By Russell Bennett
WDCA DIVISION 1
REVIEW – ROUND 1
A new era at Ellinbank under new coach Ben Spicer is off to the perfect start as the Eagles recorded a commanding first-up win over Neerim District to open their Warragul and District Cricket Association Division 1 season.
The Stags, last season’s Division 2 champions, got off to an encouraging start away to Ellinbank as wicket-keeper batsman Nathan Bayne (67) recorded an impressive half-century from the top of the order.
While Bayne was the side’s only batsman to pass 30, there were a number of other contributors who helped propel the score past 190 (9/191) from their 40 overs.
Luke Rogers (3/29 from his five overs) and Sean Masterson (2/39 from his eight) were the multiple wicket-takers for the Eagles who were set a particularly challenging first-up target.
Or so it seemed.
Setting about the chase, openers Troy Ferguson and Matt Farthing were simply sublime in a 153-run opening stand that took the game right away from the Stags in startling fashion.
Ferguson justified the pre-season hype surrounding him with a commanding 77 as he started the season in a real purple patch of form.
But Farthing wasn’t to be outdone – unbeaten on 89, his highest Division 1 score, with Spicer (11 not out) also at the crease for the game’s closing stages as the Eagles recorded a big win – 1/194 in just 34.3 overs.
Western Park, meanwhile, also got its 2018/19 campaign off to the perfect start with victory away to Hallora.
Batting first, the Warriors amassed 7/181 from their 40 overs with skipper Sam Batson (31) and Daniel Sheehan (44) top-scoring.
The Warriors got off to an unconvincing start, losing a string of wickets in the opening overs, but the experienced Sheehan wouldn’t be dictated to – smashing three commanding sixes.
New Kangaroos player-coach Malinga Surappulige was the home side’s leading wicket-taker with 4/33 from his eight overs.
Hallora lost two quick wickets in its reply – stumbling to 2/17 – before James Vela (47) and Fraser Duncan (19) combined to steady the ship.
But an impressive caught-and-bowled effort by Warriors skipper Sam Batson (1/17) to remove Vela triggered a middle-order collapse from which the Kangaroos simply couldn’t recover as they were ultimately dismissed for 141.
Sheehan capped off a strong all-around performance with 3/35.
Buln Buln got its Division 1 title defence off on the right foot with a three-wicket win at home over Drouin, but the Lyrebirds hardly had it all their own way.
Batting first, the Hawks slumped to 4/51 with the loss of new skipper Sam Van Der Zalm (2) and 5/83 with Jamie Glen’s dismissal for 25.
But two of Drouin’s favourite sons – Jake Harper (44) and Paul Timewell (35) – were key in helping get the innings back on track to ultimately reach a defendable 7/156 from their 40 overs. Seamer Ryan Bishop (3/35) was the pick of the Buln bowlers.
The Lyrebirds’ chase got off to the best possible start with openers, keeper-batsman Jack Armour (37) and Wilson Pollock (35) combining for a 53-run opening stand.
Armour, in particular, looks primed for a huge season off the back of an impressive stint in the UK.
But the Lyrebirds hardly had the chase all their own way as they stumbled to 4/85 and then 7/138 with the loss of skipper Bryce Monahan for 12.
But the home side’s middle to lower order kept its composure right when it mattered most to record an important win at 7/163, thanks in large part to Max Kelly’s unbeaten 38.
In the remaining clash of the opening Division 1 round, Jindivick marked its return to the WDCA’s top flight with a five-wicket win away to Yarragon.
After losing an early wicket, the Panthers responded courtesy of 59 from Gayan De Silva and 48 from Nuwan Perera.
Despite both ultimately falling to Craig Boswell (2/35), they were key in their side reaching 6/182.
The Jumping Jacks’ reply got off to a troubled start – losing keeper-batsman Sean Viotto (12) and Caleb Boswell (9) early – but they rebounded in style, courtesy of telling knocks from former Pakenham youngster Greg Interlandi (32), newcomer and former Kooweerup premiership player Dananja Madushanka (29), and the unbeaten pairing of skipper Steve Dillon (48) and Hussain Ali (32) as they reached their target with around an over to spare.