Underdogs look to upset frontrunners in penultimate round
Wet weather and fearless opponents will sit in the minds of top four sides as the penultimate Round 20 of SCCA Division 1 fixtures begins on well-watered ovals this weekend.
Position is all for the semi-finalists, Glasshouse, Tewantin-Noosa, Maroochydore and Caboolture, for a wet semi-final weekend would see the top two promoted to the grand final.
A loss this round could threaten hopes of that fancied status, as all four face sides out of finals contention.
Last week giant-killers Nambour showed that none is immune to upset with their outright defeat of Caboolture, while the other three on the second shelf demonstrated enough batting talent and determination to stifle complacency.
Up at Gympie, Caloundra's Brendan Kelly raised 163 on a painfully slow outfield as the Lighthouses were able to declare on 273, and though only Andy Batten's unbeaten 96 was a credit in the home side's first innings response, Steve Brady's 101 to dispel any idea of outright defeat showed the quality available.
Glasshouse produced a season best team batting display of discipline to wear down Maroochydore's attack and strengthen the Rangers' top ranking, now the same will be needed if Lewis Waugh joins in with value from Brady and Batten to produce a Gold defence of its home turf.
Coolum's batsmen did themselves proud in a dogged stand of 7/185 at home to thwart Tewantin's anticipated outright win, and the fortitude shown was mirrored in the response of Caboolture skipper Matt Schubert to his sides' dire straits at Nambour, where his 95 dragged the Snakes from 3/4 to 158 in their second innings.
The captain's knock went unrewarded, but would have been an object lesson to his side.
Glen Batticciotto rarely fails twice, and the stung Snakes will have had a lot of soul-searching in a long week.
At Coolum the Sharks will need to dig deep, but they have seen their own inner strength for the first time.
Tewantin may have been denied an opportunity to head the table last week, but look for the big points at Henzell Oval, where runs have been the currency all season.
Tom Freshwater and Scott Aufderheide reunite with the new ball, looking to set up the Thunder as usual, and with Dom Taylor able to bowl long and inexpensive spells, Jake Dennien would not mind a losing call.
Lighthouse captain Wally Wright's hand problem has been a drawback to his batting and the side's fortunes, yet, as happens, the quality of Brendan Kelly has emerged in adversity.
On a field full of runs, batting duration is important, and the home side has nothing to lose against an opponent needing points.
Nambour's bowlers would have been happy with their rewards against Caboolture, and their raised self-belief must transfer to Kev Hackney Oval to counter third-placed Maroochydore. The Swans' batting on a slow Glasshouse track was carried to 224 by Zak Willox, whose last three innings of 93, 88 and 110 have provided the backbone for an erratic batting list.
The team would hope that Luke McInnes' supporting 55 signifies his all-rounder revival at the sharp end of the season.
To threaten, the Cutters need runs, and again time in the middle will be important.
A good start from Ledger and O'Connor, support from Trace and Dodd, then reaching 200 plus will suit the visitors on a track where application is needed.
Underdogs all, any of the bottom four can cause an upset, and would love to.
This is the round where the top four are most vulnerable, for their finals positioning is crucial.
POINTS: Glasshouse 113.40, Tewantin-Noosa 108.59, Maroochydore 101.53, Caboolture 96.14,
Nambour 65.09, Caloundra 60.69, Gympie 49.94, Coolum 44.25.