Newcastle District Cricket Association: In-form Toronto continue late-season surge with first-innings points over Merewether | photos

The minor premiership is still up for grabs, semi-finalists all-but decided and wooden spoon race close to sorted but Toronto wish they had another few weeks left in the 2017-2018 season.

Top four and club champions the last two summers, the Kookaburras started this campaign 0-7 but have come home with a wet sail and are unbeaten since December.

Now, following day one of the final round, they have already wrapped up first-innings points against second-placed Merewether with an outright result brewing at Ron Hill Oval but the hosts look destined to fall agonisingly short of a title tilt.

Depending on other results and their own when the current two-dayer wraps up this weekend, ninth-placed Toronto could end up finishing as high as fifth on the competition ladder but can’t quite bridge the gap to qualify for the play-offs.   

“It would be great to have a few more weeks,” Toronto skipper Adrian Chad said.

“Or even if we managed to pinch one of those one-day wins at the start of the year.

“I reckon there’s quite a few teams in the top four that are happy we’re not playing semi-finals that’s for sure.”

Chad, who has recently taken over the captaincy duties from Andrew Jeffrey (family commitments), said belief had been the key to winning six straight.  

“We probably just started to believe,” Chad said.

“Winning and losing are habits. At the start of the season we could lose a game from anywhere but now it’s the opposite and we can win a game from anywhere.”

Toronto’s fresh approach was on display with Chad the star on Saturday, taking 5-19 in 13 overs to help dismiss Merewether for 99 before top scoring on 60 and rescuing his side from 6-31 to reach 135. The visitors trail by four runs after ending up 2-32 at stumps.

“It’s a bit frustrating to know we won’t be playing finals after winning most of our two-day games,” Chad said. “But it would be good to finish with an outright against a top-two team.”

Merewether (74), missing injured skipper Simon Moore (ribs) for a second straight match, must clinch maximum points on day two to finish in top spot over leaders Wests (75). 

At Harker Oval the frontrunners and Tom Locker Cup champions could claim Wests’ first minor premiership in more than 50 years if successful in defending 269 against fifth-placed semi-final challengers University (54), who resume at 2-58.      

Charlestown (60), indefinitely minus star first-class all-rounder Saliya Salan, took a strong hold on securing third with Daniel Arms posting 152 in a total of 6-412 away against Stockton. 

Title holders Hamwicks (55), without suspended captain Josh Trappel, are poised to pounce against last-placed Cardiff and seal a top-four position after skittling the hosts for 53, declaring at 7-143 and finishing just five runs behind at the end of play. Cardiff are 2-95 in their second innings.

Elsewhere in round 14 encounters and Belmont made 347 at home against Wallsend (50) while hosts City (51) are chasing Waratah’s 317. 

LADDER: Wests 75, Merewether 74, Charlestown 60, Hamwicks 55, University 54, City 51, Wallsend 50, Belmont 46, Toronto 45, Stockton 28, Waratah 23, Cardiff 22.