Skipper Graeme Batty has never been part of a better Illawarra line-up in 13 years than the side he leads in tomorrow’s Sydney T20 debut against Parramatta at Old Kings Oval.
Batty believes the addition of NSW Country allrounder Cameron Belshaw and the return of destructive opener David Murphy this season means Illawarra can leave their mark against some of Australia’s top grade cricketers.
‘‘It’s the best squad I’ve been involved with for sure,’’ Batty said.
‘‘Cam played for NSW Country last season and gives us a quality allrounder which is crucial in T20, while David’s experience in Sydney grade and what he can do at the top of the order makes us a dangerous batting side.’’
Illawarra and Newcastle join an expanded Sydney T20 competition this season. Illawarra are confirmed only for this season and want to prove they can match it with the best first grade club sides in NSW.
‘‘The Sydney competition is widely considered as one of the strongest club competitions in the world, and our inclusion provides a great opportunity for our players to test themselves at that level,’’ Cricket Illawarra president Mark Johnston said.
‘‘The association’s representative committee has worked hard in recent years to lift the standard of our representative teams and our invitation is a great reward for that work and the commitment of our players to lift their performances.’’
Illawarra had a strong win over Sutherland and a narrow loss to Bankstown in home T20 trials and Batty expects Parramatta to be an easier proposition than St George and Sutherland, who they play in an away double-header on November 2.
‘‘We know St George and Sutherland will be tough so we’ve really got to get amongst it and beat Parramatta, who generally have been among the weaker teams in Sydney grade.’’
Illawarra’s top order are firing at local club level, with Batty averaging 105, Northern Districts’ Mark Johnson 169 and Balgownie’s Adam Berwick 217 after consecutive centuries in the first two rounds.
‘‘The batting’s going to be our strength in these T20 games. We have a mix of experienced and inexperienced bowlers and if they do the job we’re going to do well,’’ Batty said.
‘‘Ideally we’d love to bat first, but it’s a small ground and if can contain Parramatta to under 140 I’d be pretty confident.’’
Illawarra side: Graeme Batty (c), Mark Johnson (vc), David Murphy, Tim Laws, Adam Berwick, Michael Stephenson, Dale Scifleet, Jonathon Cook, Cameron Belshaw, Cameron Nupier, Jamie Fleming, Maciu Gauna (12th man).