University captain Matt Gawthrop believes spin will play a crucial part in their upcoming clash with competition leaders Merewether at Townson Oval as the Sea Dragons try to avoid missing just their third semi-final series since 2009-2010.
Gawthrop said he will look to use form right-arm tweaker Colby Gallagher, who has 13 wickets from his last three outings, and left-arm orthodox option Nathan Hudson heavily in his bowling rotations for the two-day fixture.
All while attempting to negate the influence of Lions’ go-to man Tim O’Neill, who sits second on the Newcastle District Cricket Association standings with 32 scalps at 10.13 apiece.
“I think if we can try and keep Timmy O’Neill wicketless it will go a long way toward us winning, because from what I’ve heard it’s quite a turner at Townson at the moment,” Gawthrop said.
“That will be our challenge, but Colby’s been getting among the wickets recently and Nath’s a good option as well so hopefully we can do some damage ourselves.”
The round 11 match, which starts Saturday, follows on from University’s 41-run T20 win over Merewether in the NCC Summer Bash midweek.
Gawthrop said that result provided the students with a much-needed “confidence boost”, but knows the eighth-placed club must repeat the dose against the Lions and for the rest of the regular season to make the top four.
“We’ve got to go on a run from here,” Gawthrop, who also has the services of paceman Luke Bird this game, said.
Elsewhere and Waratah, fresh from Thursday’s nine-run NCC Summer Bash win over Toronto, will be down all-rounder Jonty Durrheim and possibly skipper Scott Mackenzie when taking on title holders Hamwicks at Passmore Oval.
After two weeks away in Geraldton, Australian country champions Joseph Price (Wests) and Nick Foster (Stockton) are welcomed back by their sides for matches against Wallsend and Toronto respectively.
Belmont captain Mark Littlewood will be on light duties nursing a groin injury away to winless Cardiff and Frank Walsh returns for Jonty Major as Newcastle City host Charlestown in a top-four battle.
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Jason Sangha made 88 during a 250-run stand with Nathan McSweeney (156) as Australia (8-370) powered past PNG (59) by 311 at the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand on Friday.
Following Friday’s third and last round game, Sangha-led Australia look set for a quarter-final clash with England on Tuesday.
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