Cricket's semi-finals race heats up

ILLAWARRA CRICKET

The first two-day round in three months in Illawarra cricket begins this afternoon with the lure of outright points to define the semi-final hopes of several clubs.

Defending premiers Helensburgh are fifth, while last season's finalists Keira slipped from second to fourth with a loss to leaders Balgownie last Saturday.

Clubs play three two-dayers and two one-dayers before the semi-finals and only bottom side Wests Illawarra are out of finals calculations.

Keira are the only semi-final team from the last campaign in the top four, while the Burgh, eighth-placed Corrimal and ninth-placed Wollongong need big finishes to make the finals.

Balgownie are the benchmark side, while second-placed Dapto and third-placed University are playing well, with just 12 points separating Dapto from sixth-placed Northern Districts.

Helensburgh won't be short of motivation away to University today after the Burgh were stripped of victory over the Students in the opening round, following a player registration error.

Helensburgh are coming off a one-run victory over Port Kembla, while Uni beat Wollongong by two runs in round eight.

Balgownie haven't lost a one-dayer or two-dayer all season and take on the other form side, Dapto, this afternoon at Judy Masters Oval.

Balgownie skipper Adam Berwick averages 96.6 with the bat, while Bally spinner Kody Freeman has a competition-high 23 wickets at an average of just 8.17 runs per scalp.

Dapto strike bowlers Dale Scifleet and Pat Hammond have taken a combined 34 wickets.

In other games, Keira need a return to form against Wests Illawarra at Figtree Oval, while Port Kembla and Corrimal need a win at King George Oval.

Wollongong and Northern Districts also meet in a critical match at Hollymount Park East.

Ladder: Balgownie 56; Dapto 45; Uni 41; Keira 39; Helensburgh 33, Norths 33; Port 28; Corrimal 27; Wollongong 21; Wests Illawarra 9.

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