Young guns add polish to Queanbeyan
Queanbeyan youngster Lakshmn Shivakumar fell agonisingly short of a century last round, but is looking forward to playing finals. Photo: Jay Cronan
Queanbeyan teenager Lakshmn Shivakumar has backed the Bluebags to be more than simply nuisance value in the Douglas Cup finals.
After sweeping all before it last season, a new-look Bluebags side is embracing the underdog tag heading into its three-day semi-final with minor premier Wests/UC, starting on Friday at Chisholm Oval.
The Bluebags won all four trophies on offer in the 2011/12 summer, but have struggled to replicate those feats with several new faces ushered into the top grade.
One of those has been Shivakumar, the 18-year-old making his mark as a middle order batsman in recent weeks and falling three runs short of his maiden first-grade century.
The Marist College product wasn't aware he was on 97 until he walked from the ground.
The promising talent has put that disappointment behind him and is champing at the bit for a taste of finals.
''It's nice to be in the semis, so hopefully we can make it through to the final,'' Shivakumar said.
''We've hit some good form going into the final. We've got a young team, but we've grown with experience.''
Along with ACT under 19s representative Shivakumar, Queanbeyan has been boosted by the performances of fellow young guns Mark Solway and Guy Gillespie.
Off-spinner Solway (18 wickets at 21.06) is the younger brother of South Australia Emerging Redbacks squad member Dean Solway, while Gillespie (18 wickets at 22.94) has been Queanbeyan's form fast bowler.
The Bluebags went within a whisker of inflicting Wests/UC's only loss this season when their most recent match finished in a dramatic tie. Wests/UC captain Ben Oakley, who captured the final two wickets for five runs to keep his side's perfect record intact, said what had happened so far meant nothing.
''It's sudden-death cricket now, so if you have a bad day it could be season over,'' Oakley said. ''We haven't had a winning performance against them yet, so we're just hoping to do that.''
In the other semi-final, John Gallop Cup holder Eastlake will aim for the one-day/two-day double when it takes on Tuggeranong at Stirling Oval.
Tuggeranong has failed to reach the lofty heights expected of it after entering the season as the competition favourite.
It bowed out in the semi-finals of both the regional Twenty20 competition and the 50-over tournament - early exits captain Michael Wescombe is desperate to rectify.
''We're using this coming finals series to prove the critics wrong who have written us off,'' Wescombe said.
''We've failed at two semi-finals hurdles so far, so we're hoping to do better than that.''