Sawtell back in race
SAWTELL didn't just revive its premiership credentials in the clash with Diggers Ex-Services at the weekend.
Continuing a long-running dominance over its old rivals, it also sent a loud and clear message to all other title aspirants that the line-up is nearing its best at the right time of the cricketing summer.
It wasn't just Sawtell's much-lauded batting depth to the fore at Fitzroy Oval but its ability to probe for weaknesses in opponents and exploit them with ruthless precision.
After recent patches of lacklustre form, captain Ben Andrews said the disappointments had brought the team together.
“I guess it was about time we finally showed our best but I always believed everything would eventually come together,” he said.
“You didn't have to say much – everybody already knew we had to do better – and this time we managed to get it right.”
Diggers' past few weeks have been a mirror image with the difference being it is still in the doldrums and running out of time to get back on track.
Despite the team's great batting potential, generally only one man has been finding runs each week and on this occasion it was the turn of Alex Byrne to lead the way, compiling 43 before he was dismissed by Dave Angus.
Captain Steve Meakins (9) and all-rounder Joe Willman (10) hung around for a while and Glen Kesby looked to be readying himself for a decent knock but was run out on 25 near the end of the innings.
Angus finished with three wickets but Andrews did most of the damage, claiming 5-54 off 15 overs with the home side all out for 108 in the 30th over.
“Diggers played too many rash shots,” Andrews said, playing down his crucial role in the demise.
“We did what we had to do and I was pretty pleased when tea was taken at the end of their innings.
“I was always confident we could get runs on that wicket if we knuckled down.”
The Sawtell run chase started poorly with Glen Johnson out without scoring, his third ‘duck egg' in a row.
“Glen made a few jokes about it but he's a great bat and by keeping his head down, will come out of it soon,” Andrews said.
“Again it's a confidence thing and what the whole team is feeling will rub off.”
Chris Neal (30) and Mark Oates (48) got the score board ticking over before Andrews chimed in with a half century while plenty of other batsmen contributed to reinforce Sawtell's ruthless streak.
“Diggers are missing Troy Herbert from the bowling attack and we took advantage,” Andrews said.
“They bowled spin and we went for them at the tail end.
“We learned the lesson watching them bat not to get lazy, be patient and only go for the certain scoring opportunities.
“Put it down to the fact we picked our shots better.”
With a lead of 110 in its keeping, the side beaten outright in their last start by Dorrigo has the chance to inflict the same result on a rival.
That is some comeback to form by the Blue Caps.
“Now don't jump in and give us the outright before it happens,” Andrews said.
“But I will say in advance that next week we'll bowl straight, target right on the stumps and see what that turns up.”
Coffs Tigers still have some work to do but is expected to have the measure of Bellingen when play resumes in their tangle at Brelsford Park.
At one stage the visiting team was 4-10 before experienced Bruce Mills added some respectability with 48 runs, including three boundaries.
Bellingen was eventually dismissed for a meagre 89 in the 45th over.
With only a small total to chase, the outcome would normally be already sealed but Coffs Tigers is under pressure after collapsing to be 6-66 at stumps and still with plenty of work to do next Saturday.
“Our problem was we got a bit too keen at the end of the day,” not-out batsman Nic Rowe said.
“We played too many risky shots which we paid for badly.”
Tigers lost four wickets for only seven runs near the end of the day's play and Rowe stressed the sole aim upon return to the venue is to find another 24 runs for the first innings points.
“If we get that far we'll bat for another hour or so and then look at the situation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Park Beach Bowling Club Colts was saved from the unthinkable by a couple of veterans on its visit to the plateau.
At 5-40, Colts was in serious trouble until Matt Rose and Selwyn Manz stepped up to the plate and helped the team to post a reasonable 186.
Rose cracked 55 and Manz finished unbeaten on 85 with their partnership providing a superb 116 runs.
Unfortunately, the tail wasdispatched fairly cheaply with Dorrigo's Bruce Mackie claiming the final four wickets.
Dorrigo will have a tricky task when it resumes at 1-18 but have in-form batsmen Turner and Gilbert at the crease.