CENTRAL Highlands' representative cricketers were forced into damage control during the first round of Central Queensland representative fixtures on Sunday.
Facing an in-form Rockhampton line-up and playing on an unfamiliar turf wicket, the CH visitors slumped to a disastrous 6/18 in just the eighth over.
The prospects were bleak before a late-order charge by Springsure's Tony Linklator offered a glimmer of hope.
"I think everybody was in utter shock," Linklator said.
"It was a bit of a mad scramble for blokes to get their pads on."
With almost all of his side's batting top order already butchered for less than five, Linklator took it on himself to lift Highlands from the depths.
"I just hoped to go out there and make the most the opportunities I was given," he said.
The fast bowler's 74-run score was the highest individual score of the match, and amounted to well over half of his side's 120-run first innings tally. However, it was a score he emphasised he would never had reached if not for the great support received from his fellow lower-order batsmen.
Not content with his efforts with the willow, Linklator rallied again in the second innings, keeping the runs to a minimum during his six-over bowling spell of 0/14.
Cameron Keene also chipped in with a 1/23 for the Highlands, on the back of a tidy 13-run score in the first innings.
In reply, Rockhampton easily accounted for the Highlands' total for the loss of just three wickets to secure the first-round win.
Linklator said with the region's only turf wicket, the Emerald Showgrounds, still unplayable and with all CH games thus far transferred to synthetic-surfaced pitches, the lack of exposure to the peculiarities which a turf wicket poses was clearly evident.
"The ball was moving a lot," he said.
Add to that a challenging Rockhampton bowling attack and it's easy to see why Central Highlands found the going tough in Rockhampton.
"It's a step up from our competition here in CH," Linklator said.
"They bowl some pretty tight lines… you don't have that many scoring opportunities."
Even more worrying is Rockhampton may still be yet to show its best card, with a number of key players reportedly missing from last weekend's line-up.
In the Central Highlands competition, Springsure is at home to defending premiers Clermont Bulls tomorrow.
Linklator will have to leave his allegiances at the gate, as he switches from CH rep teammate to opposition batsman and bowler for Bulls' players Rhys Williams and Dave Flower.
In other games Rolleston play Blackwater and Emerald Brothers clash with the Magpies.
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