By Chris Anderson
In the words of the great Axl Rose, “nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain”.
Well, it lasted long enough to call a halt to cricketing action across the Yarra Valley this weekend.
It was a shame for cricketers in the top two grades, DJ Strachan Shield and RA Finger Trophy, as it was a missed opportunity to play out the first two-day game of the season.
Mount Evelyn was in a prime position for the points against Healesville, but the missed opportunity hasn’t cost them a stranglehold at the top of the ladder.
Captain Kane Jones is hitting ominous form with both bat and ball, and with a host of emerging talent – namely the Fraser and Williams brothers – the Mounters are certainly the team to beat early this season.
The most pleasing aspect for Jones is the contributions made by Jesse Fraser and Jon Williams at the top of the order, which has taken considerable pressure off the rest of the batting line up.
Add to that their bowling line up, although bereft of an out-and-out match winner, that has produced consistent and disciplined performances.
Warburton-Millgrove is still in front of the chasing pack.
The side’s experienced bowling line up, led by Adam Humphrey, Stuart Thompson and Cam Darwall, has stifled opposition bats this season thus far, which has allowed their inconsistent batting line up a bit of coverage.
You know what you’re going to get with their bowling, so their batting will be their trump card as the season moves along.
With the likes of Ben Lever, Sean Humphrey and the recently-returned Liam Barnard, the Burras have the capability to post scores, and if some of their young talent hit their straps, it could be another tilt at glory for a team that is always there at the pointy end of the season.
Yarra Junction is the other team that looms as a contender.
The Eagles had a break-out season last season, and on the back of consistent performances have kept themselves in the mix.
Like Warburton-Millgrove, it’s their consistent and disciplined bowling that is their strength.
Led up front from the likes of Nick Bark, and supported by the miserly Kevin Bomford and Terry Ottrey, the Eagles are capable of strangling an opposition for a mediocre score.
The challenge for them is their inconsistencies with the bat.
The firepower is there, but it struggles to fire in unison.
Like the Burras, if the Eagles can find a score, they could be hard to beat.
Healesville looks the most likely to round out the top four, but with a long season ahead consistency will be the key for the chasing group.
The Bloods have the front running considering their top-end talent.
Captain Ash Hamer and young stars Dermott Fry and Dale Senior give the Bloods some match winning qualities, and if any of them find their mojo on any given day, they could lead their team to victory.
The frustration for Healesville is overall inconsistency.
For the Bloods to seriously challenge, it will take a complete team performance to close the gap.
Seville boasts an impressive bowling line-up based on speed and can give an opposition batting line-up a hurry-up on their day.
Jesse Cook, Matt Hadlum, Tyson McKenzie and Mark Sandfort provide a pace barrage that would challenge the nerve of the most stoic of batsmen.
Their strength can be their weakness, and against a team who like the ball coming onto the bat, their lack of a quality slow option leaves them slightly short.
With the bat, a lot relies on the captain Leigh Aitkins at the top of the order.
Aitkins has the skill and the stroke-play to produce considerable innings and, given the right support, could lead the team to a match-winning total.
Tom Page looks the most likely to offer him that support, as the emerging talent is starting add some consistency to his stroke play.
Wandin rounds out the competition, and the newly-promoted Bulldogs offer the greatest unknown to the season moving forward.
Before being promoted, the Bulldogs were cutting a swathe through the RA Finger Trophy competition.
On the evidence thus far this season, their strength lies in the batting line-up.
Led by captain Bryce Edwards and supported by James Freeman and Tim Thorne, the Bulldogs have posted some impressive scores, albeit in the lower grade.
It is still too early to judge their prospects in DJ Strachan Shield, but if they can counter the best attacks the competition can muster, then they will give themselves a chance to feature in finals action.
Next week will be the start of the next instalment of two-day action in the top two grades.
Wandin will be put to the test at home against Mount Evelyn.
The Mounters will be keen to continue to assert their dominance over the competition, while the Bulldogs will be looking for a bold showing to prove their credentials in the top flight.
There will be much interest in the remaining fixtures, as they will have some early bearings on teams’ standings.
Seville host Yarra Junction, and the team who can absorb the bowling pressure from their opponents will emerge victorious.
Both teams boast good attacks, while inconsistencies with the bat can cruel both of their chances.
In the last game of the round, Healesville hosts Warburton-Millgrove, and if they are to prove themselves worthy of consideration of contender, the Bloods need to win.
Warburton-Millgrove, on the other hand, has eased its way into the season, and if it fields a team near enough to full strength then it will take some beating.