Coolac, the perennial heavyweights of the Elders Cup, have every reason to be confident ahead of tomorrow’s competition decider against Wyangle at the Bull Paddock.
The Highwaymen have played in the last 10 Tumut District Cricket Association grand finals, winning the last seven.
In the recent memory of the TDCA, no team has held such a stranglehold on the competition and a lot of factors point to Coolac making it eight-consecutive titles this weekend.
Led by all-rounder and the competition’s best cricketer, Tim Graham, Coolac is in good hands.
Still, despite this dominance over such a long period, Graham suggests the team’s biggest thrill is sticking together and enjoying their cricket.
“We are just excited to be back in there and we are looking forward to the challenge,” Graham said.
“We all enjoy playing cricket together and having won a few years straight is just a bonus.”
Wyangle shouldn’t let this whimsical attitude detract from the fact that Coolac are a very good cricket team, with a very simple, yet successful philosophy.
“We go out there with the plan to bat the 40 overs and for someone in the top five to bat through,” Graham said.
“During the season, if you do that, you will score about 200, which is a good score but in finals, it might only get you 150, which is generally enough.”
Graham explained that he had a unique batting line up to call upon too, with a good mixture of patient and explosive batsmen.
“We have a bit of mixture in the team; we have guys who score quickly and other guys who hang around and support those quick scorers and still turn over the strike,” Graham said.
“Luke and Adam Graham are pretty good at batting time and rotating the strike and James Scott can bat a fair bit of time if required.
“Andrew Scott, Joe Scott and myself like to score runs when we are at the crease and that seems to work well.”
Coolac also have a very coordinated bowling attack but can also call on depth if plans A and B don’t necessarily work out.
Strike bowlers Rob Barron and Duane Shawcross do a lot of damage when opening the attack, while James Scott, Tim Graham and Brad Gorman can be used in a wide variety of circumstances.
“Duane (Shawcross) and Rob Barron together are a very dangerous opening combination and their partnership has been working well,” Graham said.
“But if things don’t work out, we have plenty of other options to fall back on.”
In light of all these strengths, Graham was very much respecting Wyangle and admitted their rivals had been the better team in 2019/20.
“Wyangle have been the team to beat this year,” Graham said.
“They have been strong in recent years but they are back with some extended depth in their team with players like Dean Crane and Brenton Hotham.”
Graham is still confident though, suggesting that Coolac have won in some very difficult circumstances and that they will call on those experiences on Saturday.
“There have been a couple of grand finals where we have batted first and only scored 100 odd and still defended it for the win,” Graham said.
“It gives me confidence we can still win, no matter what is thrown at us.”
Shawcross could be the difference
Coolac opening bowler Duane Shawcross has finished the season in fine form and could be the bowler to watch at Bull Paddock on Saturday.
Shawcross was dynamic in the final two rounds of the competition, taking 8/9 against Adelong in round 13 before a 3/34 performance against Commercial in round 14.
The talented opening bowler, who is widely known as one of the best swing bowlers in the Elders Cup, then took 3/29 in Coolac’s loss to Wyangle before taking 3/21 against Tumut Plains in their preliminary final victory.
These efforts mean Shawcross has taken 17/93 in previous four fixtures at a deadly average of 5.47.
With wet weather looking to make the Bull Paddock turf wicket a bowler’s delight, all eyes will be on the Coolac talisman and his influence in the 2019/20 decider.
Wet-weather could impact decider
The Elders Cup decider is at risk of being postponed and having its location changed to Gundagai with much needed rain soaking into Tumut and surrounds.
As of Thursday lunchtime, Tumut had received 53.5mm of rain, with only more rain expected to fall last night and into this morning.
What makes this an issue is the lack of preparation for the largely unknown and unused Bull Paddock Turf wicket.
Bull Paddock Oval was upgraded by the Snowy Valleys Council and has not been used since late last year and was being prepared to cater for the decider.
Tumut District Cricket Association president Matt Sturt explained how the situation would play out and highlighted that the weather gods and Wyangle were essentially in control of what happened.
