THE REST of our local cricketers head back out to the field this weekend, after the Hornets' top two teams and local third and fourth graders ran off their Christmas puddings last week. This weekend's headline act is the finals of the one day competitions.
In the Harding-Madsen Shield, the intercity comp, the two heavyweights of each city will go head to head in the long anticipated contest on Sunday at Baxter Oval.
Laidley District are still undefeated so far despite a few close matches. They have plenty of experience and are again slight favourites to win here with "home” ground advantage.
Spinning all-rounder and captain Alex Welsh has been the leading wicket taker this season (17 at wickets at 11.8) while Michael Sippel (449 at 89.8) Ben O'Connell (283 at 40.4), Jason Cubit (239 at 47.8) and Welsh (197 at 24.7) are in the top 12 run-getters in the comp.
Western Districts of Toowoomba have only suffered one loss in two years in this competition, that being the round one encounter with Laidley up at Toowoomba. In that game, Wests were reduced to 5/29 but still managed a very competitive 7/183 which might have defeated most sides, but Jason Cubit scored his maiden hundred to ensure an easy victory for the Bluedogs.
Apart from that hiccup, Wests have been relatively untroubled in trying to defend their title, with six big wins and three wash outs. Laidley might have the edge here if it becomes a tight scrap.
They are led by Brian May, the leading run-getter with 469 at 93.8. He will again be Laidley's biggest wicket as he has the most runs in history against them with an incredible 1172 runs at 117 over just 15 games.
I would recommend any young Ipswich cricketer to go out at watch this contest as they might witness one of best potential finals in a long time with some of the best batsmen the Ipswich competition has ever seen go around.
In second grade, top team Laidley take on second-placed Centrals. Laidley's bowling attack is a very good, all-round one and has troubled most batting line ups. Darryl Muckert again is the comp's leading wicket-taker with 18 at 10.1 while Grant Dean (12 at 11.5) and off-spinner Jackson McQuilty (10 at 13.1) will talisman Muckert.
Batting will revolve around Matt Grassick (leading with 296 at 59.2), Clinton Grassick (142 at 71) and veteran Ross Mitchell (112 at 28).
Centrals have shown good form all season, with a very tight loss to Laidley in the fixture match. They blew away the South East Redbacks in the semi final so are in fine form. Their captain Chris Hurlock is out with a knee injury so Andrew Currell will take the reins.
Left-handed paceman Brendan Hunter (16w at 5.7) has been in sensational form and will lead the Kookaburras' attack with Charlie Utz (8 at 7.8) and Daniel Warner (7 at 10.3).
The 11th round of fixtures will take place today, with all teams needing a win to advance to the three-team semi final system.
Northsiders who are to play their first two day fixture will be out to hit the reset button on their season. Although they haven't had a bad season playing wise, luck has not been with them. Last season's semi finalists take on the competitions' dark horse, the Redbacks, this weekend at Sternberg Oval.
Matt Fairhurst, Dylan Blackman, Ryan Benson and Troy Cooper are some of the best batsmen in town on their day with veteran Paul Milne, Kev Cumming, Rob Hillier. Young guns Dom Salton and Callum Wilton are also handy.
The Redbacks will have their hands full and will need to win to show the credentials after their tight loss to Brothers in the pre-Christmas fixture. Player availability has been their biggest concern.
Brothers take on Centrals at Limestone Park. The Kookaburras have been the surprise packets, bowling exceptionally well led by Rhys O'Sullivan and Geoff Klease with unrelenting back up of Alex Dell, Adam Jordan and Matt Guest.
Brothers have been up and down, however, after their win over Redbacks they will be on the lookout to move higher up the ladder and close in on leaders Laidley who have the bye.
On the coming Monday night in the Baxter Big Bash, Centrals will take on the Redbacks at Limestone in probably the most pivotal match of Pool A. Redbacks have not played yet due to a wash out while Centrals defeated Fassifern and had a wash out to Northsiders. Northsiders will be hoping for a Redbacks win to keep their season alive, while a Centrals win will mean they are Pool A winners again and on to a sixth-straight semi final campaign.
The Ipswich/Logan Hornets will start the post-Christmas hunt for a two-day finals spot with a match at Deacon against Sandgate-Redcliffe who are currently equal with Hornets on points in a logjam ladder. Hornets have a very good record down there especially if they bat first with some big wins in recent years.
Hornets will be at full strength with the return of Australian Under-19s Harry Wood and Harry Macoun, while Dan Wilson, Nick De Giusti, Geoff Paulsen and Anthony Wilson are over their injuries.
A win here and tough fixtures for Valleys and Redlands could see them move into the top three.
Lastly, some sad news with the passing of Anthony Johnstone who was laid to rest yesterday. He was an instrumental figure in the Last Man Standing competition and its creation of an Ipswich team here which has since travelled the world as Australia's representative.
In outdoor cricket, he was Swifts' inspirational third grade captain in recent seasons and has developed many a young Bluebird into an A-grader at that club under his guidance and leadership.
AJ will be missed by many, especially in the LMS community.
He was just 38 years old.
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