MORTLAKE and Heytesbury will go head to head on Sunday for Twenty20 honours in South West Cricket’s division one final.
The two sides finished first and second respectively, with only one match lost between the pair, across the seven rounds of play.
Ironically, that loss came in the match between the two, with Mortlake defeating the Rebels by 13 runs at D.C. Farran Oval in round four.
The Cats will be aiming to make it their second consecutive trip to Warrnambool for the Sungold Cup, which is held across the Australia Day weekend.
However, the Rebels, led by skipper Jeff Rosolin, are quietly confident that they can defeat the league’s pacesetter having dismantled Cobden by 127 runs in their final match last Friday night.
The Rebels have had an increased involvement in the Twenty20 format the past two seasons, having played additional matches as part of the Cricket Victoria Regional Big Bash.
Rosolin said that this competition had allowed his side more exposure to the shorter form and he thinks that in turn has made them more rounded as a Twenty20 side.
“We’ve played a fair bit of it (Twenty20). Seven games across the competition this year, plus the state competition we played in at Horsham in December,” he said.
“We played three in the league competition last year and another three in the same state competition, so I feel we’re a bit more experienced than them in this format.”
Rosolin said that the opportunity to play Mortlake at Terang, a ground that didn’t offer either side a home advantage, would make for a good spectacle of cricket.
He said that the Rebels are ‘bullish’ ahead of the match, but conceded that his men needed to capitalise early against a very experienced outfit.
“We’re pretty keen to play them on a neutral venue, we haven’t played them on a turf wicket before, but the boys are pretty bullish,” Rosolin said.
“We’re a younger side in the field, and we might be more versatile than them, guys can field in multiple spots, which is an asset for us.
“We will try to make them earn every run.”
The Rebels have identified former player, Tyler Schafer, as one Mortlake’s most important batsmen and know that getting him out cheaply will help their cause.
Schafer has scored 180 runs from seven matches, averaging 30 runs at the top of the order.
“Tyler Schafer will be the key wicket for us. He’s made the second most runs for the league this year,” Rosolin said.
“Even if he doesn’t top score, the rate he scores at can really set them up well.
“He can impact the game without being there too long.”
On the other hand, Mortlake enter the match undefeated through the Twenty20 rounds and in strong form having lost just once this season.
They too enter the final on Sunday having won their final encounter easily, with the Cats defeating Noorat by 114 runs.
Mortlake captain Todd Lamont said that having been away from the club for a few weeks, the players had yet to turn their attention to the final.
He was happy his side secured their place in the final before Christmas, allowing them to fine-tune their Twenty20 game in their match against the Steamrollers.
“We haven’t spoken about it much, but it’s good to secure a grand final berth early, it gives us another crack at heading to Warrnambool,” Lamont said.
Lamont and his charges have been keeping a close eye on the Rebels of late, and noted their performances across the first half of the season.
He is well aware that the Rebels have been one of the league’s best performers recently, and insists his side needs to dismiss Heytesbury’s top order batsmen cheaply.
“They’re in pretty good form at the moment, they’re one of the form sides of the competition,” Lamont said.
“Their top order is in form, so we need to bowl well and take early wickets.”
Lamont also put his top order on notice for the match, and wants them firing with the willow in their stint at the crease.
He isn’t fazed who makes the runs, knowing all too well that a game can be taken away from either side quickly if players are hard to dismiss.
“Top order runs will be the key, it doesn’t matter who but ideally one good partnership up top will get you a good score in Twenty20 cricket,” Lamont said.
“If you’re losing steady wickets, it’s hard to get momentum.”
With the game being played on a Terang pitch that is currently unpredictable at best, Lamont said the result would fall the way of the team that can replicate their Twenty20 form.
“Whoever plays to the best of their ability will win, that will be the key,” he said.
In division two, Simpson will clash with Heytesbury in the final of the Twenty20 formats that were played before Christmas.
The Rebels enter the match undefeated having beaten the Tigers by nine wickets in their clash in round three.
It was Simpson’s only loss in the 20 over fixtures; however the Tigers currently find themselves atop the division two ladder.
Both Twenty20 finals will be held at Terang on Sunday, with division two commencing at 12pm and the division one match gets under way at 2pm.