By Russell Bennett
WARRAGUL & DISTRICT CRICKET ASSOCIATION
DIVISION 1 REVIEW – ROUND 5
Western Park spinner Asantha Singappuli worked his magic in tandem with skipper, paceman Sam Batson to rip the heart out of the normally rock-solid Ellinbank top order on Saturday to send shockwaves through Division 1.
Batting first on their home deck, at one stage Ellinbank had slid to a precarious 3/13 before the rot continued at 4/26 with the loss of Nick Fairbank for just eight.
At that stage, none of the ‘big four’ of Troy Ferguson, Matt Farthing, skipper Ben Spicer, or Fairbank had reached double figures – courtesy of the work of Singappuli and Batson, the latter of whom was breathing fire, as evidenced by a rising ball that hit Fairbank in the face.
All things considered, it was impressive that Ellinbank could even muster 125 inside 45 overs, given the calamity that faced the top order.
Daniel Pandolfo was the biggest reason for Ellinbank reaching triple figures as he top-scored with a fighting 58. By contrast, none of his team mates could even reach 15 as Batson finished with 3/22 and Singappuli 3/9.
And it was with the bat that Western Park piled even more misery on Ellinbank, with Sanjaya Gangodawila exploding at the top of the order with four booming sixes as he set the tone with an explosive 44.
Three of those maximums came off the opening over of Sean Masterson to virtually clinch victory then and there.
But, not to be outdone, Singappuli capped off a brilliant all-around game with a better-than-a-run-a-ball 51 – including four sixes of his own – as Western Park reached 3/128 in just 29.3 blistering overs.
Elsewhere, in Hallora’s clash on home turf against Buln Buln, 14-year-old Lyrebird Patrick Ireland had one hell of a day to remember – ripping through the Kangaroos’ middle order to claim 3/31, including two wickets in two balls as he combined with the super-experienced Corey Jagoe to reduce the home side to 9/66.
But from there, the home side saw a partnership that ultimately proved vital in stealing victory from the seemingly iron-clenched jaws of defeat.
Former Zimbabwean international Natsai M’Shangwe (47) combined with former West Gippsland paceman Lauchlan Gregson (18 not out) for a vital 56-run stand for the 10th wicket that gave them something to bowl to.
But in their chase, the Lyrebirds seemed comfortable – particularly at 1/46. But men of the moment M’Shangwe and Gregson had other ideas, cutting a swath through the Lyrebirds to skittle them for an astonishing even 100 in a shade over 42 overs. Gregson finished with 3/40, and M’Shangwe? An incredible 4/7 from nine overs of simply bamboozling leg-spin.
While Hallora would clearly have a few concerns on the batting front at this stage, the side is clearly shaping as the big improver of the WDCA top flight.
But on the flipside, last year’s grand finalist Buln Buln must be left wondering where it’s all gone wrong to this point of the season.
Garfield-Tynong, meanwhile, recorded a vital home victory in the context of its season – defeating the Stags by five wickets.
Batting first, the visitors were restricted to 123 in a shade over 44 overs, with only Ash Lockett (41) laying any sort of serious foundation with the willow as Sayeed Shah (2/17), AK Tyrone (3/25), and Grant Pearson (2/21) posing a consistent threat with ball-in-hand.
In reply, Matt Dodman led the Titan charge from the top of the order with a steady 45, while Tyrone added 21 and skipper Tate Burgmann 15 as the home side reached 5/124 in the 40th over.
In the remaining game of the round, reigning premier Drouin was no match on home turf for the inspired Yarragon.
Batting first, Drouin reached 7/182 from their 45 overs – led by a steady string of contributions by Malcolm Dow (28), skipper Trevor Gardiner (31), Sam Van Der Zalm (28), and Simon Gardiner (39 not out).
But, as they so often are, the Panthers were led by a brilliant knock by star skipper Gamini Kumara in their reply. His unbeaten 92 – complete with 14 boundaries – steered the visitors home for the loss of just two wickets in the 41st over.