There's a saying in sport 'to be the best, you've got to beat the best' and in the last three weekends before the Christmas break, we'll get a full of picture of just where Ballarat-Redan sit in the First XI this season.
The Two Swords couldn't have done any more than they have in the opening weeks of the season. Sitting second on the ladder, behind the runaway leaders Golden Point, Ballarat-Redan has shown everyone that its one-win season last year was merely a blip on the radar of the club's growth.
But the next few weeks provide the ultimate test, a two-day clash with the in-form Wendouree followed a one-dayer against the reigning premier East Ballarat.
The key to Ballarat-Redan's form has been the bowlers. All 10 wickets taken two weeks back by Nathan Patrikeos and Jayden Hayes, Matthew Aikman has been damaging as well, while Zac Jenkins has provided the tight bowling needed to restrict oppositions, particularly in one-day games.
The batting needs to find a bit, Ravi Sandhu has two scores above 50 and he led the way in a good score last week of 205, but prior to that, scores of 161 and 164 were middling, albeit the Darley result, suddenly looks a lot stronger given the Lions struggle on their home pitch.
For the next two Saturdays, Ballarat-Redan hits St Patrick's turf to play Wenduree. Mick Nolan is set to miss for the Red Caps, replaced by Lucas Argall, but that's the only change to team which has risen in recent games to sit third on the ladder.
The Red Caps are just building nicely, a narrow win over the greatly improved Brown Hill showed the club's maturity across the board. Ballarat-Redan now have the opportunity to show what it can do.
Another team that has been steadily building in recent weeks is Bacchus Marsh, this week it will be up against a smarting East Ballarat which went down to Brown Hill on Saturday before scraping home against Darley in a low-scoring match.
East started the year well, but has just dropped a peg or two in recent weeks. Chris Jerram's patient 29 was really the key to the one-wicket win, they need more from the top order.
Bacchus Marsh loom as a week-to-week proposition, but it has shown in the first couple of month they are certainly no pushover with a team that is very much up for the fight all the way to number 11.
Darley is the club with the most questions marks on it right now. the Lions have found no rhythm this season and with just three wins from seven starts, are already 13 points adrift of the top four.
One of those sides that sits just ahead is this week's opponent in Mount Clear.
Remarkably, this will be he fourth consecutive home match for Darley, but that dream draw has turned into a nightmare with scores of 97, 104 and 102 the last three bats.
The Mounties know how to knuckle down in the top-order, but need somone else to follow skipper Tom Le Lievre's lead. But this is all about how Darley respond. Another Lions loss here and the season might have slipped away before Christmas, and no-one could have predicted that coming in.
Brown Hill has been the most improved team of the past month, but it faces a huge test up against Golden Point.
It was great to see the Bulls get their first win of the season last Saturday and if it wasn't for Cole Roscholler's century, would have beaten Wendouree on Sunday.
Golden Point somehow just keep on winning, yet still don't look near the top of its game. Josh and Daniel White were the keys to success last week, Josh's remarkable knock ripping the heart out of Naps-Sebas.
Brown Hill's same commitment will be needed here if it is to challenge the top-team, but this will likely be closer than ladder positions suggest.
The final match is a great chance for either Naps-Sabas or Buninyong to get a second win on the season. Naps-Sebas didn't deserve to lose on Sunday and have to start as favourites here given the struggles of the opposition in recent weeks,
Buninyong's bowlers are doing the job but the batters need to find some steel and aim to be batting longer. Even if the scores don't necessarily come right away. The Bunnies need to try and at least bat most of the day if they get a chance, some time in the middle is desperately needed.
There has also been a few late changes to venues due to wet weather and the Spilt Milk festival at Victoria Park. The Ballarat-Redan versus Wendouree clash will now be played at CE Brown Reserve, while Napoleons will now host the clash between Naps-Sebas and Buninyong.
FIRST XI FIXTURE AND TEAMS
Brown Hill v Golden Point @ Western Oval
Brown Hill - Tom Bourke-Finn (c), Shashi Fernando, Lahriu Gunasinhage, Fraser Hunt,Jason Knowles, Ryan Knowles, Akila Lakshan, Martin Porter, Nathan Porter, Viraj Pushpakumara, Byron Wynd
Golden Point - Darcy Aitken, Lachlan Anderson, Manjula De Zoysa, Andrew Falkner, Mohomed Feshal, Simon Ogilvie, Joshua Pegg (c), Lukas Pegg, Andrew Warrick, Daniel White, Joshua White
Bacchus Marsh v East Ballarat @ Maddingley Park
Bacchus Marsh - Taeje Baker, Bradley Croxford, Brodie Gellie, Angus Jones, James Lidgett, Alex Porter, Jack Powell, Ian Spiteri, Jared Taylor, Armi Wakefield, Thomas Wardell (c)
East Ballarat - Finlay Baker, Joshua Brown, Samuel Cocks, Adam Eddy, Jacob Eyers (c), Harry Ganley, Harli Givvens, Lewis Hodgins, William Hodgins, Chris Jerram, Tom Walton
Ballarat-Redan v Wendouree @ CE Brown Reserve
Ballarat-Redan - David Carton, Matthew Aikman, Chris Egan (c), Riley Fisher, Jayden Hayes, Zac Jenkins, Nathan Patrikeos, Max Riding, Connor Ronan, Randhir Sandhu, Brendan Thomson
Wendouree - Lucas Argall, Tom Batters, Liam Brady, Tom Godson, Monty Maloney, Ash McCafferty, Sam Peeters, Heath Pyke (c), Cole Roscholler, Stephen Segrave, Liam Wood
Buninyong v Naps-Sebas @ Napoleons
Buninyong - Wasim Ali, Harrison Bond (c), Michael Flynn, Sean Mason, Hudson Palmer, Prabath Ranaweera koralalage, Rupinder Singh, Mitchell Tierney, Naditha Tissera, Brodie Wells
Naps-Sebas - no team supplied
Darley v Mount Clear @ Darley Park
Darley - Bradley Barnes, Dilan Chandima, Liam Cornford, Madushanka Ekanayaka, Lachlan Herring, Rockey Hoey, Drew Locke, Benjamin Longhurst (c), Chamika Sattambi, Hasitha Wickramasinghe
Mount Clear - Jacob Smith, Ashley George, Kylan Jans, Thomas Le Lievre (c), Ajay Mada, Zack Maple, Joel Moriarty, Lachlan Payne, Grant Trevenen, Matt Ward