Top two for a reason

Kooweerup young gun Luke McMaster juggled this catch right up against the boundary rope to remove Lions star Dale Tormey on Saturday. 189831 Pictures: ROB CAREW

By Russell Bennett

WGCA PREMIER DIVISION

REVIEW – ROUND 12 (DAY ONE)

There are a number of factors that separate Kooweerup and Pakenham from the chasing pack in the Premier grade.

But arguably the biggest of those is depth, and specifically the spread of responsibilities through their first XI sides.

For the Lions, that was perfectly illustrated on Saturday – in their first clash with the Demons in the 2018/19 season, following a washout of their Round 3 fixture.

After winning the toss and batting, the Lions were in all sorts early.

After star all-rounder Chris Smith (8) was caught by a blinder from Demons keeper Riley Clark, and opening partner Jack Anning (8) was triggered leg before much to the chagrin of the Pakenham faithful, the home side stumbled to 2/26.

That became 3/34 soon after drinks as star recruit Dale Tormey (14) shelled a highish full toss from Mark Cooper to Luke McMaster on the mid-wicket boundary, who then juggled the catch around the rope.

Zac Chaplin (4) soon followed, caught by Mitch Cammarano lunging forward of Jess Mathers.

When Troy McDermott (11) pulled one straight to Chris O’Hara at backward square off Cooper in what was the last ball before tea, and Ben Maroney (5) followed suit off Cooper again soon after the Lions were reeling at 6/51 with three wickets apiece to Mathers (3/53 off 26) and Cooper (5/44 off 15.1) at that stage.

If the rot was to continue, surely the Demons would have built up an incredible mental edge over their rivals from the previous three Premier grand finals.

After 50 overs, the Lions were still just 6/78. But over the following 26 overs, skipper Rob Elston (28), stalwart Jason Williams (76), and youngster Dan Vela (32) affected one hell of a rescue mission for the innings.

Pakenham was ultimately dismissed early in the 77th over for 192 – a world away from the trouble of 6/51.

Williams, in particular, was vital for the Lions in salvaging their innings. His knock wasn’t chanceless, but it was super impressive and he produced it right when his team needed it most – from much lower in the order than he’s normally accustomed to batting. He dug the good balls out, while staying positive and looking to punish anything in his areas. A confident Williams is a seriously good weapon for this Lions side, given his versatility within the batting order and his willingness to do whatever task is asked of him.

Vela also batted with a confidence that belied his years – consistently finding the boundary in his short, but valuable knock.

Cooper’s brilliant all-around season continued with his second five-wicket haul for the campaign, but his most telling contribution for the match could still be yet to come as he opens up with O’Hara this Saturday afternoon. If the Demons do get in early trouble, they only need to look as far as the Lions for inspiration in their fightback.

Elsewhere around the association, Upper Beaconsfield well and truly had the upper hand on day one of its clash with fellow relegation battler Merinda Park at Donnelly Reserve.

Batting first, the Maroons enjoyed a 95-run opening stand between Imesh Jayasekara (69) and Corey Joyce (51) before Joyce was dismissed from a rarely-seen Mankad. Joyce was in fine form throughout his half-century knock – providing the sort of stability that Jayasekara would no doubt have been crying out for from the top-order. Skipper Scott Pitcher (32), and Jack McHale (29) – playing his first game of the season for the Maroons – also provided valuable runs through the middle order as the visitors reached 8/238 from their 80 overs.

Amreek Mann was the pick of the bowlers with 4/47.

Cardinia and Clyde, meanwhile, continue to be the two most confusing sides of the competition. The Jekyll and Hyde outfits have battled big-time for consistency all season to date, and the state of play after the day one of their Round 12 clash is testament to that.

The Bulls were rolled for just 75 in 58 overs on Saturday with Ben Parrott (29) top-scoring. Matthew Aslett (2/12), Daniel Lever (3/23), and Liam Bennett (4/29) were the multiple wicket-takers for the Cougars.

But they have a significant challenge on their hands to secure the win, sitting on a precarious 4/27 after 19 overs at stumps with skipper Kiefer Peries (0) and John Simpson (8) already dismissed.

In the final game of the round, Tooradin is well-placed to secure the win over Devon Meadows at home.

Batting first, the Panthers were dismissed for 138 with a number of batsmen unable to convert their starts. Luke Adams (3/25) and Dylan Sutton (3/48) claimed three scalps apiece. The Gulls will resume this week on 0/8 with openers Kade Burns and Russell Lehman the not out batsmen.

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