Laidley batsman Ben O'Connell clips one off his toes during another first division season where he's reached the grand final.
Laidley batsman Ben O'Connell clips one off his toes during another first division season where he's reached the grand final. Rob Williams

Laidley's hopes rest on experienced brigade

AS last season's victorious captain, Ben O'Connell knows how valuable experience is in cricket grand finals.

However, the former Centrals leader finds himself in a more challenging predicament heading into the second weekend of the latest first division showdown.

Having switched back to his junior club Laidley in the off-season, O'Connell is now hoping to share in a Bluedogs revival after Brothers gained the upper hand last weekend.

Brothers start day three on Saturday with a handy lead of 129 runs and with nine wickets in hand after keeping the powerful Laidley side to just 153 in the first innings.

Classy left-hander O'Connell top scored for Laidley with 46 in that effort, noting there was nothing sinister in the wicket as Brothers bowler Chris Smith snared 7/50.

"He just had a pretty simple game plan,'' O'Connell said.

"He just bowled full and straight at the stumps and just waited for the error for the batsmen and that worked for him.''

That's why O'Connell believes minor premiers Laidley can still win outright if they restrict Brothers to an overall lead of 250-300.

"We just need to make some better shot selections,'' he said, reflecting on Laidley's first innings batting where the top four all made useful starts before getting out.

"I'm not sure whether it was patience or just wanting to get on with it.

"A lot of our guys have got a lot of experience as well and a lot of those guys have played in a lot of finals where they have made considerable amounts of runs too.''

This weekend is the third grand final in a row for O'Connell after he led Centrals to last season's historic victory over Laidley.

Being warmly welcomed back into his old club, O'Connell hopes he isn't required to do much bowling in the second innings. If that's the case, Brothers have been dismissed cheaply in their second turn at bat.

However, if called upon, he's happy to join spinning teammate Alex Welsh in stopping any run flow or making an impact when needed.

"It's a brand new weekend,'' the WestMAC director of rugby said.

"Brothers played well on that first weekend and we're hoping to put a better effort in this weekend and hopefully we come away with the chocolates.''

Playing four-day cricket can also test a team's character.

"Some people probably aren't necessarily used to having a four-day game, let alone a two-day game with extended hours. So you sort of see people when they bat or when they bowl having challenges with that extra time that you do have.''

With a number of players from both sides considering retirement, Laidley and Brothers have plenty to play for at Baxter Oval on Saturday and Sunday.

But rather than rely on weather interruptions, O'Connell is keen for Laidley to win outright, as Centrals did last season.

"We've put in the hard work throughout the year in the one-day comp and in this comp,'' he said, glad he moved back to Laidley where he played his junior cricket.

"We'd like to win properly and we'll be doing our best to do that.''



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