Keira host Balgownie in big weekend of Illawarra cricket

Key player: All-rounder Neil Honavar will play an important role in Keira's clash with Balgownie on Saturday. Picture: Robert Peet.
Key player: All-rounder Neil Honavar will play an important role in Keira's clash with Balgownie on Saturday. Picture: Robert Peet.

Keira captain Kyle Connor is looking at his side’s disappointing Twenty20 results as a blessing in disguise as the competition proper resumes following the Christmas break. 

The ladder leaders are preparing to do battle with Balgownie in what will be the first full round of two-day matches for the season, if the rain holds off.

“We’re going to have get straight back into it,” Connor said. “We were a bit fortunate we didn’t do as well as we wanted to in the Twenty20, now we can focus on the one-day and two-day games and push ourselves to do well there.”

After winning just two Twenty20 matches, Connor is confident his side will return to form this weekend.   

“I thought we’d do better at Twenty20, but I do think the two-day games suit our style of play. We’ve got good variation in our bowling attack, our quicks are doing quite well, and our batting is also suited to the two-day format. Our batsmen like to occupy the crease, bat for a long period of time, but we’ve got to show that over the next two weeks”

Both Connor and Balgownie captain Jamie Fleming recognise the importance of patient batting on what will likely be a flat batting deck.

“We’re welcoming back Kieren Richards so we’re nearly full strength. We bat pretty deep, down to eight or nine. It’s all about getting time out in the middle and forming partnerships. If we do that well, we should be able to push for a good total.”

While Keira will welcome Richards back into the team, Balgownie will be forced to cope with the loss of batsmen Graeme Batty, David Murphy and Maciu Gauna. 

”We’re missing a few important batters,” Fleming said. “But we shouldn’t shy away from the fact we think we can win. It just means there’s a bit more pressure on experienced players like myself to step up.”

With a flat pitch looking likely, Connor believes bowling will be the key to separating the two sides. 

“Up at Keira Oval its been pretty flat,” he said. “We’ve had a bit of rain, but I still envisage the pitch to be a batsmen’s paradise. The game’s going to be won or lost in regards to the team that bowls better and takes their chances.”

For Fleming, that means bowling to a plan and building pressure. 

“Consistent line and length and building pressure will be our focus,” Fleming said. “We’re very much a pressure team, we want to build pressure and make the batsmen make mistakes.”

In other games this weekend, fifth-placed University host Helensburgh. Uni are nipping on the heels of Wollongong and will be desperate to kick start the second half of the season with a victory.

Wollongong travel to Dapto to face a young side that is looking to develop in the new year. 

Corrimal and Northern Districts sit just outside the top four and the winner of their match will leapfrog Uni, should they fall to Helensburgh. Finally, Port Kembla play host to Wests in a game that is approaching must-win status for both teams. 

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