Knights are keen for battle

NTCA clubs will welcome the return to red-ball cricket tomorrow and the start of the longer two-day format when the first-grade competition resumes after the Christmas break.

Reigning premier South Launceston plays George Town at the NTCA No.2 Ground coming off its Twenty20-premiership win before the break.

"The boys are very keen to start a two-day campaign and have been waiting for it for a while it seems," Knights coach Ben Austen said.

"The two-day cricket we play is limited and we'd certainly like to play more of it, having only one full round.

"Hopefully none of those get rain-affected and we get a full five matches of two- day cricket in to get ready for finals."

Austen said wins were important for South especially with bonus points not available in the second innings of two-day games.

"That limits the points you can get out of two-day cricket, which makes winning that much more valuable, and where we are on the ladder we are not in a position to drop games and get away with it."

GEORGE TOWN coach Rohan Pooley said his players were excited to be back playing and welcomed the change in format after the one-dayers and T20 matches earlier in the season.

"It's hard to take any form in after the break and the T20 stuff, so I have said to the boys to get back to the basics and work to our plans and try to build a competitive total," he said.

"And we have to make sure we put as much pressure on the South batsmen as we can."

Scott Driessen is unavailable and Mitch Faulkner is recovering from injury, but Pooley said they should have a good list from which to select a team.

MOWBRAY hosts Launceston at Invermay Park, with captain John Le Fevre looking forward to the opportunity for his batsmen to bat for longer and aim to compile bigger totals.

"We've been a bit inconsistent before Christmas," he said.

"At times we've batted well and at others bowled well, but we haven't really put it all together all that often, so we're really looking to consolidate both batting and bowling and push on towards the finals.

"We're sitting about third or fourth and it is really tight there, so results from two-day cricket are crucial for us coming into finals."

Michael Aram is unavailable for the Eagles.

LAUNCESTON captain Rowan Smith said that with five games to go in the roster, every match was important.

"Mowbray this week will give us a good challenge and we're one and one with them this year," he said.

"Our batting and getting partnerships going will continue to be a focus, and two- day cricket will allow us to concentrate on batting time and establishing partnerships, so that should suit some of our players more than the shorter form."

The Lions sit second on the ladder but Smith said positions were tight and his side could not afford a slip- up going into finals with every point crucial.

Launceston will lose James Bowen, who is relocating to Glenorchy, and David Tueon will miss a month with work commitments.

Cameron Lynch was a chance to force his way back into the side after some strong performances in second grade.

RIVERSIDE takes on ladder-leader Westbury at Riverside in a tough test first-up but captain-coach Luke Richardson said it would be a good indicator of where his side was at to start the two-day format.

"The last weekend of T20 was not very good for us and we struggled to get runs on the board, but this is a totally different format which I think most of the guys are looking forward to, and we can put that on the backburner and move forward," he said.

WESTBURY coach Adrian Tudor said the Shamrocks were keen to get stuck into the two-day format leading up to finals.

He said they were happy to be on top of the ladder and were in control of their own destiny if they could win a few games after the Christmas break.Nathan Matthews is out for the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, but apart from that the Shamrocks should be at full strength.