Who can beat Mt Clear in Ballarat cricket firsts?

POWERHOUSE Mt Clear has stamped its status as clear flag favourite but how do its rivals measure up in Ballarat Cricket Association club firsts?

The Courier breaks down the season so far and key playmakers in this mid-season report while our cricketers enjoy the festive break.

BALLARAT-REDAN

PROGRESS: ninth. Two first innings wins and three first innings losses* (ladder results incomplete)

This is a development season for Ballarat-Redan, which lost a core of experience leading into this season. The Combine has shown promise with wins against Darley and North Ballarat. Pushed Wendouree to tea on day two last round before a late and quick batting collapse.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Egan has captured 13 wickets from six club firsts matches. Notably, he nabbed eight scalps from his past two outings against Mt Clear and Wendouree.

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Anthony Taylor 25.17

Allister Edmends 151 runs

BALL

Nathan Patrikeos 17.53

Nathan Patrikeos 15 wickets

COMING UP

v North Ballarat

v Mt Clear

v Wendouree

v East Ballarat

v Coronet City

v Golden Point

BROWN HILL

PROGRESS: second. One outright win, two on first innings and two first innings losses

Everyone knows about the Bulls' much-feared bowling attack, headlined by former Australian fast bowler Shane Harwood and fellow lethal quick Matt McMahon with a string of other dangerous wicket-takers. But the Bulls have proven a little fallible - they quickly came undone against East Ballarat leading into Christmas while the Red Caps were the first to prove they were beatable.

PLAYER TO WATCH: To be wary of returned Bull Shane Harwood goes without saying but young gun Jack James will be one to watch if he can return to his early form, when he came close to a ton twice. 

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Jack James 38.83

Jack James 233 runs

BALL

Shane Harwood 4.5

Shane Harwood 22 wickets

COMING UP

v Wendouree

v Napoleons-Sebastopol

v East Ballarat

v Mt Clear

v North Ballarat

v Coronet City

CORONET CITY

PROGRESS: 10th. Four first innings losses and two lost on second innings

This season has been tough for Coronet City with clashes against reigning premier Wendouree, powerhouse Mt Clear and those clawing up like North Ballarat and East Ballarat. City faces the Mounties again first up to restart the season and there looks to be little reprieve ahead.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The stats say it all - Brendan Burns has been the City linchpin for a long time now and has been in strong form this summer. He is yet to face Mt Clear in the firsts though.

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Brendan Burns 32.43

Brendan Burns 227 runs

BALL

Brendan Burns 31.89

Brendan Burns 9 wickets

COMING UP

v Mt Clear

v East Ballarat

v Napoleons-Sebastopol

v Golden Point

v Ballarat-Redan

v Brown Hill

DARLEY

PROGRESS: eighth. Two first innings wins and four first innings losses

This has been a frustrating season for the Lions, who have lost three of four outings on their fortress Darley Park. The Lions nabbed a win against Golden Point going into Christmas but it will be tough for them to dig in and catch competition leaders from here.

PLAYER TO WATCH: When captain Matt Cape is firing, Darley is causing trouble. Cape needs all his team to step up more consistently.

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Matt Cape 57.20

Matt Cape 286 runs

BALL

Clint Salisbury 10.6

Brad Barnes 8 wickets

COMING UP

v East Ballarat

v Wendouree

v Golden Point

v North Ballarat

v Napoleons-Sebastopol

v East Ballarat

EAST BALLARAT

PROGRESS: third. One outright win, two first innings wins and three first innings losses

An outright upset against Brown Hill definitely strengthened the Hawks' campaign, lifting them into the four by Christmas. They have chances to really consolidate their footing and a rematch against the Bulls - next a one-day fixture - will really test them out.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Seasoned performer Carl Haseloff has chalked up four half-centuries from seven innings with the bat. Haseloff really sets the tone for his teammates, including tight situations like anchoring the Hawks' reply late in the day last round after Brown Hill's batting collapse.

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Nicholas Waldie 67

Carl Haseloff 276 runs

BALL

Josh Brown 14.68

Josh Brown 19 wickets

COMING UP

v Darley

v Coronet City

v Brown Hill

v Ballarat-Redan

v Wendouree

v Napoleons-Sebastopol

GOLDEN POINT

PROGRESS: seventh. Two first innings wins, one draw and three first innings losses.

