The two teams appear to have been cut from the same cloth so far in season 2021/22 in that they have each been the unfortunate losers in matches decided by one wicket. The Sharks have lost one game by a wicket, while CATS, somewhat bizarrely, have twice had victory snatched from their palm by a last wicket stand. While both teams have justifiable reason to believe they have been hard done by, they can ill-afford to sit back in self-pity as there is still plenty of cricket to be played. Latrobe new recruit Navin Gomez seemed to find his feet toward the end of last year, with his figures in his last two games reading 5/54 from 17 overs, and he is sure to provide the CATS batsman with plenty to think about. CATS opening bat Jamie Cochrane ended 2021 with scores of 50 and 87, and he will want to pick up where he left off. JEERALANG-BOOLARRA and Trafalgar will fight it out for the title of ‘Concrete Kings’ on the Boolarra synthetic wicket. The Panthers have a rare home game at their actual home ground, and will want to make the most of it against their fellow hard deck companions. As the only two clubs in the A Grade competition without a turf wicket, the one time Jeeralang-Boolarra and Trafalgar are able to play on their home grounds is when they play against each other. Despite the toll travelling away virtually every week for the best part of four years has no doubt had on both clubs, the Panthers and Ships deserve a fair amount of credit for the performances they have put on the park: The Ships have won an A Grade premiership – the Panthers have played in the last four finals series. Trafalgar hasn’t lost to Jeeralang-Boolarra since 2018, but by the same token, haven’t necessarily found the going easy against the Panthers, who have generally made the Ships fight hard for the points. So hard in fact, Trafalgar players were reported to have been singing and dancing to the Gwen Stefani song ‘The Sweet Escape’ after getting away with a draw in a two day match in 2019/20 that seemed destined to end in defeat after day one. The Boolarra synthetic wicket might also give Trafalgar players something to adapt to, as contrary to popular belief, synthetic wickets do not all have the same consistent bounce that allows batsman to rock back and wait for the ball. The quality and age of the concrete underneath and how recently the astro strip was laid are all factors in determining how the ball behaves. Jeeralang-Boolarra was a bit hot and cold in the first half of the season, but with players the likes of all-rounder Nila Thillekarathna, pace bowler Matt McGrath and captain Ben Heath, who sits inside the top five on the league runs aggregate, most pundits in the LVDCL see the Panthers as every bit an ‘on their day’ team, meaning they could well make 300 in a one dayer or blast a team out cheaply if everything clicks for them ‘on their day’. MOE will host Centrals at Ted Summerton Reserve. The Lions go into the clash with four wins on the trot, and will want to take it to five against a team it may meet again in the finals. Moe has been quietly but surely getting the job done so far this season, and what’s more, seemed to have unearthed a few hidden gems along the way. While the abilities of Andrew Philip and Joel Mitchell are well documented, the Lions have found contributions from a few somewhat unlikely sources as well. Opening bowler Robert Blunt has taken his game to another level and is now leading the attack and is arguably the most improved player in the competition. In his last three games Blunt has only gone for 43 runs in 28 overs, meaning his economy rate is just 1.54 – an amazing stat considering all matches this season are one dayers. For various reasons Moe has already used 16 players in the firsts this season, but that being said, it appears captain/coach Pat Spiteri has simply adopted a ‘next man in’ policy – so far to great effect. Just in the last game Troy Oakley did a job at number seven, making 41 batting mostly with the lower order to take Moe to an eventual winning total of 9/176. Having players come in and make an immediate impact will surely provide Spiteri with a good problem to have at the selection table as he could have a plethora of options to choose from. Big hitting Centrals captain/coach Rob Webber and middle order batsman Mark Rawson should enjoy playing at Ted Summerton, and will want to make use of what has been a belter of a wicket so far in season 2021/22. Should either of Webber or Rawson get going, it could become a six-hitting competition between the pair, and Moe will want to see the back of them as early as possible. Traditionally Centrals and Moe each abide by the formula that: wickets in hand equals runs, equals wins, so this match may well be a case of who can play their own game better. TRARALGON WEST HAS THE BYE.