By Nick Creely
It was a masterclass of some magnitude.
A knock now etched into Casey-South Melbourne’s history forever.
And it was from a man that’s had such an impact on the club that his legacy at Casey Fields will go beyond just the raw stats, or the ability to wear down an opposition like few others can in the competition.
Luke Wells produced one of the all-time epic Victorian Premier Cricket knocks on Saturday, crunching 290 off 275 balls, and in the process surpassing the record for the highest individual score in club history – a record that was set in 1889/90.
It was also the highest individual Premier Cricket innings since Bill Lawry’s 282 not out in 1965/66 for Northcote.
Wells isn’t exactly immune to monster centuries – he’s cracked seven of them at Premier level in just 25 digs, and has 18 first-class centuries for Sussex. His father, Alan, also crunched 46 first class hundreds and eight List A centuries himself.
But it wasn’t all rapid boundaries for 369 minutes of his knock.
It was all about the build, the patience, picking off the bad balls and eventually punishing a tiring bowling group.
After the Swans lost young duo Ash Chandrasinghe and Aaron Fernando early, both caught behind after looking solid – and with the Greenvale Kangaroos bowling some tight lines – Wells, as well as fellow leader Nathan Freitag (57) had to really knuckle down.
The stylish Sussex star was at one point two off 22 balls, but a series of crisp strokes in succession, as well as an expert ability to work the ball into gaps quickly turned things around.
But it was his straight driving that was the feature, and even with the Kangaroos stacking the off-side field in an attempt to try and force him into a false stroke, the ball whizzed along the carpet and straight into the fence at a rapid rate.
At lunch, the Swans managed to claw its way to 2/87, with Wells skipping past the half-century and Freitag sitting comfortably on 21, and looking rock-solid in defense.
The Kangaroos had a few nice moments with the ball straight after the break, but couldn’t break a stand threatening to really take the game away, before Wells once again completely changed the momentum.
Racing into the 70s, Wells crunched one through backward point, nailed a sweet drive into the sightscreen, before latching onto a short ball and sending it to the mid-wicket boundary in three consecutive balls.
And all in different parts of the ground.
From there, it was almost inevitable that Wells would reach the triple figures as he crafted the ball into gaps and made his way to the milestone at a steady rate.
With a punch just wide of mid-off and a quick scamper through the wickets, the leftie brought up his seventh century for the club, but there was a determination for more.
And it came after tea in one of the most dominant patches from a batsman in recent memory.
Wells not only brought devastation to a Kangaroo bowling outfit that just couldn’t find a way to prize him out, but also ensured that the record-books were to be close on hand as the Swans piled up the runs.
In just a shade under a session of play, Wells scored a further 169 runs, sent over a dozen sixes sailing over the rope, and toyed with the opposition as he ticked over for the first double-century in four years in the competition.
The cars parked just outside the ground were also under threat – and not from the strong gusts of wind – but from an avalanche of power hitting.
In the midst of his extraordinary session, Wells passed the club’s all-time record for runs scored in an innings just after 6pm.
From 200 to 290, when Wells finally fell only moments before stumps searching for the triple, he piled on a further nine sixes and five fours as a rate triple-century came within reach. In total, he sent 33 fours and 14 sixes to the rope, a staggering 216 runs in boundaries.
But all good things come to an eventually, and with the score 5/470, the damage was well and truly done.
Wells told Star News Group that it was the type of innings where he didn’t feel any pressure despite starting off slowly against the new-ball.
“I’m very proud with the efforts and the score at the end of the day – it was probably the best I’ve felt in a long time, and all my movements were exactly how I wanted them, and I hit the ball exactly how I wanted,” he said.
“I just felt so in control – when I got in, and got settled, I felt like I could expand my game and go through my gears – they’re not the strongest bowling attack, but they did just keep plugging away.
“I just had fun – once I got past 200 I didn’t really care about going out, I just wanted to see how many sixes I could hit, and I just kept going.”
It was Wells’ highest score in any form of cricket he’s played, surpassing his amazing 258 for Sussex against Durham a few years ago. Despite his record-breaking knock on Saturday, the Englishman still rates his County double as his finest.
“That innings (258) is the best I’ve ever played mostly because of the situation, it was my first innings back in a good chunk of time due to a knee injury,” he said.
“I played a one-dayer against the touring South Africa team and (Kagiso) Rabada got me out first ball LBW, and they were questioning whether I should play the game with my injury, and I went and played, and got 258 which was mad.
“That was my pinnacle, but this innings was great fun as well – it was the first time in a long time that I’ve felt at the peak of my powers like in 2017 back in the UK.
“It’s exciting for me, and hopefully I can keep this feeling and hopefully move onto the English summer back home.”
Aside from Freitag – whose 57 off 127 balls was vital in Wells’ build towards the record – Lachie Sperling remained unbeaten with 59 off 56 next to his name in his 100th game at the level. Michael Wallace also batted well for his 33.
The game eventually ended a draw, with the Swans declaring overnight and the Kangaroos reaching 8/333 at stumps on a wicket described by Wells as “pretty flat”.
Despite not being able to take the 10 wickets required for victory, Wells said that the chance to pile on a monster score and have some fun out of the middle impacted his decision to not declare on day one.
“Our efforts were outstanding, and we bowled really well – the pitch just didn’t deteriorate like we thought it would,” he said.
“A part of me probably thinks we should have declared earlier, but we were just having so much fun – there was a game last year against Essendon and I declared and they ended up chasing 390 in about 70 or 80 overs, so I had memories of that in my head.
“So I thought to myself we would keep going and see how many I can get – we can’t make finals now, so we thought we’d just have a bit of fun, you don’t get many chances like that.”
The Swans will be hoping to carry its momentum into Saturday’s two-day clash with Ringwood at Casey Fields, with the action starting at 11am.