Underdogs look to go one further

Friday, February 15, 2013

University upset champions Takapuna in the first round of playoffs

There is certain to be a new name on the Jeff Crowe Cup this season, with the final  four teams battling it out this coming Sunday for the chance to compete for the trophy on 3rd March.

Auckland University were the giant killers in the play-off round defeating defending champions and national 50 over title holders Takapuna in stunning fashion. Varsity now face another major hurdle if they are to progress to the final as they travel to Windsor Park to face ILG East Coast Bays who have not only won the T20 Championship, but suffered just one defeat in the group stages of this competition.

"The positive for our team is that everyone is in good form and contributing," said University coach Barrington Rowland. "So the key for us is to follow our own game plan and execute it well."

Not since the end of the 2010/11 season, when University were involved in a promotion/relegation match with Papatoetoe, have Rowland's side been involved in a match with so much at stake and he believes a victory on Sunday will put his team back on the Premier cricket map: "There is a lot of people backing us and it will be a positive step for the club. If we can win I think it will go a long way to creating a name for ourselves amongst Premier clubs in Auckland."

For Bays a victory would see them take a step closer to their goal of winning all three competitions this season. "That is definitely our aim," said skipper Brad Schmulian. "We didn't have a great day in the two-day comp last week but it is still our intention to push for all three titles and obviously Sunday is a big stepping stone towards that."

Last season Bays comfortably defeated University in the group stages of the competition, but Schmulian isn't expecting things to be as easy this time around: "They have a good one-day side and possess some solid bowlers. However I think the key is our bowling against their top order. In Barrington Rowland and Marc Ellison they have two proven performers, and Matt Ansell has caught everyone's attention with his recent performances."

After originally deciding to play in just the two-day format Australian batsman Darren Dempsey has been unable to resist the urge to play in a one-day semi-final and will line up for Bays in what Schmulian expects to be a full strength side. Varsity will welcome back Chris Dineen after the all-rounder missed a month of action due to a shoulder injury.

As with University few people expected New World Victoria Park Grafton United to make it this far but, after an upset victory over Suburbs New Lynn, coach Grant Thorpe is hoping his side can produce more of the same when they face Parnell at Shore Road: "I have no doubt that we would have been written off by everyone going into the game with Suburbs, as would University when they faced Takapuna. However, I am enjoying being the underdog and hope that we can continue to play the way we are whilst flying under the radar."

Grafton have had plenty of limited overs success this year, winning the T20 plate championship, and Thorpe believes a team effort has got his team this far: "We have had players performing well all season but have managed to keep everyone together as no one has been picked for Auckland A and things like that. We have five good bowlers who we hope will continue to do a good job and we have a strong batting line-up which has put runs on the board consistently all season."

Parnell have plenty of big game one-day experience having reached the final of this competition on regular occasions over the last five years, and won it in 2009/10.  Skipper Willie Brittain is now determined to see his side recreate that success this season: "It's definitely a goal to win some silverware this season and while we are taking it one game at a time we are really looking forward to getting stuck in on Sunday."

Recent history between the two sides belongs to the hosts after they defeated Grafton outright in the two-day competition in the previous round, however Brittain doesn't believe that result will have any bearing on Sunday's encounter: "The one-day format is very different and we know Grafton will put us under pressure. We never think too much about the opposition. We just concentrate on ourselves and trying to do what we do well."

Brittain will be unable to call on young speedster Lochie Ferguson, who is away on Aces duty, or injured Auckland U19 bowler Ganesh Ratnasabathathy, but Aces batsman Tim McIntosh will feature at the top of the order.

Grafton will be without Aces batsman Dusan Hakaraia for this game but Thorpe himself will step into the side with Sri Rajasekar filling in for Hakaraia as skipper.

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