BATHURST has announced itself as the team to beat in the Mitchell Cricket Council under 21s competition after a 96-run thrashing of defending champions Orange at the Sportsground yesterday, clinching top spot and a home major semi-final.
Looking to erase memories of last season's major semi where Orange chased down a challenging target at Police Paddock, and the subsequent washed-out grand final, Bathurst was yet again well served by Max Hope who smashed 12 fours in a classy 91 before he holed out on the boundary.
A good team bowling performance never gave Orange a look-in, and coach Steve Ryan knows that Orange will have to improve to beat Lithgow this weekend and then Bathurst in the semis if they cross paths again.
"I thought we were competitive in the field and did a good job, “Hopey” got away from us a bit but he's a class player and I felt like 234 was a pretty gettable score given the conditions," Ryan said.
"Our shot selection was atrocious though and we couldn't build any partnerships. It was hot for both teams but Bathurst handled it better.
"We have Lithgow next week, we have to improve to win that game. It is better to get this sort of performance out of the way now though than in the big games. We just weren't good enough."
Batting first, Bathurst lost captain Joey Coughlan relatively early for 11 but Blake Aubin (18) and Mike Waldren (45) got things back on track.
Two quick wickets had the hosts teetering a little but Waldren and Hope built a good stand that took their team to 3-115 with 20 overs to bat.
Waldren departed but Andrew Brown gave Hope good support in a 113-run stand.
Hamish Finlayson was a strong performer for the visitors and took 4-30 to bring Orange back into the game and Bathurst lost 5-13 to finish the innings a little below where they'd have aimed but nonetheless it was still a strong total.
The run-chase never got off the ground for Orange which lost John Warrington without scoring to Coughlan and Liam Gough followed, and from that point they were never in the hunt.
Stuart Naden briefly got going for 27 but he was run out, and James Ryan fell for 25 to Waldren.
At 4-76 there was a ray of hope but it quickly disappeared, the visitors reduced to 9-114.
Jake Pauletto struck some lusty blows in his 36 but it was all academic at that point, and Orange was dismissed for 138.
Coughlan (2-12), Waldren (2022) and Sam Macpherson (2-9) each claimed a pair of wickets for Bathurst, which used eight bowlers in total.
"It wasn't the best performance but we played well and deserved to win given the way we bowled in the first 20 overs," Bathurst coach Scott Inwood said.
"Orange are a better side than that but sometimes in under 21s cricket you only have to lose a couple of quick wickets and things unravel, and that's probably what happened.
"Max was outstanding again and probably threw away a century in the end, and Mike Waldren and Andrew Brown have been very consistent lately."