“If Tumut Turf is too wet Saturday, we have the option of rolling the crap out of it and playing Sunday at either Tumut or Gundagai,” Sturt said.
“If both days are too wet, we resort to the following Saturday or Sunday.
“The following weekend can also be played in Tumut or Gundagai but that is up to Wyangle to make the decision because they made it through to the grand final first.”
Coolac captain Tim Graham wasn’t too bothered by the wet weather or the location of play but indicated he would not finalise his line up until he looked at the pitch.
“I have options for my designated bowler and batsman but I would have to have a look at conditions to gauge what we should do,” Graham said.
Graham doesn’t think it will be an issue playing at the Bull Paddock, despite no cricket being played on the wicket in 2020.
“It’s only a slight concern and it is something both teams need to deal with,” Graham said.
“Only for the fact that the pitch hasn’t been played on, it will be a little bit of an unknown but apart from that, we have played there plenty of times in the past, so it should be good.”
It’s all about those extras
At the end of the day, cricket is a numbers game, and there are some telling statistics that might lean cricketing pundits towards either Wyangle or Coolac in Saturday’s Elders Cup decider at Bull Paddock.
Firstly, in the 2019/20 season, the amount of sundries bowled by a team has correlated with winning results.
For instance, Wyangle only bowled 64 extras across 12 matches, with an average of 5.3 extras per outing.
This was by far the best of any team in the Elders Cup competition and it is no surprise that Wyangle finished atop of the competition ladder and progressed straight through to the grand final.
In contrast, Coolac have been a little loose in their bowling, notching up 124 extras at an average of 10.3 per game.
On six occasions, Coolac allowed double digits in their extras column, that is three more times than their rivals on Saturday.
Another interesting statistic that gives Wyangle the slightest edge is the amount of times a team has been bowled out this season.
Now this statistic is open to interpretation, with teams boasting a strong bowling line up and having bowled first, less inclined to being bowled out, especially if they kept their opposition to a low total.
Still, throughout the course of 12 games, Wyangle were only bowled out twice, which is one game better than Coolac, who were bowled out three times this season.
Tumut Plains were also bowled out three times, which coincides with their finals appearance, but it was a large gap back to the chasers, with Lippers, Lotts, Family, Commercial and Adelong fully dismissed more often than not.
Bowling statistics on the other hand are pretty even when looking at the two sides with a very slight advantage with Coolac.
Both John Breed and Duane Shawcross have taken 34 wickets from 13 matches for the year but Breed shades Shawcross in averages, having taken his at 10.15 compared to 11.44.
The side’s most effective second bowlers include Rob Barron for Coolac with 18 at 10.94 and Brenton Hotham for Wyangle just behind Barron with 17 at 15.71.
Coolac are panels ahead with the bat though, boasting the competitions two top scorers and three of the top four.
James Scott leads on 379 runs, while Tim Graham is second on 345 and Luke Graham is fourth with 299 runs at 29.9.
Wyangle do have two batsmen inside the top 10, with Matt Stubbs scoring 250 at 41.67 and Tom Shedden on 249 at 41.5.
The final statistic, and probably the most notable, is the history between these two teams during the season.
Wyangle have the wood on Coolac, with two regular season wins and a recent semi final victory.
In round two’s match played at Coolac Recreation Ground, Wyangle won by four wickets with Tom Shedden top scoring with 75 not out and the likes of Matt Stubbs, Matt Webb and Shedden dominating with the ball in hand.
In the round nine match played at Bull Paddock, Wyangle won by 16 runs and it was Tom Shedden again scoring runs, this time making 46 to top score for the home side.
Dean Crane pitched in with 41 not out, while Crane also took 3/25 with the Kookaburra in a man of the match performance.
In their semi final match, Crane was again the difference, taking 3/20 from his 10 overs and helping keep Coolac to 6/127 off their 40 overs.
In return, Wyangle chased down the total at 8/131 in 35.3 overs with Crane top scoring with 61.
Put most simply, if it was a matter of numbers, Wyangle would win, but as most cricketing pundits are well aware, cricket can be a funny, fickle and frustrating sport.