With the junior tournaments out of the way, the 2021/22 Senior Country Cup arrives next week and the South East wants redemption.
For many years the South East representative team was one of the most feared in the competition which throws the state’s best top country cricketers in the ring to fight for the coveted Country Cup.
The combined outfit boasts a fine record at the carnival having reached the decider in three of the last five years
The 2019/20 summer was a standout with the South East team led by Nick McInerney enjoying an unbeaten run to the title.
It was far from a smooth ride however with Aidan Thatcher being called up midway through the competition, while the experience Adam Somerfield and Matt McInerney stood up in key moments to knock off Barossa and Light in the decider.
However, the title defence crumbled dramatically as South East went on to lose every single game with an Alex Hentschke century the only moment to savour.
The current team wants to win back some respect this summer and a strong squad will take to the field.
Big Barber Shield names such as Declan Kenny, Mark Smith, Michael Waters and Hentschke are expected to play big roles, while talented youngsters Connor Prior and Elliott Fisher are being taken along for the ride.
McInerney returns with the same leadership role as captain, but this time he will have the experienced head of Kieran Ashby by his side.
Ashby has played more 150 than Barber Shield games winning many flags with North Sportsman’s but also has valuable experience of playing in the cut-throat world of Adelaide Premier Cricket.
He will take control of all matters off the field, while keeping a close eye of how the team performs on it.
Ashby’s wealth of knowledge will be a tremendous resource for the players and he said the key to success would be adapting to each unique match situation.
“I have been to the carnival about four or five times as a player, so I have a fair idea about what it is all about and how to make the step up,” he said.
“I just wanted to try to be a bit of mentor for the boys to help them through in each situation.
“Its hard for a captain to do everything on and off the field which is why Nick asked me to come up to help them get it done.”
Ashby has seen everything as a player and said the players must be always on top of their games in conditions that suit everyone with no margin for a false stroke or bad ball.
“The amount of error dissipates because you may only face one bad ball instead of multiple and it will be a different length than what you are used to at home,” he said.
“Batters must take all of their opportunities, play underneath their eyes and very straight through he “V” because the pitches are a lot harder.
“As a bowler you have to pitch the new ball up and get a bit of swing before drawing the length back to the top of off stump when it gets older.
“It’s pretty similar to hard wicket cricket because the ball just bounces through once its soft, so it’s a very good test for batters at the start and then a good test for bowlers later on.
“It is definitely a big step up from local cricket.”
Despite the disappointment of last summer’s underwhelming Country Cup campaign, Ashby is backing the current team to bounce back with vengeance.
“We have a good mix of experience and youth and they can all play their roles when needed,” he said.
“They are all quality cricketers with lots of good batters, but our strength is probably with the ball.
“Nick, Alex and Tim Young have all been there and done that, so we will look to bowl the opposition out cheaply and make the runs.
“I think they can go very close.”
The Senior Country Cup kicks off on Monday, January 31 when South East meets Yorke Peninsula at Henley Grange Memorial Oval.
South East aims to win at least two of its pool games against Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula and Murray Districts/Barrier to book a semi-final spot ahead of the decider at the immaculate Karen Rolton Oval next Thursday.