New South Wales and Queensland have contrasting goals when they meet at Drummoyne Oval, with the former looking to further stretch their dominance, the latter endeavouring to turn their tournament around. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 1:45pm (AEDT).
Last season was a good one for Queensland, finishing second on the table after only losing to one team.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, they lost to that one team three times, including once in the elimination final. That team was NSW.
The year before that, Queensland chased NSW’s 317 to lift the trophy.
These two teams have been thorns in each other’s sides now for some time, largely due to the strength and evenness of both sides. Yet this year things have been very different.
NSW hit top gear on Day 1, demolishing the naive Cricket Australia XI by 279 runs. Since then they have not once erred, with none of their four matches being a question of win or lose but of how many bonus points they’ll take in victory.
NSW opening bowlers have certainly showed why it is called a bowling ‘attack’. Garinder Sandhu and Mitchell Starc are the leading two wicket-takers in the competition, though Starc has more than twice as many as his counterpart – his 19 giving him an average of just under five a game this tournament.
While both are also very useful at the death, Queensland’s openers, Joe Burns and Chris Hartley, may need to dig their heels in for the first 10 to give their side a chance, particularly as they have missed Chris Lynn and Usman Khawaja, who are both injured.
NSW’s opening pair with the bat have started strongly throughout. Despite the opposing techniques of Nic Maddinson and Ed Cowan, they have only once failed to reach the fifty partnership in this competition, and have twice taken their side past the hundred mark without losing a wicket. This is particularly useful when Steve Smith sits at three.
Early inroads with the new ball may well be the key to a victory for Queensland. If NSW have any weakness, it is that they are one specialist batsman short.
Queensland do not lack bowlers capable of worrying the opposition, it is just the decision of which opening pair to use – thus far they have used three different duos in three game.
Among Queensland’s healthy pace-bowling stocks are youngsters Mark Steketee and Billy Stanlake. Both have height and pace and look very awkward to face, particularly when the ball is still hard. Queensland may opt for these two to try and break into NSW’s top order.
If not, there is still plenty of pace-bowling strength in the squad, with the more seasoned James Hopes and Ben Cutting also options.
The undefeated NSW are the clear favourites for this match, but anyone who has watched Queensland the past few seasons in this competition will feel there is more to come from this talent-rich side.
If Queensland fully utilise that talent they are a genuine chance, anything less and NSW will cruise to their fifth victory of the tournament.