WITH the 2019/20 Mount Gambier and District Cricket Association season now in full swing, the action reaches a new level of excitement when the Big Bash Twenty20 Cup starts tonight.
Cricket fans can expect to see plenty of fireworks at the revised tournament, which will see the top six South East teams fight for bragging rights across five action-packed rounds.
Last season’s eight-team pool format – which included Glencoe and Millicent – has been scrapped, with only the six Mount Gambier and District Barber Shield teams included.
Tonight’s opening round will be headlined by a grand final rematch between South Gambier and West Gambier at Malseed Park.
The Demons will begin as favourites after claiming the last two Twenty20 Cup titles.
South is the only team with recent match experience in the shortest format and appeared in ominous form against Millicent in the opening round of the Statewide Twenty20 competition.
In that clash Daniel Loupos displayed the danger his off spin can possess with the figures of 5/17, while David Somerfield teed off with the bat in hand.
However, Somerfield will be absent tonight due to a knee injury.
The Demons will still be a challenging opposition to overcome with many other match winners including David Vine and Robert Drenthen.
West seeks revenge after its grand final defeat and will hope to utilise the home-ground advantage.
The Roos were the surprise packet of the 2018/19 edition after they upstaged Penola to reach the decider.
This season they have continued to show plenty of fight, led by captain Richard Crute.
Crute has demonstrated his all-round abilities and his power could change games in the blink of an eye.
Niall Easterbrook and Josh Cornolo are consistent contributors and will also be ones to watch.
East Gambier plays host to North Sportsman’s at Scott Park in what shapes up to be another unpredictable match up.
The Tigers were arguably the most impressive outfit across last season’s group stage, with a series of thumping victories.
Those wins were orchestrated by an aggressive approach led by openers Jake Schutz and Matt McInerney.
North’s batsmen were brutal before coming unstuck in the semi-final against the Demons and their feats with the bat will not be forgotten by opposition bowlers.
Without the services of McInerney, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers’ batting order takes shape and if it can play with the same freedom.
The Bulldogs also posses plenty of firepower of their own in the form of Dion Stratford.
Stratford smashed a century in the corresponding fixture last summer, but could not lead his side to victory.
He will be determined to push East over the line this time, supported by captain Alex Hentschke, who is dangerous in all disciplines of the game, while youngster Emerson Marks is also a handy option.
The final match will take place at McCorquindale Park between Penola and Mil Lel.
Both sides have not enjoyed much time on the pitch this season and will be keen to show their skills.
The Eagles reached the 2018/19 semi-finals and will be hungry to take the next step.
Jack Mullan and Josh Doyle have impressed in the shortest format in the past and may take on extra responsibility without Somerfield’s name on the team sheet.
Captain Jase Bateman will also hope Michael Waters can be his strike weapon with the ball.
Mil Lel will be led by Jack Miller and will hope to make a bigger impact in the tournament this time around.
Consistent performances from the likes of Jonathan Allcock, Ben Thiel and Tom Nieuwerkerk will be expected from the young side.
All signs lead to an entertaining start to the Big Bash tournament, with all teams ready to make an impact.
Play will start at 5.30pm at all three venues.