Bears off to bright start

Jordan Cleland drives for Berwick on his way to 48. 198809 Pictures: ROB CAREW

By Nick Creely



It was only a small sample in an incredibly long season, but what is obvious is that both Berwick and Springvale South are going to once again be formidable cricket sides this season.

The new-look sides went head-to-head in an early season blockbuster at Arch Brown Reserve, with both clubs recruiting heavily in the off-season and looking drastically different in many respects, something that makes them seem all the more unpredictable.

The Bears won the toss and elected to bat, and openers Jordan Cleland and Matt Chasemore got off to a perfect start, knocking up 74 for the first wicket, and looking comfortable against the new-ball attack of Akshay Ballal and Tim Ford, with the pair finding the boundaries and rotating the strike superbly.

But not before Bloods spinner Jarryd Straker (4/22) turned the tide in a momentum-swinging spell.

Skittling Chasemore for a well-made 33 off 46, Straker struck two balls later to remove Josh Holden, before only overs later sending recruit Ruwantha Kellepotha packing and Cleland on his way for 48 in a stunning spell that saw the Bears slump to 4/89 and in need of a late push.

The control of Straker, and his ability to make something out of nothing was once again on show, with the left-arm tweaker once again proving just how influential he can be.

That late, and all important late push came through Lachlan Brown, however, who crashed the boundaries on his way to a decisive 41 not out off 51 balls, with the Bears scrambling its way to 6/164 off its 40 overs.

Cleland, in particular was eye catching, and could be a player on his way to a true breakout season after crossing over from Cranbourne a couple of years ago, and with the departure of Nathan Pilon (retired) will be vitally important at the top of the order for Chasemore’s star studded side.

Aside from Straker, who has started the season brilliantly after a tremendous 2018/19 campaign, debutant Sam Wetering (2/31) snared a couple of wickets in a promising opening game.

The Bloods were cautious in the early stages despite Nathan King sending two deliveries to the fence in the opening James Wilcock (1/22) over, with fellow opener and overseas skipper Ateeq Javid (35) – who has played 43 first class matches – looking solid in defence in a ripping opening spell from Wilcock and Bears champ Jarrod Goodes.

Brendan Rose (2/25) was the man to kickstart things for the Bears, snaring the dangerous King for just 18, before working their way through the top-order to leave the game in the balance at 4/91.

But the Bears were unrelenting as the Bloods desperately chased some momentum, with the spinners doing the damage in the middle overs to snare an important early-season win with the visitors bundled out for 119, losing their last five wickets for just 26 runs.

Spinner Kellepotha (2/14) was vital with his control and looks to be a huge addition after crossing over from St Mary’s, while Rose, Cory Bevan (2/22) and Isaiah Jassal (2/27) did some damage late as the Bears sent a reminder of their class with ball in hand.

Narre South, meanwhile, got its promotion to Turf 1 off to the perfect start in a nail-biting win against Heinz Southern Districts at Reedy Reserve.

The Lions elected to have a bat in their first game in the DDCA’s top flight, notching up 166 after some late fireworks from Rumesh Rangana (31) lifted them to the competitive total.

Josh Dinger did the bulk of the damage with the new ball for the Cobras, taking 3/21 off his seven overs, while Chandima Abeykoon (4/26) rattled through the tail to get his season off to a bright start.

There were plenty of tense moments after the Lions got off to a hot start with the ball, with the Cobras in a bit of trouble at 2/9 in the early stages of the chase.

But the home side clawed back through skipper Kaushalya Weeraratne (43) and Michael ‘Slick’ Davies (29) to set-up a grandstand finish, with the champion pair controlling the middle-overs and finding the boundaries when required.

However, with just two runs to win off the last ball, Tim Phillips (3/35) snared the wicket of Trent Downe to give his side a memorable victory, and one that will be used as a crucial building block for a huge Turf 1 season.

In the remaining matches, reigning premiers Buckley Ridges (3/157) raced down St Mary’s (9/153) total with ease to start their premiership defence in style, with captain-coach David White starting with a bang, contributing a run-a-ball 81.

The Bucks had the Saints on the ropes after recruit Jerome Jones (2/34) and Daniel Watson (2/9) tore the top order apart, before a brilliant 81 from Junaid Kari lifted the home side to a competitive, but clearly underpar 9/153.

White’s champion side found the runs with ease, rattling along to get the points with 11 overs to spare and seven wickets in the shed, with the captain-coach sending the ball to the rope 11 times, including four sixes.

Susa Pradeep also contributed with an unbeaten 40, while champion all-rounder Daniel Watson blasted 25 opening the batting.

In the final game of the round, Hallam Kalora Park (3/90) also soared to a comfortable win against North Dandenong (88).

Steve Gilmour (29 and 2/17) and Leigh Booth (28 and 2/12) were strong contributors with both bat and ball, with the Maroons starting the season off in disappointing fashion.

Batting first, the Maroons could muster up just 88 with the bat, with the Hawks finding the runs in just the 24th over.

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