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Into it . . . Union, Oamaru, Valley and Albion players in action during warm-up games in Oamaru last weekend. PHOTOS: DAVE NALDRETT

The cricket season is upon us, and seven teams begin their chase for the Borton Cup tomorrow. Gus Patterson talks to the coaches and captains to get some idea of how the teams are shaping up.

UNION

As much as captain Jeremiah Shields will deny it, Union is the team to beat again this year.

Union went unbeaten to claim the Borton Cup last season, and has a largely unchanged roster.

The trio of Duncan Drew, Jeremiah and Thomas Shields all averaged about 50 runs last year and have plenty of batting experience in all sorts of match situations.

With the ball, Blake James took the most wickets last year (28), and teammates Matt Lilley (22) and Brad Fleming (21) were not far behind.

Jeremiah said the team had a good mix of old campaigners and up-and-comers.

“We will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season,” he said.

“We are really looking forward to it.”

ALBION

Albion Cricket Club will not be short of motivation this year after being denied the chance to win the Borton Cup when the final was cancelled because of Covid-19.

It would have been a fairy-tale finish to the club’s centenary year.

The team has lost veterans Paul Odell and Brad Kernahan, while Englishman Henry Godkin is the main new addition.

The strength of the team will be its potent bowling attack, led by skipper Ricky Whyte.

“Hopefully we can get a batting line-up that can chip in a bit,” Whyte said.

“We are definitely targeting top four and after that anything can happen.”

OAMARU

Oamaru is relying on its depth this year, captain Robbie Breen says.

While wicketkeeper David Percival has departed, the club has good numbers and players in lower grade teams will be called upon to make the step up.

“Everyone will have a turn at it being their day, which is a strength of ours,” Breen said.

All-rounder Stephan Grobler is the big gun and Jeremy Smith will be available for the odd game when he is not playing in Dunedin.

Kunal Mahajan and Lakshay Raj Siwach should be handy with the bat, Nick Johnson can win matches with both bat and ball, and Breen is one of the hardest bowlers to score runs against.

ST KEVIN’S COLLEGE

After branching out on its own last year, the St Kevin’s College First XI has a full complement of returning players this year.

Player-coach Craig Smith said that experience would be invaluable.

“Last year was a bit of an unknown for us. We were quite young and were 50-50 to go up, but the boys were keen,” Smith said.

Lachlan Brookes and Jacob Fowler led the bowlers last year with more than 50 wickets between them.

Smith said the players could all “hold a bat”, but finding consistent runs and avoiding collapses would be the team’s key to success.

WAITAKI BOYS’ HIGH SCHOOL

The Waitaki Boys’ High School First XI has also managed to retain most of its players.

New player-coach Ben Donkers was still getting acquainted with the squad, but said bowling looked to be its main strength.

Spin bowler Quinn Wardle had a bowling average of 13.5 last year, while pacemen Matthew Stewart and Liam Mavor will hurry a few players up.

Eli Johnson led the run-scoring last year, while Sam Keno and Mavor were the other batsmen to score half-centuries.

More of those milestones will be key to posting totals the bowling attack can defend.

VALLEY

After becoming a twenty20 specialist in recent years, Valley would like nothing more to win the Borton Cup, captain Lachlan Kingan says.

Kingan and bowler Cameron Grubb will be key players, but the side also has several young players who could chip in on their day.

Shannon Dunnet looked lively in a warm-up game last weekend, blasting 82 runs from 52 deliveries.

“We will be looking pretty strong for the Dick Hunt, like we always seem to do,” Kingan said.

“I would really like to win a Borton Cup; it’s eluded us for a while.

“It’s just finding those regular cricketers.”

GLENAVY

With a year’s senior cricket experience under its belt, the Glenavy Rangers hope to upset a few teams this season, especially at home on the hallowed Glenavy Cricket Ground, captain Ross McCulloch says.

It had the same core squad of about nine players, but finding “those last couple” would again be the challenge, McCulloch said.

“If it was nine-a-side we would be sorted,” he said.

Ryan Moffat had already declared “this was his year”, so he would be one to watch, McCulloch said.

Dangerman Rodney Van Leeuwen will be available more often this year, while younger players such as Kurt Thomas and Luke McRae will be looking to have big seasons.