Claimed a first-up win against reigning premier Wendouree but has struggled to find serious momentum since. The Pointies entered the break on two losses and a wash-out and really need to make an impact in one-dayers to stay in touch with a tight competition. Point must improve with the bat.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Dan White has been reasonably sharp with the ball this summer with 16 wickets and a bowling average of 16.3. White has also offered a couple of handy scores through the middle order. He's starting to step up and help set the tone.

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Josh White 40.5

Dwayne Hiscock 173

BALL

Dan White 16.27

Dan White 15 wickets

COMING UP

v Napoleons-Sebastopol

v North Ballarat

v Darley

v Coronet City

v Mt Clear

v Ballarat-Redan

MT CLEAR

PROGRESS: first. Six first innings wins.

Absolutely formidable. It is tough to tell yet who could stop Mt Clear because there is so much depth in the Mounties' batting and bowling.

They're undefeated - though without an outright win yet - and the Mounties are seemingly cruising.

PLAYER TO WATCH: In a whole stable of headline acts, our pick is 2002/03 EJ Cleary medallist Dan Hopkinson who, more than 10 years later, is proving a merciless and dangerous all-round threat. 

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Hayden Cartledge 50.75

Nathan Yates 216 runs

BALL

Daniel Hopkinson 6.38

Daniel Hopkinson 16 wickets

COMING UP

v Coronet City

v Ballarat-Redan

v North Ballarat

v Brown Hill

v Golden Point

v Darley

NAPOLEONS-SEBASTOPOL

PROGRESS: fourth. One outright win, one first innings win, two draws, one first innings loss and one loss on second innings.

Mixed results, including two wash-outs, have actually kept Napoleons-Sebastopol in touch with competition leaders. Naps-Sebas went from being completely demolished twice by Brown Hill one round to trouncing Coronet City for an outright the next. 

PLAYER TO WATCH: Returned EJ Cleary medallist Carman Mapatuna has been a massive inclusion for a team that went through a turnover in experience. The acting skipper has also proven one of the most consistent with bat and ball in two-day and Twenty20 formats.

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Luke Corden 35.75

Ben Trew 160 runs

BALL

Simon Ringin 7.86

Luke Corden 9 wickets

Carman Mapatuna 9 wickets

Justin Ringin 9 wickets

COMING UP

v Golden Point

v Brown Hill

v Coronet City

v Wendouree

v Darley

v East Ballarat

NORTH BALLARAT

PROGRESS: fifth. Three first innings wins, one draw and two first innings losses

This Roosters' team has shown lots of potential this season. Their two losses have been to Mt Clear and a shock upset from Ballarat-Redan, one they will have a chance to rectify in a one-dayer first up in January. Plenty to prove and definitely a chance to break into finals.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Experienced players Scott Wright, Matt Cations, Jason Crosbie and captain Bobby Hind have led the charge this season but there is plenty of exciting youngsters in the mix. Rising star Ash McCafferty proven a consistent wicket-taker and offered a couple of handy bolstering efforts late in the order too.

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Scott Wright 74.5

Bobby Hind 249

BALL

Ash McCafferty 15.83

Jason Crosbie 14 wickets

COMING UP

v Ballarat-Redan

v Golden Point

v Mt Clear

v Darley

v Napoleons-Sebastopol

v Wendouree

WENDOUREE

PROGRESS: sixth. Three first innings wins and two first innings losses* (ladder results incomplete)

Reigning premier Wendouree is vying for a sixth-straight BCA club firsts title. Each year the Red Caps have restructured about a core line-up and discover exciting, young talent and this season, so far, has been no exception. Expect the Red Caps to finish strong - they always do.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Batsmen would have to fear Red Caps' quick Eamon Johnson. The experienced bowler was in stellar form before Christmas, capturing a combined 18 wickets from his past three outings (over four innings).

LEADING PERFORMERS

BAT

Cole Roscholler 59.17

Cole Roscholler 355

BALL

Eamon Johnson 10.81

Eamon Johnson 27 wickets

COMING UP

v Brown Hill

v Darley

v Ballarat-Redan

v Napoleons-Sebastopol

v East Ballarat

v North Ballarat

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