by Jim Timberlake
Geelong Cricket Club has slipped to 11th on the Premier League ladder following its loss last round to Fitzroy Doncaster.
The Cats face a crucial clash against 10th-placed Northcote this round, with both clubs fighting to keep in touch with the top eight.
The Cats were never in the contest last week, not claiming a wicket until after their score of 203 had been passed.
Asked to bat again the top order made a better fist of it, reaching 3/133 at stumps with Hayden Butterworth the top scorer on 40*, to avoid outright defeat.
In Geelong Cricket Association, the division one season is shaping up as one of the closest in many years, with just one game separating third and eighth on the ladder.
Lara showed they belong on top following their defeat of East Belmont.
North Geelong sits in second place despite lowering its colours to Murgeboluc last round, while third-placed Grovedale were unable to defend 257 against Leopold, which has found some good form.
Perhaps the most important game this round is at Leopold, where the Lions will host South Barwon.
Both sides boast genuine match-winners and are starting to hit their straps after a slow start to the season.
The winner here will most likely move into the top four, while the loser will no doubt rue a missed opportunity and find themselves back in the chasing pack with a lot of ground to make up.
Selections: LEOPOLD v South Barwon, MURGHEBOLUC v Newtown & Chilwell, Bell Post Hill v NORTH GEELONG, LARA v St Josephs, Grovedale v EAST BELMONT
In division two a two-day game is scheduled, and with ladder leader Bell Park taking on second-placed Geelong City, this could be the best game seen in the division for many a year.
Bell Park thrashed Manifold Heights outright last week, while Geelong City destroyed Highton in a nine-wicket win.
For the Dragons, Mitch Trask is in fantastic form with the ball, and will be the key against the incredibly strong Sharks top order, particularly with Richie Oliver making yet another century last week.
While City’s form has been a bit patchy, they appear to be hitting their stride, and if they win here, as expected, it will send out a clear message that they are the team to beat this year.
Selections: St Peters v MARSHALL, TORQUAY v Manifold Heights, GEELONG CITY v Bell Park, HIGHTON v Modewarre
As in division two, a top-of-the-table clash is scheduled in division three, with Newcomb & District hosting Alexander Thomson in a game where both sides will be keen to flex their muscle.
Newcomb & District is yet to taste defeat this season, thrashing Bannockburn in its latest win.
Jason Robertson starred with the bat making a heartbreaking 99 as Newcomb chased down 166 with ease, going on to finish all out for 292 in a percentage-boosting performance.
Alexander Thomson is also yet to lose, with Jack Clapham and Jake Mundy its best players in recent weeks.
This game could go either way, but Newcomb & District might just have a couple more players in form than the Vikings.
Selection: NEWCOMB & DISTRICT v Alexander Thomson, GEELONG WEST v Corio, Lethbridge v ST ALBANS BREAKWATER, THOMSON v Waurn Ponds-Deakin, GUILD SAINTS v Bannockburn