By Russell Bennett
WGCA PREMIER DIVISION
REVIEW – ROUND 5 (DAY TWO)
They’ve got the depth with bat and ball, they’ve got the mixture of youth and experience, and they’ve got the proven track record over a hell of a long period of time now when it comes to winning the biggest games.
And yet the Demons could be just about to get a whole lot scarier.
After making it through the final overs of day one against Tooradin unscathed – after dismissing the Gulls for 184 in the 69th over – the Demons passed their total six wickets down on day two on Saturday.
They then batted out the remainder of the day’s play to finish on 8/290 – with a host of their youngsters getting some invaluable time in the middle.
But it was skipper Mark Cooper’s unbeaten 151 that was the highlight of the innings. It’s also his highest score in Demons colours so far, surpassing both the 145* and 141* he made against Merinda Park and Cardinia respectively in the 2016/17 season.
In 43 games across all competitions for Kooweerup so far, he’s scored 1850 runs at an average of 61.67.
He and Chris O’Hara have already put on four 100-plus run opening stands so far in their time together at Demonland, and in Round 5 they combined for a 78-run partnership to set up the win – with O’Hara adding 40 of those.
Cooper said his great mate looked particularly strong at the wicket before his dismissal, while also praising the likes of Mitch Cammarano (26) and keeper-batsman Riley Clark (21) for their knocks later in the innings.
For Tooradin, Dylan Sutton was undoubtedly the pick of the bowlers – finishing with the super-impressive figures of 6/81 from his 29 overs, including taking the first four wickets of the innings.
In the wake of the clash, Cooper was quick to praise his side’s brigade of youngsters – who all seemed primed to take significant strides forward in their development.
And that’s exactly what makes the current Demon crop so scary for opposition sides – the improvement still to come from the ladder-leading, two-time reigning Premier grade champions.
The four changes to their premiership-winning XI from last season – Tyler and Riley Clark, Lauchlan Gregson, and Tiron Fernando – are all exciting, potentially long-term prospects.
Cooper said it was important they got the chance to have some valuable time in the middle on Saturday.
“Tooradin did it last year and we had no dramas with what they did last year – they needed guys to have a hit,” he said.
“We were six down when we passed them so we were still under pressure even just to pass the score, and to Tooradin’s credit they did really well and stuck at it.
“It was a really good hitout for us all day and it gave some other people an opportunity to get a hit at this time of the year when you’re playing a fair bit of one-day cricket.”
Cooper said the enthusiasm of Koowee’s young guns and their hunger to improve was contagious among the rest of the group – even its established members.
“They’re really driven and always wanting to improve, and that’s the exciting part,” he said.
“They’re really good to play alongside, but they’re really good people as well. You know they’ll be good people in society, and good people to be around.
“It wasn’t about them coming over in the hope of winning a flag – because who knows who’ll win the flag? You can’t predict that. What they wanted to do was come over and improve as cricketers, and whatever that brings us it brings us. We all want the success that every other club wants. A lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen, but what we can do is improve them as cricketers and that’s the reason they’re coming.”
Cardinia, meanwhile, capitalised on its performance on the opening day of its clash with Pakenham by dismissing the, albeit undermanned, Lions for 168 on day two.
Jack Anning (30) and skipper Rob Elston (43) combined for an 80-run opening stand on Saturday, but their partnership made up the bulk of the resistance as Troy McDermott (35) was the side’s only other batsman to pass 20.
Kal Braid-Ball (2/34) and Brady Boswell (2/25) were particularly impressive with the ball for the young Bulls, while Ryan Little (5/32) finished with a stellar five-wicket haul.
Nooy said Boswell’s and Little’s performances, in particular, were game-changing – with the Lions at one point stumbling from 0/80 to 3/86.
“We stuck to our game-plan, stayed patient, and kept on believing,” Nooy said.
“I told my boys to back up the bowlers and field extremely well, which they did.”
Nooy said his group would continue to strive to make E. Gunton Oval a fortress as they make yet another finals push.
In the remaining games of the round, Devon Meadows and Clyde each recorded thumping away wins over Upper Beaconsfield and Merinda Park respectively.
But neither the Panthers nor Cougars were able to record potentially telling outright wins.
The Cougars’ (5/157 declared) steady start to their innings late on day one against the Cobras left them with an uphill battle to secure outright points on day two, but by the close of play they still had Merinda Park at 5/99 in its second innings (after being dismissed for just 76 in the first innings(.
The Panthers (7/220 declared) were led by an impressive third straight half-century from the in-form Kyle Salerno (93) as they stormed past the Maroons’ 124-run first innings total.
And two quick wickets in Upper Beaconsfield’s second innings (5/132) had an outright result well and truly in play until a steadying stand between the experienced Daniel Brennan (52) and skipper Scott Pitcher (35) intervened.