By Tyler Lewis and Nick Creely
AROUND THE GROUNDS
VICTORIAN PREMIER CRICKET
Dandenong’s narrow loss to Carlton was a perfect description of how the Panthers season has unfolded to date – just inches away yet again.
The Panthers resumed the day on the ropes, with the Blues 2/41, needing 94 to win, but as he has done all year, James Nanopoulos snared early wickets to put his side back into a competitive position, and he dragged Jakeb Thomas along with him who also claimed an early one.
At a balanced position, the Panthers were eyeing the scalp of Evan Gulbis who has carried his Carlton side to victory on so many occasions.
When Pete Cassidy sent Gulbis packing, and Suraj Randiv broke his steady partner in crime Donovan Pell, the Blues wheels begun to shake, and at 8/115, Dandenong smelt blood.
With ball in hand, Randiv threatened to tear the game open and give the Panthers an emphatic victory that could kick start their season into gear with four extremely winnable games either side of Christmas ahead.
With two runs needed to for the Blues to win and one wicket for Dandenong, Randiv skipped in with the match’s fate in his right hand.
Tailender Matt Wilson sent the off-spinner to the fence to secure the first innings victory before he claimed his wicket soon after, handing the Panthers an agonising defeat.
The Panthers were sent back into bat for a second time where Tom Donnell (26 not out) and Brett Forsyth nudged the ball around for 55 before Forsyth departed for 34 and the match was called by both captains at tea.
Dandenong will be hoping to pounce on Kingston Hawthorn this week at home if they are to make a late charge at the top eight – but in almost another description of the Panthers season, it seems rain will deprive them of the opportunity this Saturday.
Casey-South Melbourne, meanwhile, were unable to defend 329 against a St Kilda side at the Junction Oval boosted by the inclusions of Australian and Victorian players Nic Maddinson, Marcus Harris, Peter Handscomb, as well as recent Victorian debutant Jon Merlo.
While the Swans fought hard, and certainly learnt a lot about what it takes to bowl consistently at top-grade batsmen, it was actually one of the rare non-contracted opposition players that took the game apart – elegant opener Damon Egan.
Declaring overnight, Egan – as well as recent Ashes opener Marcus Harris – strode to the crease with plenty of vigour.
Egan was solid early, playing straight and getting used to the pitch, but Harris – with his class through the off-side – was causing havoc with his driving, and brought up a 51-ball half-century with a superb flick off the pads to the longest part of the ground.
Making matters worse, seamer James Maxwell was done for the day early with a side-strain, leaving the Swans’ bowling stocks a little shallow.
Just as the leftie looked set for a monster afternoon, debutant Jordan Hammond snared his maiden first XI wicket, and it will sure be a memorable one, with Harris slicing a ball straight into the sure hands of Joel Mitchell at backward point to bring up the first wicket.
Returning from a break for mental health reasons, Nic Maddinson – who was on the verge of Test selection before opting out of the game for the last month – looked largely untroubled from one end as Egan slowly built into his innings.
Slamming on 118 runs for the second wicket, the pair was pure class, dispatching anything too short and launching into cracking cover drives when the ball was overpitched.
But much like Harris, Maddinson was removed for 58 looking to clear the ball over the mid-wicket boundary off Josh Dowling (1/62), bringing Peter Handscomb to the crease.
And in a superb 30 minutes of pressure bowling, spearhead Nathan Lambden picked up a double-strike, dismissing Peter Handscomb – once again from a top-notch catch from Mitchell in the covers – while Merlo was rushed by the pace and top-edged a ball to be removed within three balls.
But at 4/219, needing a further 111 runs to win, the depth and star power of the Saints was on display, with Egan looking impenetrable in defence and classy in attack as he inched closer to a century.
Despite Hammond snicking off skipper Adam Crosthwaite, rookie contracted Paddy Rowe (28 not out) and Egan guided the Saints home, with the opener ticking over for his third ton at the level.
Egan finished with an unbeaten 137 off 205 balls, a knock featuring 20 fours and two sixes as he continues to build into a strong Premier Cricket career.
Despite the tough loss, Jordan Hammond showed brilliant signs in his debut to finish with 2/62 off 21 overs, Nathan Lambden charged in all day to finish with 2/85, and Josh Dowling kept the lines tight with 1/62.
The Swans will tackle Camberwell Magpies at Casey Fields this Saturday as they look to return to the winners list.
VICTORIAN SUB-DISTRICT – EAST/WEST
Endeavour Hills registered its first win of the cricket season, in a morale-boosting victory against Croydon on Saturday.
After a tough start to the season, the Eagles took on a potential finals contender, and showcased some excellent signs for the future.
The Eagles field first, restricting Croydon to a gettable, but still tricky 9/172, with star all-rounder Brian Kulasena snaring 3/29 from his eight overs.
And in an all-round team effort, the Eagles – sparked by a half-century from Manav Malik (52) and a series of 20s in the middle order – got the runs with a few overs to spare and with six wickets still left in the shed.
Noble Park (5/199), meanwhile, went down to Werribee (4/201) at Pat Wright Senior Oval.
WOMEN’S PREMIER CRICKET
Dandenong were on the end of some redemption by Carlton-Brunswick after the Panthers dismantled them convincingly in a Twenty20 fixture only weeks ago.
In that match, the Panthers out batted the Strikers comfortably, but this time Dandenong were unable to get enough runs on the board to claim victory.
The Panthers set the innings and it couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start losing star player Maryam Omar in the first over.
The Panthers were in some trouble at 8/65 but some impressive tail wagging from Poppy Gardner (22 from 23) and Zoe Burke (19 from 22) helped Dandenong to a competitive total of 113.
In reply, the Panthers could snare their wickets in clumps, ultimately leading to the Strikers claiming victory with six wickets in the shed.
Skipper Emma Gallagher was reliable with the ball once again with the figures 1/13 from eight overs, while Alanah Mison also bowled well with 2/19 from seven.
MPCA – PENINSULA
Pearcedale is poised to be relegated two competitions in as many years after club legend Chris Dew famously elevated them after an outright defeat to second last placed Moorooduc on Saturday.
The Ducks chased down the Dales bleak first innings total of 102 six down and went on to set 222.
In reply, the Dales needed 120 to surpass the Ducks and give themselves a chance to catch Moorooduc later in the season but could only manage 110 as only three batsmen could score double figures.
The Dales now sit two wins behind the Ducks who are second last and now are primed for a double relegation.
In some strong news for the club, left-arm quick Kaden Latcham is set to follow in his former coach Mitch Andrew and join him at the Dales from Tyabb during the week, a handy addition to the Dales bowling stocks.