WESTERN Zone silenced critics of its selection policy after stunning hosts Newcastle on the way to booking a berth in the NSW Country Championships final over the weekend.
The selection of Parkes’ Pat Rosser, who missed the main selection trial while playing Sydney Grade Cricket, and Orange’s Craig Wallace, a Scottish international picked after one innings in Orange, polarised the region’s cricket community when long-term and in-form Western Zone stalwarts such as Anthony Heraghty and Russell Gardner were overlooked.
But the duo were among Western Zone’s best as they swept aside Newcastle by six wickets on Saturday and North Coastal by 203 runs yesterday to top the northern pool of the championships and set up a final showdown with southern pool winners Illawarra this Sunday.
Western Zone team manager Dave Reddan said the side’s triumph was particularly sweet given the criticism selectors had copped for picking it.
“It is. The selectors need to be congratulated for making some brave and difficult choices,” he said.
“Certain people probably need to cop it on the chin and admit they were wrong.
“Pat Rosser got 100 runs in two innings and didn’t get out and also took six or seven wickets. Wallace showed great leadership and got us off to some good starts.
“All the guys have done our zone very, very proud.”
After Friday’s matches were washed out, Western’s showdown with Newcastle at Pat Cahill Oval on Saturday took on heightened importance.
But after winning the toss and sending the hosts in, only Simon Moore (65) got anything going with the bat as Newcastle laboured to 175.
Declan Hoare (3-39), skipper Tim Cox (2-21), Pat Rosser (2-44) and Tom Quilter (2-44) all impressed with the ball.
In reply, Orange-based openers Trent Colley (21) and Wallace (33) got the run chase off to a solid start before Scott Knights (55 not out), Ian Redpath (26) and Pat Rosser (23no) secured the six-wicket win.
It was Western’s first victory over the country cricket powerhouses since chasing 307 to win an epic final at Newcastle in 2002.
With their confidence high, Western showed no mercy to North Coastal yesterday.
Again Colley (33) and Wallace (62) got Western off to a strong start, with fellow Orange batsmen Nathan Rosser adding 26.
But Pat Rosser was again the star, pressing his claims for NSW Country selection with an unbeaten 76 to help his side to an imposing total of 273 from their 50 overs.
The total was never threatened as Cox (4-12) and Pat Rosser (4-22) again tore through the North Coastal line-up to rout them for just 70.
Reddan was thrilled with the level of Western’s cricket.
“The side was very well led by Tim Cox,” he said.
“But the cricket they played over two days was very composed, mature, ruthless and clinical.
“We’re in with a show (in the final).”
Western Zone will take on Illawarra in the NSW Country Championships final this Sunday.
A venue had yet to be determined late yesterday, with poor weather forecasts in both areas proving a major concern.
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