Trio crucial for Country XI title hopes

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WA Country XI men’s coach Michael Thistle believes his side are better prepared and have greater depth than last year as they look to claim the Australian Country Cricket Championship title in Geraldton, starting tomorrow.

Great Southern trio Nathan Crudeli, Zane Marwick and Jeremy Wood are among the 14-man WA side as they look to emulate the feat of the 2010-11 team who were successful when WA last hosted the tournament in Bunbury.

A strong WA side will be led by prolific batsman Jono Whitney, from Hay Park in Bunbury, while ex-Royals and Collingwood Park player Tim Hutchison is his deputy.

Thistle believes the WA Country XI being allowed to compete in the WACA Premier T20 competition is a major boost to their title aspirations.

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“I’m really happy with our preparation and we’ve got a lot more depth in our squad,” Thistle said.

“We are bettered prepared, actually playing in a proper competition, the WACA T20 competition, where the guys can gel and it really helps team dynamics.

“I’m very excited.

“We have a great balance of older guys and young talent in our squad, but it’s a tough schedule with only one real rest day.”

Wood has overcome a hamstring injury to be fit to play in the championships and Crudeli is returning to full bowling duties following a back complaint. But they, along with Marwick, are key figures in the WA side, according to Thistle.

All three Great Southern products will be at their second championships after playing last year in Wollongong.

“I’m hoping they all hit their straps,” Thistle said.

“Zane will be our back-up keeper but most importantly will be at the top of the order in the T20s and one-day stuff, and hopefully he can bat long periods and the rest bat around him.

“We will definitely be looking for Nath to open the bowling in both forms.

“Jez will probably have a more important role with the bat through the middle overs, but is a very handy first-change bowler as well.”

Crudeli has made more than 300 runs locally this season at an average of above 50, but has bowled just 13 overs with the ball for one wicket. Marwick is averaging 21 with the bat in all formats in the ACA but has been brilliant with the ball, taking 18 wickets at 10.1.

Wood has made 216 runs in all forms at 36 and has been solid with the ball as well, snaring 11 wickets at 15.8.

The WA men’s side play New South Wales and Queensland first-up tomorrow in the T20s before facing Victoria and East Asia Pacific on Saturday and then South Australia on Sunday with the one-day action starting next Tuesday.

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