By Russell Bennett
WGCA PREMIER DIVISION
REVIEW – ROUND 5 (DAY TWO)
Almost all of the attention in the WGCA’s top tier centred around Clyde’s clash with Pakenham on Saturday and just how the Lions would fare chasing the Cougars’ tricky 206-run total.
Pakenham was yet to hit peak form heading into Saturday and was facing a Cougars side looming as a likely finals threat in its own right.
But after losing Daniel Vela early on day two at 1/8, Nic Close (27) and Chris Smith steadied.
Playing with plenty of positive intent, they punished anything too short or wide with the Lineham Oval surface providing plenty of value for shots.
After batting particularly well in partnership in their 50-run stand, Close was caught by an absolute screamer in gully – bringing Zac Chaplin to the crease.
He continued right where he left off and provided superb support for Smith, who was in vintage touch.
When he’s in the kind of form he displayed for most of the day on Saturday, it seems there’s no part of the ground he can’t score in.
Arguably the best batsman to watch in the competition, Smith gave a real batting masterclass – first with Chaplin (34) and then with skipper Dom Paynter (23) before both were trapped in front leg-before by John Simpson and Pat Lawson respectively.
Smith’s stand with Chaplin, in particular, essentially took the game away from the Cougars. After 30 overs, the visitors required less than two runs an over to secure first innings points.
Though Chaplin fell in the first over after tea, he and Smith had refused to let the Cougars’ bowlers dictate to them through their stand – rotating the strike consistently and punishing anything too short or overpitched.
Paynter continued right where Chaplin left off and was aggressive right from the outset. Though he fell soon after making his start at 4/167 and Smith (90) just short of a richly-deserved ton at 5/193, the contest was done and dusted.
But the Lions still had a point to prove – that they could bat out their overs against a quality attack.
Jack Anning (38 not out) and Jason Williams (56 not out) used the remaining overs to gain some invaluable form in the middle, and both made the most of their opportunity as the Lions ultimately closed out the day on 7/296.
Both batsmen displayed the kind of impressive stroke-play that the Lions may just need from the middle and lower order come the business end of the season.
Lawson led the way with the ball for the Cougars, taking 4/78 while Damasara Menuwara was the other multiple wicket-taker with 2/56.
Though Emerald’s clash with Cardinia at Chandler Reserve will long be remembered for Bulls captain-coach Alex Nooy’s stunning second innings century, it was the evenness of the contribution across the board from his side that contributed most to their outright win.
After declaring overnight at 6/176 in reply to Emerald’s 82 all out in the first innings, an outright result was immediately on the cards.
But to the Bombers’ credit, they showed plenty of grit the second time around – surviving for 55 overs before ultimately being dismissed for 200.
Plenty of the home side’s batsmen got all-important starts, including young keeper-batsman Andy Alenson (35), Trent Rolfs (32), Jason Burns (24) and Clinton Marsh (42).
But backing up from his sensational 6/56 from 18 overs in the Emerald first innings, Bulls opening bowler Kallan Braid-Ball once again shone – snaring another three wickets to finish with the superb figures of 9/133 from 36 overs for the match.
High-profile recruit Te Ahu Davis (3/23) – who’d been battling a side strain in recent weeks – bowled for just the second time this season and snared three wickets of his own, while Travis Wheller (2/26), Dwayne Doig (1/30) and Matt Welsh (1/42) took the other wickets to fall.
Cardinia’s reply – in which they needed 107 runs from the remaining 22 overs to secure maximum points – was dominated by Nooy’s spectacular square-of-the-wicket stroke-play in an innings that he knows he’ll never replicate.
“I wasn’t really looking at the fielders – I was just hitting it,” Nooy said.
“I just saw it and hit it. I got a few away and got to 20-odd and thought to myself ‘I’m not going to stop now – I might as well keep going’.”
But Nooy admits after a lean start to his season, at one point prior to Saturday he was wondering where his next run was going to come from.
That’s what made the weekend’s knock all the more telling.
“That Emerald game was really make or break for us,” Nooy told the Gazette.
“You don’t want to look too far ahead but if we wanted to gain a bit of respect back after what happened two weeks ago (an outright loss to long-time rival, Kooweerup) we had to have a big game.
“I think our bowlers have to take a lot of the credit – Kal taking taking six wickets on the first day, and the three quicks on day two – Matty, Te and Kal.
“Look it wasn’t an overly hot day but we hadn’t played in that 26, 27 degree heat all season.
“But it all worked out – we got the wickets at the crucial times.”
The Gulls were chasing outright points of their own at home against finals aspirants, the Maroons and declared immediately after passing Upper Beac’s first innings total at 6/104 with opener Tom Hussey (40) top-scoring.
But Bathiya Perera’s side made much better going of its second innings, reaching 5/141 from 40 overs with Imesh Jayasekara (59 not out) scoring his third half-century of the season to date. Cal O’Hare (2/38) and Brayden Browne (2/14) finished with two scalps apiece.
In the other clash of Round 5 – played over Saturday and Sunday the 4th and 5th of November – Kooweerup claimed is second straight outright victory by demolishing Merinda Park at Denhams Road, 97 and 85 to 1/132 (dec) and 1/52.
Demons skipper Mark Cooper once again starred with an unbeaten 63 in the first innings and 4/11 off 14 overs in Merinda Park’s second dig.
John Bright (6/29, including two wickets in two balls at one stage) and Jess Mathers (3/39 and 3/19) were also devastating with the ball for the Demons.
By contrast, only two Kooweerup wickets fell for the entire game.
“For it (an outright win) to happen two games in a row is definitely rare,” Cooper said following the game, adding that his side had lifted its intensity and put in place some “good habits” since what he described as “a reality check” against Tooradin at home in Round 1.
Cooper said he prepared his side for Merinda Park to come out with more fire in their second innings, but acknowledged “they might’ve got bogged down even more”.
Cobras opener – and the Premier division’s leading run-scorer – Daniel McCalman was the side’s only batsman to reach 20 in the second innings.
WGCA PREMIER LADDER
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