The stage is set for a the match of the round as the Deni Rhinos host Murray Valley Cricket reigning premier Nathalia for day one of their round 13 two-day clash tomorrow.
The Purples have been the measuring stick of the Murray Valley Cricket Association for the past three seasons, claiming a three-peat premiership win in March last year.
But it was the Rhinos who stood victorious earlier this season in a 40 over fixture, putting together a dominant performance to down the champions by 97 runs.
A win against the Purples will see Deni jump up to second spot on the ladder.
Rhinos coach John Arthur said his side took plenty of confidence out of that win.
‘‘We’re under no illusions about the quality of our opposition but we now know we can beat them,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re also aware that the two-day fixture makes it a completely different game.
‘‘This clash against Nathalia is exactly what we want heading towards finals.
‘‘We want to be playing tough cricket and that’s what we’re going to get.
‘‘We have a full list available this week so we will hopefully have the side that will contest the first round of finals to get a good look at Nathalia.’’
The two-day match could be a preview of the first round of finals, with Nathalia and the Rhinos sitting second and third on the ladder respectively.
Arthur said that the Rhinos’ rise to finals cricket has sparked more interest in the newly found rivalry between the sides.
‘‘We expect they’ll hold nothing back,’’ he said.
‘‘They have star players like Luke Carter and Ash and Luke Quinn who are always dangerous, but it’s their young guns we also have to worry about.
‘‘We can’t allow players like Bailey Bell and Scott Morris to get on top of us, as both are quite handy cricketers.
‘‘We also need to avoid having Ash (Quinn) taking a bag of wickets.
‘‘He is one of the best country cricketers there is, so if we can keep him at bay then we should be fine.
‘‘A big test will also be how both sides deal with the hot weather.’’
When asked what the side would do if the Rhinos won the toss Arthur said he would like his side to bat first, despite the fact the pitch at Memorial Park has been bowler friendly recently.
‘‘I believe the best strategy is to always bat first and try to put the pressure on your opponent,’’ he said.
‘‘I couldn’t see Nathalia putting us in to bat if they win the toss, so I wouldn’t want to give them that luxury.
‘‘We’d love to see some people come down and cheer us on, too.
‘‘It’s set to be a fantastic day of cricket so a bit of encouragement is quite welcome.’’
In Division One the Rhinos will host Cobram in a do-or-die 40 over clash, while the Under 14s will be on the road to play an undefeated Cobram side for day one of their two day clash.