No touching the ball, umpire: Cricket season like no other
Umpires not touching the ball, bails or stumps. Bowlers’ hats left on the ground 30m behind the bowling stumps. Afternoon tea not allowed to be provided. The ball kept in a zip bag at breaks. No high-5s!
Welcome to round 1 of SCCA Division 1 competition for the 2020-21 season, different from any previous.
Earlier than ever, as the fixtures will now carry points from the T20 competition, making the premiership a three-tier contest.
But once the first ball is bowled, the game is ageless.
Eight clubs vying for a trophy that for once doesn’t belong to Caboolture, starting for the first three weekends as double headed T20 contests, bringing a full seven-game rotation to the shortest format which ends with a showgrounds clash of Nambour and Gympie on October 4.
Saturday’s games will be played out at Caboolture, displaying the Snakes’ off-season facilities upgrade, and Tewantin, where the locals will be tired from Friday’s opening of their brilliant new lights, which will be competition christened by Nambour and the home team at 6pm.
Glasshouse, Caboolture, Maroochydore and Caloundra each play two games at Grant Road, while the northern clubs, Nambour, Coolum, Tewantin and Gympie mix at Read Park.
The earlier start and isolated off season makes form hard to gauge, but the sides will appreciate grounds and wickets in pristine condition, arguably the best ever after minimal winter use and continual pampering.
Triple crown winners Maroochydore meet their would-have-been grand final opponents Caboolture in the afternoon clash, with the young Swans’ average age lowered by another retirement from Ashley Noffke Medal winner Adam Thornton in an otherwise unchanged unit, now coached by ex-Scorcher minder, among the many impressive credentials of Mark Coles.
The Snakes, under maiden captain Matt Schubert, have reportedly lost some depth with movements for work, but have a huge depth of experience and resilience, not to mention Glen Batticciotto.
Nambour has regained Steven Ledger after a northern sabbatical, and the opener will hold the captaincy reins early after health scares for last season’s backbone Nick Wallace.
With 6,821 runs for the club, Ledger will soon join Wes Hall in the post-7,000 bracket, though still a thousand short of the Wiz.
Coolum has a much firmer grounding after its debut season, and will be able to confront opponents from a more experienced base.
The Sharks face Gympie, always uncertain in early matches, then Tewantin-Noosa on Saturday, and should settle into the season to ask questions of all opponents.
Glasshouse skipper Jeremy Schultz will become the competition’s most capped player by the end of October when his 301 matches grow beyond Stan Johnston’s 304, and he still leads a side virtually unchanged except for young bowler Leon Manuel.
How the Rangers perform against Caboolture then a Caloundra line-up missing some depth will reveal much about the sides.
With the T20s followed by seven One-Day matches and seven two-day rounds, the season has been cut into three sections, yet teams need to do well in all formats.
With a high chance of LaNina weather bringing rain, experienced players remember the 2010-11 season, when play was lost and wickets green, and batsmen made nearly 10,000 runs fewer than the season before.
As the old-timers said, runs before Christmas are gold.