By GREG WHITE
SO why have first grade scores dropped so dramatically in Coffs Harbour District cricket?
In an era when it's a 'given' sides must aim for a minimum 200 runs an innings, only once since play resumed from the Christmas break has any team come close to this target when Nana Glen scored 199 against Bellingen.
Last Saturday, just 451 runs were scored in three matches including a first innings dig of 31 by Bellingen to which Diggers Ex-Services could only muster 97 in reply.
"We expected scoring would drop last weekend on damp wickets," district president Ken Robinson said.
"But generally, there's nothing wrong with playing surfaces and I think the low scores are the result of a combination of factors.
"Good bowling will always get good batsmen out but it seems the majority of those with lesser experience have an inability to concentrate long enough to build an innings - and the other reason is, we probably don't give enough credit to the exceptional bowling attack every club seems to have."
Robinson feels only a handful of batsmen consistently respect every ball they face, particularly in the early stages of an innings.
"Craig Howarth stands out for the way he knuckles down, Chris Moran (forgetting last week) has been at the top of the game for 30 years, Andrew Mainey has to be included ? while a number have managed half centuries this season," he said.
"Others try to play shots or belt the cover off the ball from the first delivery they face.
"With five hours of play at their disposal they should be patient until they start seeing the ball properly."
And he uses veteran Diggers Ex-Services paceman Terry Herbert as the model of why the bowler has become 'king' this summer.
"Diggers have Terry, his son Troy and Joe Mennie to do the damage," Robinson said.
"Terry bowls good line and length to tie the batsman down and gets his wicket when the bloke loses patience.
"Peter Bayley does it for Tigers, Matt Francis for Colts ? every club has them with support bowlers in the lineup."
Unless things change dramatically, Robinson sees a pattern looming in the semi finals.
"At the worst, some could be all over in a day," he speculated.
"Those clubs with the right attitude, knuckling down and being serious with their batting are the one's who'll fare well.
"What we're seeing now isn't so much a bad thing for the moment but long term, well, that may be a different matter."