By Nick Creely

Dandenong’s rollicking start to the season continued on the weekend, with the Panthers sitting atop the Premier Cricket ladder after eight rounds.
With the season moving into two weekends of Twenty20 cricket – with both Saturday and Sunday games – the first weekend couldn’t have gone any better for the Panthers.
On Saturday, the Panthers’ match with Melbourne was abandoned at the Albert Ground after just 13.1 overs, with storms across the city forcing a premature end to the clash.
But it was Sunday – this time baked in sunshine – that the Panthers showed nerves of steel to defeat Prahran and cement their standing as the team to beat.
Down at Shepley Oval, Panthers captain Tom Donnell elected to bat, and the home side got off to a perfect start, with Brett Forsyth (22) and Donnell (11) getting off to a swift start and finding the boundaries, but the True Blues snared the pair in quick succession to force the Panthers into a middle order stumble.
The Panthers lost 5/32 – including the key wickets of James Nanopoulos (7), Steven Mullaney (8), Lincoln Edwards (10) and Ed Newman (1) to be hanging precariously at 7/69.
Akshat Buch proved he’s no slouch with the bat to compile a quickfire 18, while Peter Cassidy (11) and Darren Pattinson (12) helped get the Panthers to an underpar – yet competitive 112.
And as the Panthers are continuing to showcase to the competition, they are capable of winning from any position.
With energy high and the bowling tight, the Panthers defended the modest total in stunning fashion, with Cassidy (3/22), Jak Jowett (2/21), Pattinson (1/21) and Nanopoulos (1/11) restricting the True Blues to 7/109 at the end of their allotted 20 overs.
Skipper Donnell was proud of his side’s fight, and resolve to win at all costs.
“The main message (in the field) was just to never give up no matter what the situation of the game is,” he said.
“And to the guys credit that’s exactly what happened.”
Donnell admitted it would have been a nice challenge for his group to play out the game against the Demons on Saturday, but couldn’t be any prouder of the performance on Sunday.
“It would have been a big challenge for us against a good side (Melbourne), but it was a very pleasing win on Sunday,” he said.
“We didn’t make as many runs as we should have but the bowlers and fielders did an awesome job restricting Prahran.”
And there is no stopping the momentum, according to Donnell, who wants to keep winning in a competition where finals spots are so precious.
“I’m very happy with the start to the year, it’s important to bank as many points as you can early on and we’ve been lucky enough to do that,” he said.
“With the ladder so tight we need to keep winning to reach our aim of playing finals.”
The Panthers will play Footscray on Saturday and Fitzroy Doncaster on Sunday, in what looms as a challenging weekend.
The news wasn’t so pretty for the Panthers’ rivals in Casey-South Melbourne, who suffered two losses over the weekend to remain winless and anchored down the bottom of the ladder.
Up against Carlton at Casey Fields on Saturday, the Swans snared prized scalp Evan Gulbis with the first ball of the game to give them the dream start.
However, it was only a brief moment of joy in a tough 90-minute fielding stint, with Blues’ opening batsman Brayden Stepien (108) belting a glorious century – a knock that included seven sixes – to guide the visitors to a match-winning 4/202.
Talented youngster Mackenzie Harvey (50) also played a solid innings for the Blues.
Nathan Lambden (2/20) tried in vain as the Blues dispatched the Swans to all parts of the ground.
And despite some fight by Jordan Wyatt (47) – who looked aggressive, compact and willing to take on the bowlers – the Swans finishing on 9/120 – with clumps of wickets in the middle once again denting their chances of victory.
On to Sunday, and the Swans travelled to play Greenvale – a side in a similar position down the bottom of the ladder – and disappointingly fell in comfortable fashion.
After winning the toss and batting, the Swans found no flow in their game once Joel Mitchell (1) and Wyatt (2) fell in the first two overs, and scratched their way to 8/95 off their 20 overs.
A classy 48 not out to James Rosewarne made the chase for the ‘Roos a simple one, with the home side banking the victory with three balls and seven wickets to spare.
Jackson Fry (1/18), Jonah Serong (1/11) and Dylan Hadfield (1/14) all bounced back with the ball for the Swans.
With the Swans now moving to an 0-8 record, they will look to claim their first points of the year with matches against Northcote on Saturday and Melbourne Uni on Sunday.
Ellinbank ended the day in a strong position against Yarragon, with 12 wickets tumbling at Dowton Park on Saturday.
After winning the toss and batting, Bankers openers Matthew Farthing (55) and Troy Ferguson (34) got the visitors off to a perfect start, compiling 47 runs before Jake Green (6/42) snared the breakthrough wicket.
Green kept taking wickets as the Bankers’ middle order struggled to find runs, and after 68.3 overs, were bowled out for 162.
The Panthers were unable to remain unscathed after batting eight overs at the end of the day, with Will Robertson (2/3) taking two early scalps to leave the home side 2/6 at stumps.
Down at Eastern Park, Buln Buln compiled a hefty 6/287 against Western Park, with Jeff Walsh (121 not out) making a stellar century.
Walsh came in to the crease with his side at 4/48, and with fellow bat Brent Eastwell (90), crashed the boundaries to put on 141 runs together.
When Eastwell fell just 10 runs short of a century, Walsh kept the runs flowing, putting on another 91 runs with Jack Noonan (28 not out)
Longwarry (147), meanwhile, is locked in a close battle with Hallora (1/24), with Crows batsman Dylan Serong (51) making a classy half century.
Drouin has the bye.
Endeavour Hills shared points with Box Hill at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday, with wet weather forcing stumps to be called early on day two.
After the Eagles scored 262 off the back of a brilliant century to Harry Johnson (160), Box Hill could only put together 52 overs of cricket, scoring 4/142 before storms sweeping across Melbourne took over.
However, after sharing the points, the Eagles are now off the bottom off the ladder.
Noble Park, however, were able to chase down Ormond’s 188 on day two before the storms, winning with four wickets left in the shed.
Mevan Fernando (70) and Jake Richardson (60 not out) found runs for the Parkers.
The struggling Dandenong women were outclassed by a powerful Prahran unit on Saturday at Shepley Oval, going down by 120 runs.
The True Blues had a bat first, and notched up a commanding 6/234 off their 50 overs, with Erica Kershaw (89 not out) and Annabel Sutherland (61) finding the boundaries with ease.
Sophie Molineux (3/41) battled hard for the Panthers.
And the Panthers were unable to recover from three early wickets to be bowled out for 114 in 35.5 overs.
Kim Garth top scored with a patient 18 at the top.
Pearcedale posted one of its most empathetic victories in a number of years, defeating Sorrento in clinical fashion.
The Panthers looked at ease when they returned to the crease at 1/60, in pursuit of the Sharks’ total of 98, and Chris Dew (76) and Billy Kennedy (81) wasted no time in surpassing the first innings.
The pair slammed on 137 runs to blow the Sharks away, before late cameos to Matt Cousland (25), Kaine Smith (35 not out) and Jarryd Herbert (36) saw the Panthers finish the day on 6/283 off 94 overs.

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