By Nick Creely
Inspired by the great James Nanopoulos, Dandenong has put together a truly stunning Victorian Premier Cricket quarter finals performance on Saturday.
The Panthers – who finished seventh on the table – completely stunned second-placed Melbourne at the Albert Ground in beautiful conditions, bowling with tremendous discipline before holding their nerve with the bat and booking itself a semi-final showdown.
As he has done so remarkably well through his glittering career, Nanopoulos set the tone with the ball after Cam White and his star-studded Dees won the toss and elected to bat.
But ‘Nano’ had other ideas against an in-form and dangerous batting group.
Bowling with his trademark stump-to-stump line, the right-arm dynamo never strayed as the home side struggled to get going, quickly slumping to 4/24 and with White, Blake Thomson and Jack Prestwidge all key scalps back in the shed.
Some brief fight from Meyrick Buchanan (36) saw the Demons lift itself from 5/34 to 71, before Pete Cassidy (3/21) rummaged through the late order to have the home side completely stunned and with just 87 left to show for it.
Nanopoulos was sublime, bowling eight maidens in his 10 overs to snare figures of 3/7.
In white-ball cricket, that’s not only unheard of in regular circumstances, but in finals cricket, that’s at a whole new level.
He is within sights of a 40-wicket season for the Panthers, with 37 next to his name at an average of 12.
Cassidy was also at his consistent best to take three scalps, while Adam McMaster – who snared the key scalp of Dees skipper Cam White – also bowled well to net 2/26.
The Dees were never just going to hand the Panthers the victory.
After taking the most wickets in the competition during the regular season as a tea, tension was palpable as champion openers Brett Forsyth and Tom Donnell fell in the opening two overs, with the Panthers 2/1 and urgently needing to spend some time at the crease to consolidate.
While Josh Slater (11) and Ed Newman (14) managed to knock a few around, the Panthers fell to 4/31.
Then ‘Nano’ entered the Albert Ground, this time with bat in hand.
With Comrey Edgeworth (10) and Pete Cassidy (12 not out) in support, the great all-rounder cooly slapped an unbeaten 38 not out, with five boundaries complementing his brilliant hand.
His knock was enough for the Panthers to crawl across the line with five wickets left to spare.
It was a stunning day of results in the other matches – Fitzroy Doncaster (eighth) knocked over raging premiership favourites Carlton (first) at Princes Park, Geelong (fifth) got home in a thriller against St Kilda (fourth), while Prahran (third) thrashed Melbourne Uni (sixth).
The win for the Panthers sets up a semi-final clash against Geelong this Saturday, with the winner to take on Prahran or Fitzroy Doncaster in the grand final on 17 April.
Dandenong’s second XI also won its quarter time against Melbourne Uni at Shepley Oval by just one wicket, with Braden Taeuber (18 off 15 balls) the hero as the Panthers got home off the final ball of the match, while the thirds did enough to defeat Footscray at Windy Hill, with Lachlan MacCorquodale crunching 71 in the victory.