Gray is hunting run haul at national titles

AFTER scoring a century to drive a dagger into Illawarra hearts during the NSW titles, Kieran Gray is intent on plundering more runs at the Australian Country Championships, starting on Tuesday.

RUN MAKERS: Kieran Gray (left) and NSW Country captain Peter Gallichan at North Dalton Park on Monday. Picture: Sylvia Liber

RUN MAKERS: Kieran Gray (left) and NSW Country captain Peter Gallichan at North Dalton Park on Monday. Picture: Sylvia Liber

The only South Coast representative in the NSW Country team, Gray booked his place with an unbeaten 129, including 13 fours and six sixes at Keith Gray Oval.

The venue was the starting points for the NSW Country campaign, coming together with a centre wicket practice session on Sunday, before taking on Western Australia in the carnival opener at North Dalton Park. “I had a pretty good innings against Illawarra, so hopefully I can bring some of that form into this week,” Gray, who plays for Berry-Shoalhaven Heads and has previously played in the South Coast competition, said.

“A few blokes have had to get flights and travel down here, but I’m only 20 minutes up the road, so it’s good to be familiar with everything.”

Wagga City coach Jon Nicoll was another member of the NSW Country to have success against Illawarra at the state championships.

Batting at No.3 Nicoll held his nerve under pressure, finishing unbeaten on 69, as Riverina chased Illawarra’s total of 6-254, with three wickets and one over to spare.

“You want to try and get away and score runs and get selection here,” he said. 

“It’s been a bit of a target (to make NSW Country), these opportunities don’t come around all that often, so when they do come, you’ve got to be ready to go.”

Both Riverina and Southern Zone missed out on the NSW Country title, but only on countback to Western after all three regions finished with a 2-1 record, as Illawarra ended the tournament winless.

Western went on to claim the state crown, beating a Central Coast team captained by NSW Country leader Peter Gallichan by seven wickets in the final.

After two days together in camp, Gallichan, making his debut for the Bush Blues on Tuesday, is confident the squad is as prepared as possible for the Australian Country Championships campaign.

“Our coach (Jeff Cook) is pretty sensational at what he does with research,” Gallichan said. “As someone who has never been here before, I won’t be able to provide a lot in terms of knowing past players, but I think they have something like nine debutants anyway.”

Gallichan offered the tick of approval to the North Dalton Park surface, believing there will be plenty of runs on offer in the competition opener.

“We only play on it once, but I’m glad we at least get a look at it, it looks really good,” he said.

“I feel like we’ve got a leg up on everyone else, coming for two days prior. It gives us the change to gel.”

  • AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY CRICKET CHAMPIONSHIPS

Round one, Tuesday (10am, 50 overs)

  • NSW v WESTERN AUSTRALIA at North Dalton Park
  • SOUTH AUSTRALIA v VICTORIA at Figtree Oval
  • QUEENSLAND v EAST ASIA PACIFIC at Keira Oval
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