Campbelltown-Camden captain Jarrad Burke is on the cusp of making history for the second time this season on Saturday, as the McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket swings back into action for round four of the First Grade Limited-Overs competition.
In the last round before the Christmas break, Burke became the 25th man in Sydney First Grade cricket to reach the milestone of 10,000 career runs.
This Saturday he will head into the match against Penrith needing just another two wickets to become the fourth player in the history of the competition to reach the double of 10,000 runs and 600 wickets.
It has been a stellar season so far for the all-rounder, with his performances with ball in hand especially, a major reason why the Ghosts find themselves leading the competition at the half-way mark. Burke has taken 33 wickets from 12 matches at an average of 14.15.
A number of New South Wales’ Blues will also be in action at University Oval on Saturday with Sydney University taking on St George, who desperately need a win to keep their finals hopes alive.
Blues’ opening bowler and Saints’ captain, Trent Copeland, will be pivotal to that cause. He has played six matches in the McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket this campaign and taken 9 wickets at 24.2 in the process.
That form has been replicated in the JLT Sheffield Shield with Copeland collecting 12 wickets at 28.75, with best figures of 6-24.
The students will feature Blues’ batsman and University captain, Nick Larkin, as well as leading run scorer in the Sheffield Shield last season, Ed Cowan.
Cowan is again amongst the run scorers for the Blues this season amassing 139 runs at 46.33 from just the two matches played against Victoria and Tasmania.
While Larkin is yet to find such form for the Blues, his form for the students has been exemplary. He has posted two centuries from five innings at the crease scoring 346 runs at 69.2.
If both men can reproduce that kind of form on Saturday, it may be a difficult assignment for St George.
A win for the students may push the defending champions as high second on the table, a spot currently occupied by Sutherland, who travel to North Sydney Oval to play the Bears.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Jarryd Biviano will be a key wicket for North Sydney having compiled 496 runs at 33.1 thus far this season. However, his last fifty came back in mid-November against Eastern Suburbs (72). This could be bad news for the hosts, as it may mean the opener is set for another big score after making a number of starts in the rounds leading into Christmas.
Parramatta are in third position on the ladder and are undefeated in its last five matches, including four wins and one draw. It hosts Kingsgrove Sports T20 Cup champions, Sydney, who will be looking to translate that success in the shorter format to move from seventh in the standings and into the all-important top six.
The spin of Ben Manenti could be crucial in achieving that objective, particularly in containing the run-machine that is Nick Bertus this season.
Bertus has really found his groove scoring one double hundred and four fifties from 13 visits to the middle. He has piled on 661 runs at an average of 66.1. While Manenti has continued the trend of terrific spin bowling during the McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket for 2017/18.
He is among the three leading wicket takers for the competition, all of whom are spinners of one variety or another. The Sydney off-spinner has taken 32 scalps at an average a tad over 21 in the top grade this season, with an economy rate of a fraction more than three.
This sees him third on the list of leading wicket takers behind Western Suburbs captain and leg spinner Jonathan Cook (36 wickets) and the left-arm orthodox Jarrad Burke.
Eastern Suburbs round out the top four on the table and will feature Sydney Sixers’ and Blues’ quick Harry Conway against Mosman on Saturday, as it strives to move further up the standings. However, Blues’ spinner Will Somerville will miss his first match for the home side since Round 4 of the Kingsgrove Sports T20 Cup due to playing commitments with the Sixers’.
Randwick Petersham will similarly be seeking to maintain its place in the top six when it travels west to Hawkesbury, but will have to do it without rising star Jason Sangha. The promising batsman is among a number of young New South Welshmen to feature in an Under 19 Big Bash League Pathways curtain raiser to the Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers clash tonight.
In other matches, Bankstown are at home to Blacktown, Gordon host Fairfield-Liverpool, Western Suburbs head to Manly Oval to play Manly-Warringah, and UNSW play Northern District.