Big scores the key to Illawarra’s title bid

Rep duty: Illawarra skipper Tim Laws with teammates Kieren Richards and Neel Honavar ahead of the Country Championships. Picture: Mike Driscoll

Rep duty: Illawarra skipper Tim Laws with teammates Kieren Richards and Neel Honavar ahead of the Country Championships. Picture: Mike Driscoll

Illawarra want to pile on the runs and their bowlers have plenty to prove in the NSW Country Championships which commence on Friday across the South Coast.

Six Illawarra batsmen in the squad have scored a century this season with record batting totals in the first four rounds.

The three-day championships feature the eight NSW Country associations playing off in a Northern and Southern pool, with the pool winner into the final on Sunday week.

Players are also chasing a spot in the NSW Country side with Wollongong to host the Australian Country Championships for the first time in January.

Central Coast were the surprise Southern Pool winner last weekend after winning two of their three games and their likely pool decider against defending champions Newcastle washed out.

After thrashing North Coastal on day one, Newcastle were stranded by back-to-back washouts to hand Central Coast a final’s spot.

Given Newcastle have surprisingly missed the final, the Southern Pool teams – Illawarra, Southern ACT, Riverina and Western – must view their carnival as a gilt-edged opportunity to make the Country decider.

  Illawarra skipper Tim Laws admits batting will be his side’s big weapon.

  ‘’We have a  lot of guys in form,’’ he said.

‘’We’re going to bat a long way down, with a few all-rounders and if the wickets stay as good as they have  been our batting can be a great strength for us.’’

Northern Districts skipper and wicketkeeper Jacob Hand is in great touch and will make his Country Championships debut after a fine season, highlighted by 164 against Keira.

Balgownie’s Adam Berwick and Keira opener Kieren Richards are coming off T20 centuries last Sunday.

But Laws admits Illawarra must improve with the ball after a poor first match of the Kingsgrove Sports T20 Cup against Randwick Petersham, in which they conceded 216 runs, plus a sub par effort in a trial vs Campbelltown.

 ‘’Both those games we didn’t bowl well. The key will be consistency and getting it in the right areas.

‘’It’s a part of the game we have to lift. If we play our best we will win all three games. The aim to to get to the final and win it. It’s something we’re capable of doing, but we have to play well.’’

Illawarra last won the Country Championships in 2011 and made the 2013 final.

Illawarra take on Riverina first up on Friday at Gerry Emery Oval, while Southern ACT meet Western at Geoff Shaw Oval.

On Saturday, Illawarra meet Southern at Keith Grey Oval, with Western vs Riverina at Oakleigh Park.

On Sunday, Illawarra take on Western at Geoff Shaw Oval and Southern ACT face Riverina at Keith Grey Oval.

With Southern Zone struggling to be competitive, a merger with ACT paid immediate dividends last year in making the final.

Illawarra lost to Southern-ACT first up 12 months ago, then lost to Western Zone before beating hosts Riverina in the dead rubber.

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