Local cricket followers eagerly awaited the return bout of champions Balladong against perennial finalists Grass Valley at Bert Hawke 1 on Saturday.
The match between last season's grand finalists headlined Round 2 of the Northam Cricket Association 40 over competition.
Grass Valley entered the contest with a younger side than the team from last season's decider. They were missing strike bowler Bailey O'Driscoll but included a core of experienced diehards.
Balladong were similar to their victorious 2019 grand final side. They welcomed back Richard Dewar but were missing rising star Gordon Narrier.
The rest of the competition will need to brace themselves for when they field their strongest team.
Grass Valley won the toss and elected to bat in warm conditions.
Against a strong bowling attack, Valley steadfastly batted their 40 overs.
They were well served by opener Kitt Byfield, who batted through the entire innings to top score with 40 not out and defy the Balladong bowlers.
Rhys Byfield also contributed in his new role near the top of the order, adding 23.
Grass Valley reached 4 for 89 from their allotted overs. However their innings was limited by the accuracy and variety of Balladong. All of their bowlers contributed to restrict the Valley total.
The wicket-takers were Dylan Lewis (1 wicket for 4 runs from 5 overs with 3 maidens), Richard Dewar (1 for 16 from 8), Glenn Podmore (1 for 7 from 4), and Kayne Gorbig (1 for 5 from 3).
Jermaine Davis Junior went unrewarded (0 for 6 from 5).
As the long day wore on, the young Valley side struggled in the field to contain the Balladong batsmen, who amassed 7 for 188 from 37.3 overs.
Aside from some handy contributions from Davis Jnr. (30), Lewis (17), and Podmore (17), it was the returning Dewar who caused the most damage and was in sight of a century, when he was dismissed for 83.
The Valley bowlers toiled hard. The pick of whom were Glenn Smith (2 for 40 from 10) and Clancee Thompson (2 for 41 from 8.3).
Young pacer Kane O'Driscoll deserves an honourable mention for his tidy spell (1 for 16 from 7).
The other game of Round 2 was played simultaneously on neighbouring Bert Hawke 2.
Newcomers Ferals hosted Bakers Hill in a clash played in a friendly, convivial atmosphere.
Ferals won the toss and chose to bowl.
Taking to the field for the first time, Ferals were off to a promising start with a wicket in the first over courtesy of Callum Norrish.
The left armer went on to take 3 for 11 from 5 overs. He was ably supported at the other end by young spinner Fletcher Page (2 for 11 from 5).
Ferals continued to take regular wickets to deny Bakers any momentum.
Other contributors with the ball were Troy Sims (2 for 6 from 3), Jack Parmenter (2 for 9 from 3), and Max Smith (1 for 6 from 2.3).
Bakers were all out for 63, not long after the drinks break.
However, what seemed like an achievable target, would prove difficult for the young Ferals side.
Aside from a couple of silver foxes, Ferals have an average age of 15 and the pressure mounted after a shaky start.
After this writer had his stumps knocked back from the first ball faced and began the long trudge back to the sidelines, Ferals were 3 for 13, and a total of 64 for victory seemed a long way away.
Bakers continued to take regular wickets as the runs dried up, and eventually dismissed Ferals for 31 in the 25th over.
The chief destroyer was Steve Wainwright with the incredible figures of 4 for 2 from six overs with four maidens.
Ferals showed that while they were competitive with the ball, they require improvement with the bat.
Next week's fixture sees Bakers Hill host Grass Valley at Bakers Hill Oval while Ferals host Toodyay at Bert Hawke 2.
Both games are on Saturday, beginning at 12.50pm.
Balladong has the bye.
Any prospective players interested in joining a side are most welcome to contact the Northam Cricket Association via Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.