Saturday's opening day of the Bathurst-Orange Inter-District Cricket competition's third round delivered in a big way as the 2019-20 title race continues taking shape, with the equation seemingly becoming a lot clearer on the weekend.
A couple of sides once again proved their credentials and a couple once again showed they probably won't contend, a handful of batters went big and one went absolutely gigantic but there was enough to show there's hope for the bowlers yet.
Here's the five biggest talking points from the third round's opening day on Saturday afternoon.
1 | CELLAR-DWELLERS LOOK PRETTY MUCH GONE
You can never rule out anything in a competition like this because strange things do happen but City Colts have already relinquished first-innings points for the third time in as many games and Centrals are inches away from doing the same.
They look all but dead in the water.
I've said this more than once already this summer but with a top four finals system coming from the 10-team competition no side can afford to be playing catch-up cricket and these two sides were already doing that before faltering again on the weekend.
Centrals' batting woes have been apparent for the last couple of summers but considering the side they have on paper I'd have laughed in your face if, prior to the season, someone had suggested to me City Colts would be rolled for under 100 at any stage.
Centrals can still win, they'll just need a sizable fightback while City Colts need to flip their first-innings loss into an outright win. Need is the crucial word, because both sides are almost into must-win territory.
2 | WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY
"If James Larkin doesn't score runs Kinross won't win".
That's been trotted around a bit recently and there's some truth to it, the students have and will continue to rely heavily on Larkin's output but at the very least on Saturday they proved they can still make an impact without him.
Granted 190 won't be enough to beat the competition's top sides and Will Luelf's 95 was the only score of note, but Kinross still managed to almost secure first innings points over the red and blacks and should do so comfortably next week, which is an encouraging sign considering Larkin's absence.
They'll need a few others outside Luelf - who's now posted three half-tons this summer - to stand up around Larkin, but if they do go on to secure first innings points they'll probably be in the top four through three rounds, which I don't think anyone predicted.
3 | WARRIORS' ISSUE COULD BE THING OF THE PAST
I played for Orange City for a long time, more than a decade, and I can say with absolute certainty the Warriors never scored almost 300 in three consecutive games during my time with the club, never even went close.
Orange City's biggest issue has always been consistently posting big scores, the Warriors' bowling attack has always been good enough to save them when runs weren't coming but it doesn't look like that's an issue this summer.
I said something similar last week in terms of Orange City finally learning to do it but there was still something in my head that said 'this bubble will burst, they'll get skittled for 100 shortly', I even thought it might come against Rugby Union.
Instead on a tricky wicket they finished the day 5-275 and had four blokes pass 50, it was a big test and another one they've passed, although they're yet to bat under all real kind of pressure.
Who knows, their bubble might still burst soon, but the more they post 250-plus scores the less likely that seems and if they're doing that week-to-week, well, they'll only beat themselves come crunch time.
4 | WESTERN COULD'VE USED A MATT CORBEN
Matt Corben wasn't available for the entire Country Cricket NSW Championship Southern Pool campaign at Goulburn and thus didn't play, but from what I know he could've fronted for the second and third round games on Saturday and Sunday.
Players can't pick and choose when they do and don't play and allowing anyone to do so would set a dangerous precedent, but in this instance I don't think it had anything to do with desire or lack thereof, he simply couldn't get there on the Friday.
With that in mind perhaps exceptions should be made, or perhaps the question of how much notice those selected were given needs to be asked? Don't forget Marty Jeffrey and Brock Larance pulled out too, reportedly for a wedding and an overload of cricket respectively.
That's not a rhetorical question or a jab, it's merely an observation and if sufficient notice was given then play on, but there's no denying Western badly needed a player of Corben's ilk.
He's the best gloveman in Western by a mile, but more so for his influence with the bat.
He's not a smash-and-grab player but that style of play rarely works at that level anyway, Corben's ability to act as an anchor, bat for a long time and play whatever role is necessary in a partnership was exactly what Western missed.
They could've used a Joey Coughlan too, for that matter, but as I pointed out last week he's not even getting picked for Bathurst at the moment. He has been available though, it just seems he's out of favour despite being in incredible form.
5 | HARD-HITTING HUGH SPURS MIDDLETON MEMORIES
Stu Middleton remains one of the cleanest hitters I've seen, and while I'd never compare his young bloke Hugh to him Saturday's dig does suggest he might be beginning to grow into that attribute himself.
Hugh's always appeared to be more of an accumulator than anything else, of course it must be noted he's still at school and still developing, and he was never going to come into the top grade and tear attacks apart immediately.
He did a bit of that on Saturday though, his 95 came at a pretty rapid rate at Wade Park, so much so he was the aggressor in his opening partnership with Matt Corben, he smashed 18 boundaries to boot.
Will he ever be as damaging as his old man? Perhaps not, and he is his own player after all but speaking to a couple of the CYMS guys they suggested his innings did have quite a bit of Stu about it.
The signs are there, perhaps the next great Middleton is coming into his own.
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