Challenges posed by the Toyota Futures League don’t come much bigger than the one the iCollege ACT Comets are set to undertake in an encounter beginning today. Led by spirited captain John Rogers in their final fixture of the season, the Comets will cross swords in an away clash with competition-leaders Queensland at Allan Border Field as they again shoot for their first win of the season. Flying high on 34.68 points, Queensland has not tasted defeat since its seven-wicket loss to Tasmania in the opening round of the season. Among other results, the side has since stormed to a 247-run win over Victoria and a 269-run win over Western Australia. That aside, the Comets fare as more than a handful for Queensland.
Why the Comets can win
Playing host to the second-placed Tasmania, the only side to have consigned Queensland to defeat this season, the ACT boys took the game down to the wire at Manuka Oval in their most recent outing. Chasing 240 runs to win in the fourth innings, the Comets took the match into the final session of the final day, eventually falling 22 runs short. That is no mean feat given the calibre of players the side from across the Bass is streaked with. Rising Sheffield Shield batsman Jordan Silk, former Test and limited-overs tweaker Xavier Doherty, and T20I leg-spinner Cameron Boyce all made the trip to the nation’s capital.
Bolstering the visitors’ chances is that Tuggeranong batsman Michael Barrington-Smith will don Comets colours for the first time. Barrington-Smith has struck red-hot form in the 2016-17 season, plundering 576 runs as a middle-order batsman for Tuggeranong in McDonald’s ACT Premier Cricket.The highlights reel of this season’s fifth-highest run-scorer in first-grade includes two centuries, as well as an innings of 96 and a knock of 89.
Hailing from Penrith, NSW Premier Cricket right-arm quick Ryan Smith will also make his Comets debut. Plying his trade in Sydney’s first-grade competition, the former Derbyshire 2nd XI seamer has been in fine form this season. Smith has bagged the eighth-most wickets across all formats combined this summer, having snared 32, and is one of just four to have claimed a 10-wicket haul. Considering that Pune Test hero Stephen O’Keefe is another one of those four, Smith finds himself in esteemed company. Expect the 30-year-old to make vital inroads with the ball across the coming four days.
Where the Comets must improve
In the Comets’ most recent fixture, they were brought undone by the crafty spin of two Tasmania tweakers on a deteriorating wicket. The ACT boys lost eight wickets to the turning ball in the fourth innings of the match. Left-arm orthodox tweaker Clive Rose (4-34) and leg-spinner Boyce (4-47) both spun a web as the hosts struggled to play the slower, spinning ball. The Comets batsmen must either smother the spin by getting to the pitch of the ball, or give the ball a chance to spin before playing it late. This will be especially vital if the Comets happen to be chasing in the fourth innings on a wearing AB Field pitch.
The Comets must also make earlier inroads with the new ball. Opening batsmen Silk and Caleb Jewell piled on 75 runs for the first wicket in Tasmania’s first innings late last month. Earlier in February, Victoria’s Aaron Ayre and Eamonn Vines combined for a stand of 86 runs at the top of the order.
The Comets’ new-ball pair must make it a priority to expose Queensland’s opening batsmen to the swinging ball. It would only be a matter of time before a penetrative off-stump line leads to edges to the slips cordon.
Last time the two sides met
The Comets haven’t locked horns with Queensland since the final round of last season, a fixture Queensland claimed by an innings and 25 runs. Expect the Comets to present as a much more competitive outfit this week. The ACT boys might even clinch their first win of the season to rain on Queensland’s home parade.
Written by Cricket ACT Media Intern, Zach Gates. The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket ACT.