Cricket title deciders in the lap of weather gods

MERCURY SPORT EDITORIAL

Certain washout one day. Fingers crossed the next.

The cricketing gods can be fickle but nothing to match the weather gods as the fate of the Illawarra and South Coast cricket finals rests on a break in the rain following one of the wettest weeks in years.

The irony that one of the driest seasons in recent years should be broken by the torrential downpours of the last few days is enough for every cricket fan to scream 'climate change'.

But in both finals the stakes are much more important than an academic argument.

In South Coast cricket, Oak Flats are looking for their first premiership since 2006-07, while it was 2005-06 that their opponent Albion Park last won the crown.

In Illawarra cricket, Keira are chasing their first premiership since the Allan Border era of 1987-88, while opponents University last weekend knocked out the previously unbeaten Balgownie in the most dramatic finish of the season.

A washout, or rain-affected draw, would be enough for Keira to claim the title by virtue of finishing the 14 one and two-day rounds in the higher-placed second spot.

After years of heartbreak, chokes, near-misses and plain bad luck, Keira again stand on the verge of the premiership.

Twelve months ago the undefeated Keira were upset by Helensburgh in the final.

This season the same fate - or what Lions skipper Graeme Batty calls the "unbeaten curse" - followed Balgownie, who had their unbeaten season end in the semis against the Students.

But the emotional scenes in the fading light last Sunday could all be in vain if the weather deprives Uni of a realistic shot of beating Keira in the decider.

A washout final could be averted if a spare weekend was included in the Illawarra draw, even within the structures of scheduling which require the season to run from October 1 to March 31.

Before the 2005-06 season, Illawarra cricket had a spare weekend for a rained-out final but it was taken out with the member clubs unwilling to play on a Sunday.

With the knockout SCG Country Cup already consuming a few Sundays, the clubs drew a line through competition play on a Sunday, meaning there was no extra weekend at the end of March for a washed-out final.

This weekend's final will likely be the third first-grade decider interrupted by rain in the past decade.

University held on for a draw against Corrimal in a bad-tempered final in 2006-07 at Keira Oval, while in the 2011-12 decider at North Dalton Park, Dapto won the premiership by virtue of a draw against University.

That year the Students made 7-291, but Dapto at 7-122 held on for a "winning" draw.

Now the Students are set to be involved in a third rain-affected final in first grade in the past decade.

Already the rain has put an end to the second-grade final with Keira v Uni at Figtree Oval declared a washout, while the third and fourth-grade finals have been put back until Sunday.

The third-grade decider between Wests and Dapto has been moved to Dalton Park South.

Debate over the merit of having a spare weekend for the premiership decider and whether it is worth the sacrifice of a couple of extra days of Sunday play will rage on.

But this weekend everyone will be looking to the skies and keeping fingers crossed.

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