By Mark Heenan
Collendina is in a strong position to defend its BPCA A Grade title for 2017-18.
Third-placed Cobras suffered their only defeat against current ladder leader Anglesea at Anglesea in Round 1.
Gun Kangaroo all-rounder Dale Kerr made a sparkling return to BPCA elite cricket against the Cobras after a back injury plagued his 2016-17 season.
Kerr made a statement and destroyed Collendina with his five-wicket haul and blasted 95 with the bat.
The Cobras were without two of its gun batsmen including Ben Ricardo and Andy Higgins at Anglesea.
After its Anglesea loss, Collendina has not lost any further games since.
Rain spoiled the Cobras’ chances of victory against second-placed Drysdale in Round 5 after Collendina posted an imposing total 8/307 on day one.
Collendina has remarkable bowling depth with only two opposition teams scoring above 150 against their dominant attack this season.
The reigning premier can almost defend any total when batting first.
Look at last season’s BPCA Grand Final, the Cobras successfully defended 100 against Barwon Heads and won the A Grade title.
Player availability will be a key for the Cobras in the new year.
They have many genuine match winners including Charlie Lamb with ball, Ben Ricardo with bat and all-rounders Corey Walter and Andy Higgins both with bat and ball.
Still the side to beat after winning last season’s title. The hunted. Collendina has made their surrounds at the Snake Pit a fortress and plays three of its last five matches at home.
The Round 9 clash against Ocean Grove could determine whether the club occupies a top two position at the end of the season and earns a home semi-final.
WHAT HAS WORKED
The Cobra bowling attack.
Unlike like last season ace bowler Charlie Lamb has played every single game prior to the Christmas and new year break.
In 2016/17, Lamb had only managed three games prior to mid-season break.
Lamb, a premier bowler in the BPCA, has taken 14 wickets this season and conceded only 1.76 runs per over with the ball.
The bowling of all-rounder and Cobra coach Corey Walter has been an added bonus with his 11 wickets coming at an incredible average of 9.36.
Add Andy Higgins and Jye Hearps in and it is a potent bowling attack for any A Grade opposition batting team.
The Cobras are dominant performers especially when Ben Ricardo lines up to bat.
Ricardo’s consistency across the last four seasons is remarkable where he has amassed more than 1300 A Grade runs, though he has only had two bats this season.
Ricardo made a brilliant 129 against second-placed in the rain affected game against Drysdale at Drysdale on day one. A classy knock.
The team bonding at Collendina is a huge reason for their success.
Players enjoy each other’s company and are good friends off the field.
Corey Walter said Kade Norquay, a playing coach of Collendina’s inaugural A Grade BPCA premiership in 2009/2010, had slotted in well at the top of the order after five year A Grade absence.
Norquay is on the improve and racked up scores of 28, 47 and scored a half century with 54 runs to guide his side to an important victory against Jan Juc in Round 6.
WHAT HAS NOT WORKED
Player availability and injury has hurt the Cobras at times.
This was demonstrated in the loss to Anglesea in Round 1.
Star batsman Ben Ricardo has only played three matches due to a back injury.
Gun all-rounder Andy Higgins has had restricted availability this season after he missed the first two matches.
When the Cobras big guns are firing they are a formidable opposition.
Collendina bowlers have shown the ability they can defend any total on day two as proven in last season’s decider against Barwon Heads.
The club will be pushing for scores of 200 plus in the new year on the faster and drier BPCA grounds.
The Cobras have failed to score above 175 without Ben Ricardo in the team in the first half of season.
Add Ricardo’s two knocks of 32 and 129 with the bat this season and Collendina had posted scores above 200.
The best is yet to come with gun bat Corey Walter by his own admission.
Walter won the league batting aggregate with 535 runs at 66.88 last season.
He was also awarded the BPCA’s most valuable player award for a third time in 2016-17.
While Walter has made some handy contributions with two half centuries this season, expect a big innings from the determined Cobra coach early in 2018.
Collendina young wicket-keeper Max Sutton will benefit with more opportunities with the gloves and bat in 2018.
Collendina which have won three A Grade flags, don’t quite have the depth in their lower grades like Ocean Grove especially in its middle B and C Grades.
The Cobras have continued to be a dominant force in A Grade for a decade now.
Expected a rested Jye Hearps to bowl more overs in the new year.
211 runs at 35.17
11 wickets at 9.36
161 runs at 80.50
155 runs at 25.83
14 wickets at 12.36
ROUND 7: Barrabool (home)
ROUND 8: Queenscliff (away)
ROUND 9: Ocean Grove (home)
ROUND 10: Portarlington (away)
ROUND 11: Little River (home)
“We would take a 4-1 win loss record at Christmas every day including the drawn and rain affected game against Drysdale in Round 5. We are going to miss a couple of players after Christmas and new year. The draw works out well for us after Christmas and new year, we have got three home games.”
– Collendina Cricket Club coach Corey Walter