By Nick Creely
From a strong bowling display led brilliantly by an array of spinners, to a customary flashy display from its highly-anticipated debutant and classy hands from the club’s youth and leaders, it was a Casey-South Melbourne performance worth sitting up and taking notice of.
And Michael Wallace’s side is well and truly in the hunt, now sitting just ninth on the Victorian Premier Cricket table.
The Swans moved to a 3-2 record after a comprehensive win against Dandenong on Saturday, and from the outset it was obvious that the home side were switched on and searching for a statement win to bring in the New Year.
It was also a significant day for the club with ex-Sri Lankan champion and former national skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan making his debut for the Swans – and with over 15,000 international runs next to his name, he was always certain to make his presence felt.
After restricting the Panthers to just 6/182 – off the back of brilliant spells by left-arm spinners Ash Adihetty (1/25) and Lachie Sperling (3/29) – as well as a solid effort by quick Jackson Fry (2/43) and Dilshan (0/32 off 10) – the Swans found another edge with the bat.
The sheer class and power of Dilshan was obvious when he immediately got himself off the mark on his first ball after coming out to open with emerging star Ash Chandrasinghe, and cracked six fours and a six, including his famous ‘Dilscoop’ amidst some brutal strokeplay in his 42-ball 53 as young Chandrasinghe remained solid on the other end to frustrate the visitors.
While Chandrasinghe eventually fell for 33, skipper Michael Wallace and the experienced Jordan Wyatt consolidated the innings, with Wallace in particular looking in complete control and playing some crisp shots to race away.
The stylish left-hander crunched a run-a-ball half-century as the Swans ran away with an eight-wicket win, finishing 63 not out off 60 balls, and capped the win with a boundary.
Right-hander Jordan Wyatt also found some runs, blasting 31 not out off 25 balls in his 78-run stand with his captain.
Swans senior assistant coach Will Carr couldn’t have higher praise for the Sri-Lankan champion, believing that he has had an instant impact on and off the field with the playing group.
He said the sudden arrival of Dilshan has only added to the growing momentum down at Casey Fields, praising the 44-year-old for quickly developing a strong bond with the playing group and showing an eagerness to impart his many years of wisdom onto the club.
“Regardless of how long they’ve been out of the game and what kind of preparation they’ve had a player of that ilk lifts the group,” he said.
“We only really met him on Thursday night (at training) but it was evident he wasn’t there for himself, he was quick to start sharing information, talking to the group, finding out how the club has been travelling, where our strengths and weaknesses are.
“He just showed interest straight away, and he’s developed a really quick bond. He probably set the tone for us, and even though we were bowling he just had this energy, even though he is 44.
“He assisted in the field, and was respectful in his thoughts around field placements and changes – we’ve got a really good feeling in the group anyway, and he just added to that.”
Carr said that in particular it was a golden opportunity for talented cricketers within the club – such as boom youngster Ash Chandrasinghe – to learn off one of the most innovative cricketers of his generation, not only in how to play the game, but in attitudes and preparation.
“Ash has such a mature head on his shoulders for a young man – he works so hard on his game, and to have that reward for effort and opportunity to not only play with Dilshan, but to open the batting with someone like that, it’s huge for him,” he said.
“He’s only 10 games in to his Premier career at first XI level, and that can be easily forgotten – it’s a great feather in his cap, and those around him that are supporting him.
“Right from ball one, Dilshan was busy at the crease, he judged singles, went up and down the gears, pulled out the Dilscoop and the reverse sweeps, but when he needed to be technical he was.
“Just from standing on the boundary you could see what kind of impact he will have.
“So for Ash to stand on the other end you can only learn – if that’s a taste of things to come, regardless of Dilshan’s output with bat and ball, you can see that his attitude and how he goes about it is great for the group.”
Carr said that despite some challenges faced this season, including injury and unavailability, the vibe around Casey Fields is positive as they look to climb further up the table.
“There’s been a really good feeling around the group, we probably feel like we’ve been playing some good cricket, but not our best cricket, it’s been in patches,” he said.
“At the same time we had our chances in other games and haven’t been able to get over the line.
“We’ve had some injuries and setbacks with others going down – Lamby (Nathan Lambden) is still out injured, Chris Benedek was injured on Saturday and Dylan Hadfield was unavailable, so we certainly had a few things going against us.”
With Lambden not expected back to spearhead the attack for a few more weeks, the Swans are set to continue turning to its spin brigade, with Ashvin Adihetty, Lachie Sperling, Isaiah Jassal and Tillakaratne Dilshan all to play a vital role alongside seamers Jackson Fry and Callum Dodson over the next month.
Carr said it’s been a balancing act, but praised the bowling group’s resilience and ability to adapt to the one-day format.
“There have been some challenges – with the balance of our attack at the moment, the shorter format probably suits us a bit more, it’s a blessing in disguise,” he said.
“We probably are one or two, especially with Lamby injured, experienced quicks short – we’ve got young quicks coming through and they are developing nicely but not just at first XI level yet.
“Right now, Jacko Fry has been unlucky, he’s bowling fantastically well and really taken on the responsibility, Cal Dodson in his first year has bowled really well and will only get better, but our spinners are genuinely quality bowlers.
“Sperlo (Lachie Sperling) missed a large chunk of last year with his hamstring, and he has dropped some kilos and got really fit, and Ash Adihetty is a genuine talent.
“Ash is only 19 and developing quickly – he’s only played a handful of first XI games, but developing well and works hard at his game.”
The Swans have a stern task ahead of them this week, travelling to take on premiership fancy Melbourne Uni.