches, beer in hand. Fair enough too considering the mercury made it well into the 30s. This weekend they wont get that kind of concession and many will be holding their breath at the coin toss in the hope of avoiding a long day in the field.
The Bar back on track
Major premiers Tintenbar East Ballina have had a faltering start to their title defence, falling foul of Casino in the second round, but will get a chance to make amends when they play the struggling Norths Goonellabah RSL at Heaps Oval. Heaps Oval has a reputation for producing a good batting track with a fast outfield and I expect the Bars belligerent top order will enjoy the going. Meanwhile, the Hawks have some guns of their own and its about time they fired. My guess is Adam Osbourne will make 182 and Nathan Bonamy will make 126, or Brett Crawford will score 308 depending on who wins the toss. But Im a wild optimist.
Souths to continue charge
Lennox Heads new Megan Crescent Oval will host its second match of the season when Souths travel from Lismore for the fourth round encounter. The last match didnt produce a whole heap of runs so I suspect its a bit immature in pitch terms and probably plays up and down, as they say. Although I expect a solid showing from Lennox Head I think they might learn a thing or two about discipline from Souths bowlers. Len Blok and Paul Fredricks have both bowled a scrupulous line and length this year and it has proved too much for the impatient batsmen of this district. I fear Lennoxs young men might miss out in the same way. Souths by 68 or 4 wickets.
Match of the round
Casino Cavaliers started the season in great form, knocking of the premiers, but they have slipped in recent weeks, losing twice to Marist Brothers, admittedly both in the one-day format. This weekend they play Easts, the minor premiers, who have started the season in mixed form, losing the first round to Ballina Bears but outrighting Workers last round. Both of these teams have sharp quicks and accurate medium pacers, so perhaps the leg spin of Casinos Scott Sheppard might give them an advantage. On the batting front the return of Sam Irvine gives Casino a threatening appearance.
Oakes Oval is a batsmens paradise at the moment so this game should go down to the wire. If Easts top order treasure their wickets theyre a good chance. Your guess is as good as mine.
Brothers are on a roll
Although Alstonville managed a win over Tintenbar in the one dayers last round, they did so on a dubious Hill Park pitch, and this Saturday they will play a gritty Marist Brothers at home on Nesbitt Park. Brothers are coming off two wins against Casino and their batsmen are in outstanding form, particularly Chris Ball. Meanwhile, Alstonvilles batting is missing the conviction and concentration necessary to make it in first grade, but they played well against Souths at Nesbitt last year so perhaps they could turn their season around. Nesbitt takes spin so its possible this match could end up being a duel between off spinners Dean Collings and Steve Robb, although Brothers leg spinner Michael Singh has been cutting a swathe recently.
Bears should be to strong
Ballina Bears made light work of Workers Club in the last round of the Byron Private Life one dayers and I expect they will continue to dominate the Maroons when they travel down to Fripp Oval on Saturday. Bears captain Andrew Gordon is in a rich vein of form, having smashed a century in that one dayer. Workers did manage a win against Lennox recently but it was only by the skin of their teeth thanks to a last wicket stand by youngsters Jeremy Cowan and Matt Walter. The Bears are too experienced and too in-your-face to let this one slip.
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