By Russell Bennett
WARRAGUL & DISTRICT CRICKET ASSOCIATION
REVIEW – ROUND 13 (DAY 1)
Neerim District is on the verge of a monumental upset in the top tier of the WDCA after the opening day’s play against Western Park on Saturday.
Batting first at home, the Stags amassed a strong 267 before being dismissed in the 68th over.
Skipper Jack Ward and Rhys George (22) started promisingly at the top of the order – combining for a 48-run opening stand – but from there the Stags stumbled to 3/66, courtesy of the spectacular runout of Nathan Bayne (13) by Sanjaya Gangodawila.
With Bayne’s scalp, the home side steadied as Ward added 52 for the fourth wicket with Kody Wilson (19). But Wilson was followed back to the sheds soon after by Aaron Fawcett (0), which once again had the home side searching for answers at 5/124.
But that brought the Ward brothers – Jack and Matt – together for a rescue mission that spanned 103 runs before they were removed in consecutive balls at 227, Matt for an impressively aggressive 57, and Jack for a superb debut WDCA Division 1 ton (111).
Jack now leads the Division 1 run tally with an impressive 513 to his name so far in a standout 2018/19 campaign.
Though the final five Stags wickets fell for just 40 runs, the home side will enter the second day’s play full of confidence after rattling the Warriors’ top order to its core late on day one.
The final 19 overs of the day’s play were arguable the most intriguing as Western Park tumbled to 4/42 at stumps with Joel Batson (4), Leigh Diston (20), Matt Wakefield (1), and Luke Gilbert (1) already dismissed. Skipper Sam Batson (8) and Jason Croft (5) will resume this week.
Though the Stags are still seventh on the ladder, nine points adrift of Hallora, Yarragon and Drouin in the battle for fourth, they’ve won four of their past five games.
Elsewhere, Ellinbank is firmly in the box seat in its clash away at Hallora.
Batting first, the home side lost a steady stream of wickets right through the innings to be dismissed for 163 in 64 overs. While a number of batsman got off to double-figure starts, only Aidan Phillips (34) could pass 30 as Nathan Pulham (2/24), Michael Pandolfo (2/2), and Tom Robertson (2/18) claimed two scalps apiece.
Hallora’s somewhat modest total would have been far smaller if not for a vital 39-run last wicket stand between Phillips and Craig Byrnes (14 not out).
Ellinbank will resume at 1/44 off 13 overs this week – sitting second on the ladder, but just six points clear of the three-way log-jam for the fourth and last finals spot.
Trevor Gardiner, meanwhile, scored his second career first division hundred as Drouin piled on 274 on the opening day’s play against Yarragon at Dowton Park.
With everything on the line in the race to the top four, the visiting skipper’s knock was simply sensational – continuing on from the strong top-order work of Damon Healy (37) and Sam Wyatt (59). Despite the best efforts of gun off-spinner Nuwan Perera (4/70) and Paul Harvey (3/39), the Panthers have it all ahead of them this week if they’re to return to the top four. They’ve got the batsmen to post big scores, but the time to do it is now.
In the final match of the round, Buln Buln is in the box seat to cement its finals position in its clash with Jindivick.
After losing Morne O’Donoghue (13) early, the Jumping Jacks rebounded to be 1/77 off the back of a strong performance from Greg Interlandi.
But when he was bowled by Jackson Noonan for 59 at 5/126, the visitors fell spectacularly to be all out for 171.
Interlandi’s wicket fell as part of a telling middle-order collapse that at one stage saw the Jumping Jacks lose 5/10. Noonan claimed 4/44 from his 15 overs, while Brent Eastwell (3/38) and Max Kelly (3/32) claimed three wickets apiece.
The Lyrebirds will resume this week at 0/29 from their first nine overs.
Finally, the WDCA ‘Wild Dogs’ got off to a flying start in their Division 3 VCCL Melbourne Country Week campaign on Monday – securing a five-wicket win over Seymour and District at Victoria Park.
After rolling Seymour for 128 in the 45th over courtesy of three wickets to Troy Lehman (3/22) and two apiece to Sam Batson (2/28), Nuwan Perera (2/23), and James Williams (2/13), the WDCA reached the total five wickets down (5/129) in the 35th over with Ben Spicer and skipper Fraser Duncan scoring 32 each.
At the time of going to print, the Wild Dogs were in a strong position to capitalise on their first-up win as Sanjaya Gangodawila recorded the first ton of their campaign against Hamilton District on Tuesday.