Sawtell superb in T20 triple-header
TRUE to form, Sawtell has raced to the top of the North Coast Premier League ladder after the first weekend of matches.
Not even the introduction of twenty20 fixtures to open the 2020/21 season could derail a perfect start to the side's title defence. The four teams each played two matches on Saturday and one on Sunday, with Sawtell emerging victorious in all three.
Northern Districts, Harwood and Valleys shared the rest of the spoils with a win apiece.
"I think all teams were probably a little bit understrength with winter sport finals and we were in the same boat, so I couldn't have been more pleased with how we went," Sawtell captain Richie Gallichan said.
"We lost all three tosses and were forced to bowl first each time. The young bowlers we had were excellent with their control, Charlie Howard was impressive."
While the skipper was no good at winning the toss, he did not put a foot wrong with the bat, finishing not out in all three of his side's successful run chases.
Gallichan finished 18 not out chasing down Harwood's total of 8 for 113 in round one, 17 not out chasing 117 against Northern Districts in round two, and 32 not out chasing 8 for 95 in a low-scoring contest against Valleys.
"The boys gave me plenty about losing the toss, don't worry," he said.
"But (closing out games) is my role in this team now I think. I've been around long enough. We've got lots of batting, so let those guys do it.
"Game sense and awareness is what we're trying to teach the young fellas. How to win, how to close out games."
Meanwhile the individual highlights of the weekend belonged to Sawtell all-rounder Matthew Riddoch, who top scored with 37 against Harwood before single-handedly dismantling Northern Districts' middle order taking 5 for 14 off 4 overs, and then backing it up with 53 not out in the run chase.
On top of the three twenty20 rounds played, this season's new format will comprise six two-day rounds and five one-day rounds, with Clarence River Cricket Association and a NCCC Development Squad joining for the one-day component.
The CRCA and NCCC Devt matches will be played on Sundays so as not to interfere with Saturday club matches.
"We're just keen on getting a better competition and growing it, and if that's what it takes we're happy to do that, it's for the greater good," Gallichan said on CRCA's inclusion for the one-day matches.
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"If we can get Grafton to realise there's more than just Grafton, and that living in the country, if you want to play a decent game of cricket, you've got to be prepared to travel.
"It's only a four-team competition that's happening, but it's a much better competition than what was happening in Coffs Harbour.
"Valleys and Harwood really wear the brunt of the travel, so we're grateful for what they do to keep it going."
Meanwhile, the twenty20 fixtures were an important opportunity for the zone's best players to brush up on the shorter format ahead of the Coffs Coast Chargers' first match of the Plan B Regional Bash against Northern Rivers Rock this Sunday, October 25.
"The twenty20s at the start was an excellent concept and it makes perfect sense because the we have got to go away to Port Macquarie next weekend," Gallichan said.
The team will be announced later tonight.
This Saturday will be the first day of a two-day fixture for North Coast Premier League, with Harwood hosting Northern Districts and Valleys taking on Sawtell at Phillip Hughes Oval in Macksville.
Round 1, Saturday 12pm
Round 2, Saturday 3.30pm
Round 3, Sunday, 12pm
9 Sawtell, 5 Northern Districts, Harwood, Valleys.