Barber Shield hotly contested

A grandstand finish is in prospect to open the summer of red ball cricket in the 2021-22 Hoggies Wines Barber Shield.

Saturday will be a cricket connoisseur’s delight with all three games being played in Mount Gambier and no clear winner in sight.

The Mil Lel v East Gambier battle was expected to be the most one-sided, with the undefeated meeting the winless.

But Mil Lel proved why it is the highest-scoring team in the competition by posting 234 on the scoreboard powered by a Josh Smith ton.

Although the Bulldogs have had the luxury of chasing small totals in 2021-22 thanks to the fine efforts of their bowlers, Alex Hentschke only has to rewind the clock one round to find some confidence.

North Sportsman’s found itself in a similar situation at the same venue against Jack Miller’s men chasing 229 in 40 overs.

Despite the daunting run rate the pitch played true all day and Tigers crossed the line inside the final over with six wickets in hand.

Hentschke will be hopeful his batting line up can do something similar, especially after he and Travis Younghusband guided East to a big 200-plus total the last time they faced Mil Lel with a red ball.

Miller has led from the front with ball in hand and hopes the wet build up can give the pitch a bit of life on the final day.

The North v West contest is also on a knife edge at Marist Park as both teams smell blood.

After the yellow and black removed Justin DeJong in controversial fashion at the cusp of stumps, the Roos need to score another 161 runs without their round 3 centurion.

West’s pursuit could hinge on how long the likes of Jack Geddes, Richard Crute, Jake Blackwell, Sam Willis and Connor Prior last at the crease.

Blackwell and Prior are the big wickets after some gutsy knocks in the previous minor round two-day battle.

However, with names such as Nick McInerney, Tim Young and Declan Kenny the Tigers are well renowned for defending all sorts of totals with the red ball.

North defended 141 in the previous match against the Roos and the pace pack will be determined to maintain their strong reputation.

An under-par first innings total proved costly for South Gambier in its most recent encounter against Penola at Blue Lake Sports Park and the Eagles believe history is repeating itself.

In the final round of 2020-21, the Demons could only score 83 and Penola mowed it down.

But this time South is in the stronger position defending 180 on a surface where scoring has proved difficult.

Demons’ gloveman Ethan Sims soaked up 121 balls for his 32, while the Eagles’ openers were in survival mode facing the final six overs.

But Matthew Honner and Lewis March did their jobs and will resume on 0 and nine respectively.

Their job will be to wear down South strike weapons Elwood Geary, Jakob Opie, Cam Jorgensen and Robert Drenthen so the likes of Mark Smith and Jack Mullan can flourish and continue their strong form.

With sunny skies forecast for Saturday afternoon the Demons need to be disciplined ton prevent last summer’s grand finalists from scoring a third win from four.

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