Wanderers optimistic . . . but WTTU favoured
Wanderers cricket captain Dan Cooper isn't getting bent out of shape about his team's poor record against Waimea Toi Toi United this season.
The two teams meet in tomorrow's Car Company Nelson one-day club final at Saxton Oval, with WTTU having won all four previous contests between the two this season. That encompasses both two-day fixtures, including December's final, and their two previous one-day matches where WTTU recorded respective five-wicket and 31-run victories. They never met in club T20 series.
However, Cooper is taking a philosophical approach to some otherwise damning evidence, suggesting that his team was without several key players for the second innings of their initial two-day loss and in their first one-dayer.
He acknowledged though that a full-strength lineup simply under-performed in their most recent one-day loss at Ngawhatu Park.
Everyone is on deck again tomorrow as each team looks to claim its second title of the season - WTTU backing up from their two-day championship title and Taylors Contracting Wanderers from their convincing effort against RWCA Athletic College Old Boys in the T20 final.
The Saxton Oval pitch should be a marked improvement on anything else they've played on this season with Cooper, Pete Carey and the explosive Tom Cross leading Wanderers' batting and Jack White, Joe O'Connor and Hayden Ingham heading the bowling attack. Cooper offered another variable to the mix.
"I think one big thing for us is Guru [off-spinning allrounder Shaun Thomason] is starting to score runs again, which is great," Cooper said.
"Coming off that innings [49 not out against Stoke-Nayland] at the weekend was great, especially for this weekend, it just gives us a bit more down the lower order."
On the evidence of this season's form, Cooper was clearly respectful of a similarly well-balanced WTTU side, particularly with key batsman Greg Hay starting to show some compelling form. Ricky Edwards, Mason Thelin and a wealth of quality allrounders also provide plenty of depth.
"They're a team that can bat right down to 10 or 11 pretty much and they've shown before that they can put on partnerships down the lower order. So I think if we do get stuck into them early, then we've really got to keep the foot on the throat and make sure that we restrict them well.
"On the bowling front, obviously they've got Baxey [seamer Sam Baxendine] who's been performing really well for them, taking wickets, and Wighty [left-arm spinner Dan Wightman] always keeps it pretty tight."
Wanderers have at least one thing in their favour. In qualifying for tomorrow's final, both teams finished on equal points. But should the match be rained off, according to the competition rules Wanderers would win the title because of their superior run rate.
WTTU still head into the contest with momentum on their side, although skipper Cade Armstrong was taking a predictably cautious approach to Wanderers' challenge.
"We never take anything for granted - in a final anything can happen," Armstrong said. "But we're quite happy to assume underdog status. I think we've crept under the radar quite nicely. A lot of the talk's about their bowling and we've got some plans in place that we think will work and so far so good against those guys.
"They'll be up for it . . . they haven't beaten us this year yet and I think it's been a while since they have beaten us, so they'll be raring to go."
But like Cooper, Armstrong wasn't about to over-analyse their 4-0 winning streak.
"We're pretty even. We don't really go into games thinking we're favoured to win or not. We just try and execute our plans and we're more focused on doing doing more good things than the other team and that should get you home."
Despite two ducks in Cross' last two outings, Armstrong acknowledged that he still posed a very obvious threat.
"Let's hope he's not due. If he gets going, then anything can happen...[and] guys like Coops [Cooper] and Pete Carey - they're equally as dangerous.
"We respect [Wanderers] a lot and we're probably not so out there about it, but we really do get up for those games.
"I don't know if there's a secret or not to [beating them], we just seem to find ways of winning against those guys. We try not to stick to the same thing too often, we don't get too predictable, and that seems to help us out."
Duo's hands virtually on trophies
Wanderers team-mates Dan Cooper and Jack White should be feeling reasonably relaxed with only tomorrow's Nelson club one-day cricket final remaining in the countdown to this season's individual awards.
Both are sitting in their customary positions at the head of the respective Vonda Edwards Trophy batting and Sid Guppy Cup bowling aggregates, although WTTU batsman Greg Hay and Wanderers seamer Hayden Ingham won't entirely have abandoned hopes of chasing them down.
All four are involved in tomorrow's final, Cooper sitting on 797 runs, 106 clear of Hay, with White on 46 wickets, five more than Ingham.
The odds still clearly favour Cooper and White securing this season's titles, but with five centuries already under his belt this season, Hay will be hoping for one more significant performance tomorrow.
Ingham will need to secure an improbable six-wicket bag and hope that his team-mate stalls, although considering the circumstances, Ingham might be happy to concede the title if White can contribute to a Wanderers victory at Saxton Oval tomorrow.
BATTING (Vonda Edwards Trophy) - Dan Cooper (Nelson, Wanderers) 797 runs, 66.41 average, Greg Hay (Nelson, WTTU) 691, 69.1, Darius Skeaping (Nelson, Stoke-Nayland) 631, 42.06, Ryan Edwards (Nelson, Stoke-Nayland) 623, 41.53, Pete Carey (Wanderers) 566, 40.42, Josh Clarkson (Nelson, ACOB) 542, 33.87, Mason Thelin (WTTU) 475, 36.53, Joel Harden (ACOB) 440, 33.84, Matt Macquet (Nelson, Wakatu) 437, 33.61, Tom Cross (Wanderers) 422, 70.33.
BOWLING (Sid Guppy Cup) - Jack White (Wanderers) 46 wickets, 14 average, Hayden Ingham (Nelson, Wanderers) 41, 12.85, Jon Routhan (Nelson, WTTU) 33, 18.12, Dan Wightman (Nelson, WTTU) 29, 12.72, Liam Rowling (Motueka) 29, 19.68, Josh Allen (ACOB) 28, 16, Joe O'Connor (Nelson, Wanderers) 27, 19.59, Sam Baxendine (WTTU) 26, 13, Steve Binnie (WTTU) 25, 11.4, Jay Wright (Wakatu) 25, 19.16.