By Russell Bennett
WGCA PREMIER DIVISION
REVIEW – ROUND 5 (DAY ONE)
Once again, Mother Nature had the last laugh in a rain-marred start to Round 5 of the WGCA’s Premier division on Saturday.
With most competitions throughout the region washed out entirely, West Gippsland saw play – albeit with most of its divisions heavily-affected by the wintry conditions.
With rain impacting games less than 15 minutes away at both Pakenham and Tooradin, Cardinia and Kooweerup remarkably got a full day’s play in at E. Gunton Oval.
The Bulls won the toss and sent their arch nemesis Demons in on a pitch offering plenty by way of variable bounce.
But with a damp outfield and light showers a constant throughout the day, the ball soon resembled a cake of soap – proving difficult for a number of Bulls bowlers to control.
Star Kooweerup captain-coach Mark Cooper and young protégé Tyler Clark feasted at the top of a new-look order for the visitors, with Chris O’Hara now batting in the middle to lower order and Jess Mathers missing the clash due to a wedding this weekend.
Clark and Cooper put on 123 for the opening stand, laying the foundation for a potentially mammoth total.
Both navigated the tricky opening overs before producing a series of expansive drives and horizontal bat strokes to have their side seemingly well on top.
But, despite being rarely sighted with ball in hand at the level before – particularly in recent times – Bulls captain-coach Bradey Welsh took it upon himself to claw back some of the momentum for his side.
He and the super-experienced Justin Berry combined for 38 of the near 79 overs bowled for the day, and took a series of wickets at key stages to restrict the Demons to 236. Welsh finished with the particularly impressive figures of 4/56 from his 21 overs, while Berry claimed 3/58 from his 17. Spinner Travis Wheller was the other wicket-taker with 3/42 from his near 21 overs.
Clark was dismissed for 43 just as he seemed set, while Cooper went on with his start to record yet another century – and a crucial one against a club at which he’s a household name.
But when he was dismissed – caught at mid-wicket by Ryan Little off Welsh for exactly 100 at 5/171 – there was still plenty of work to be done.
Shaun Donnelly followed at 6/176 but then O’Hara (36) combined for an invaluable 51-run stand with Farhan Hussain (25) to drive the total well beyond 200.
O’Hara seemed to be relishing his newfound role as a middle-order enforcer – hitting consecutive boundaries, including a thumping six over mid-wicket, to bring up the 200-mark.
While the Bulls clearly have their work cut out for them on day two, they did particularly well to dismiss the Demons for 236 given Clark’s and Cooper’s opening stand.
Kooweerup knows just how vital the wicket of the in-form Alex Nooy will be this Saturday, particularly with Mathers missing from the attack.
Elsewhere on Saturday, after a delayed start, the Seagulls got to work with the willow to amass 9/251 in 68 overs against the Rebels in Tooradin.
With Matt Cox and Kade Burns missing from the lineup, Aaron Avery opened with great mate Russ Lehman and got off to a strong start – scoring 34 runs of their 53-run opening stand before he was ultimately bowled by Pardeep Boyal (1/21).
Lehman (41), skipper Cal O’Hare (43), and Josh Lownds (20) all got starts and made valuable contributions for the Gulls before all-rounder Dylan Sutton – in his first game for the season – recorded an unbeaten 60 in impressive style.
Sunny Paul finished with 4/59 from his 17 overs, while Tom Smith claimed 3/44.
At Pakenham, just 44 overs were bowled with Devon Meadows finishing on 3/111. They’ll bat for a maximum of another 16 overs on day two, before Pakenham begins its 60-over chase.
Kyle Salerno (43) and Lucas Ligt (41 not out) are the pick of the batsman so far for the Panthers, with Ligt and Mick Floyd resuming with the willow on day two. Spinner Jason Williams (2/30) has two of the three wickets to fall so far for an attack missing skipper Dom Paynter (knee soreness).
In the remaining match of the round, Clyde has the upper-hand against the Cobras at Donnelly Reserve in Cranbourne.
Batting first in yet another rain-affected clash, the Cobras finished on 5/95 after 52 overs on day one with star players Daniel McCalman (20) and skipper Jarrod Armitage (4) both falling to in-form seamer Pat Lawson (2/18 from nine overs).
Thuduwage Kumara (36) and Sasindu Perera (7) will resume this week for the Cobras.