Two weekends are left to play in the Toyota Minor League Cricket Championship regular season, and this upcoming round will go a long way to determining which two teams from each division stay alive and reach the final eight for the playoffs. While there are fewer matches this weekend than last, the intensity and pressure at this stage will reach another notch. Let’s take a division-by-division look at who has to win this weekend.
Let’s be clear: it’s going to get wild in the Eastern Conference. The division has been intensely competitive since week one, with six of the top eight teams in the Atlantic Conference power rankings coming from the East – showing how closely fought many of the matches have been. Five of the Eastern teams boast a positive Net Run Rate, a claim none of the other three divisions can make, and six of the teams still have a shot at the top two playoff spots with only two rounds of games to go.
According to the power rankings model, it’s likely a three-horse race at this point between the Stallions, Titans and Philadelphians. For the third-placed DC Hawks to prove that wrong – and after all, they do have points in the bank – they must win versus the Philadelphians on Saturday at Howe Athletic Complex. The Philadelphians themselves will be desperate to win to keep pace with the Titans and Stallions. It’s a big weekend for the Titans, who play three games to catch up in games played on the schedule – so far, on a points-per-game basis, they’ve been strong, but they’ll need to prove it over those matches with the Eagles, Yorkers and Cavaliers to remain in the hunt.
Only four games take place this weekend in the Southern Division, but it could still be enough to complete the playoff picture. Both the Morrisville Cardinals and the Atlanta Fire can clinch playoff berths with a win this weekend, a scenario likely to happen as they play each other first on Saturday morning at Atlanta Cricket Fields. In the long run, that match is more likely to be significant in determining who takes the division title and a more favorable match-up in the first round of the playoffs.
Over in the Pacific Conference, it’s perfectly poised in both the Central and Western Divisions for a tooth-and-nail fight to the finish: in both, three teams are genuine contenders, with only two from each going to the playoffs.
A delightful schedule quirk means all three of the contenders in the West, the Grizzlies, Strikers and Blazers, face the same opponent first this weekend, the competitive fourth-placed Thunderbolts, who get to play kingmaker. The big match-up of the weekend, though, comes on Sunday when the Grizzlies face the Blazers: the winner will likely be sitting pretty heading into the final round of matches.
There won’t be much action in the Central Division this weekend, with only three games scheduled, and the Cricket Stars taking the weekend off. That makes it imperative for the Hurricanes to record positive results against the Irving Mustangs on Saturday and in a top of the table clash with the Austin Athletics that could go a long way to determining a division winner on Sunday at Prairie View Cricket Complex. A pair of defeats for the Hurricanes would have Michigan poised to strike on the final weekend.
How will this all shake out? Watch all the matchups live on YouTube to find out!