Orange’s biggest game in “a long, long time”.
That’s how Bluebaggers skipper Daryl Kennewell described his side’s Western Zone Premier League round three blockbuster against Cowra at Wade Park on Sunday.
Although Orange made the Mitchell Cricket Council President’s Cup final in 2016-17 and they won the Twenty20 Cup the same season – ending a seven-year title drought – Kennewell’s of the opinion the magnitude of Sunday’s clash eclipses that of both those deciders.
Mainly because, incredibly considering Orange’s recent struggles, a victory wouldn’t just maintain the side’s unbeaten status this summer but it would also catapult the Bluebuggers into a position they’ve not been in since the late noughties.
A win would solidify their spot on top of the Premier League table and, as a result, all but render them Western Zone’s best side – for the meantime, anyway.
“Oh yeah, it’s our biggest game in a long, long time and I think we all realise the magnitude of it in terms of the competition,” Kennewell said.
“It’ll be a really good chance to see where we’re at, because right now I think we’re in a place we’ve been trying to get to for several years.
“We’ve been trying to get the right combinations and get into the right mindset for representative cricket, which (former coach) Richie Venner’s had a lot to do with in recent seasons, and I think we’re very close to where we want to be, if not there.
“So much of that is realising that it’s not necessarily the calibre of player you’ve got, it’s about getting the right combination of guys that want to be there and playing well as a group, playing what’s in front of you and showing some grit and determination.
“The wins over the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Dubbo were all great, especially over Dubbo, but we need to back that up now and make the most of a great start to the summer.
“But we know it won’t be easy. Cowra will be up for the challenge. We know that, but we will be too.”
Kennewell’s fortunate enough to have fellow Western Zone guns Jackson Coote, Matt Corben and Josh Doherty at his disposal on Sunday, but there’s one other inclusion that jumps off the team sheet.
That of CYMS all-rounder Hugh Le Lievre.
Kennewell said he’s longed to have the two-time Orange District Cricket Association grand final centurion in the side, and didn’t think twice about naming him for Sunday’s huge encounter.
“I’ve asked him a couple of times to play but he’s not been available, when he said he was this weekend I just said ‘great, you’re in’,” Kennewell explained.
It’s a big confidence boost knowing Le Lievre’s in form too. He has been somewhat quiet with the bat, but has already snared 10 scalps this summer at a stunning average of 12.6, and three more in the T20 Royal Hotel Cup at six apiece.
“He’s always reliable and he’s very level-headed, very experienced too. You can go to him with the bat or with the ball, he’s just a great bloke to have in any side really,” Kennewell said.
Kennewell also highlighted young Ed Dodds’ debut this weekend as a promising sign for the future. Kennewell and Dodds line-up alongside four other Centrals stars in Fletcher Rose, Jack Dodds, Zac Reimer and Cam Rasmussen.
“I’m sure people would question a few of the Centrals selections considering we’re on the bottom of the table, but a lot of these guys have been at this level before and the biggest thing for me is that they want to be there, they want to play for Orange,” Kennewell said.
“There is a couple of guys unavailable but I’ve always said I want to be playing alongside 11 or 12 other guys that want to be in the blue cap, and we’re starting to get results with that attitude.”
Kennewell preferred not to focus too much on his side’s opposition, mainly because he admitted to not knowing much about them outside skipper Mick Curtale, who’s innings against the Bluebaggers last summer was enough to still be causing nightmares.
Last summer, with his side chasing Orange’s 203, Curtale blasted a 67-ball, unbeaten 122 to lead Cowra to a comprehensive win.
“He had a field day in that game,” Kennewell said, at the time he described it as a “magical innings”.
“But we know what he likes to do, he’s an incredible bat so we need to stay tight and make sure we’re switched on with him.”
Fortunately for Orange, the likes of Nick and Tim Berry and Jacob McNaught haven’t been named for the Lachlan Valley-based Cowra side.
Sunday’s clash kicks off at 10am at Wade Park.
- ORANGE: Matt Corben, Josh Doherty, Jack Dodds, Hugh Le Lievre, Charlie Greer, Angus Cumming, Fletcher Rose, Daryl Kennewell ©, Jackson Coote, Zac Reimer, Ed Dodds, Cam Rasmussen
- COWRA: Mick Curtale ©, Luke Cosgrove, Josh Carmody, Jonte Powderly, Zach Starr, Cal Taylor, Scott Wilson, Peter Guthrie, Tom Thuaux, Craig Carpenter, Nic Traves, Ben Houghton