There are no clean sheets left
Two unbeaten teams went in to the final Grade round of 2015, and both suffered their first setback of the season. Sydney University’s Third Grade side conceded 9-250 to Bankstown at St Paul’s Oval, which was more or less a par score, and looked to be moving towards another victory at 4 for 152 after Jack Holloway and captain Ash Cowan repaired an early collapse. But Bankstown has Darren Etteridge, a player with plenty of First Grade experience, in its side, and he followed up a hard-hit 65 with the wickets of both Holloway and Cowan. Bankstown ended up the clear winner by 41 runs.
In First Grade, Sydney needed some late swiping from Nick Govers to reach 209 from its 50 overs at the Village Green, which seemed inadequate until Tom Ortiz removed the in-form Charlie Wakim, and Nathan Sowter accounted for David Dawson. Spinners Sowter and Ben Manenti choked the run-rate and the home side slumped to 4 for 46. Ben Wakim – consistent and under-rated – compiled a tidy 52 to steady the innings. The decisive knock, however, was played by Nicholas Walker, who has hovered between Firsts and Seconds for about five seasons without ever quite establishing himself in the top grade. This season, he’s playing better than ever, and his unbeaten 79 gave University of NSW the points in the final over of the day. So, a memorable day for Walker, and an excellent win for the Bees, but the way in which Sydney fought throughout the day was proof that its success this season has been no fluke.
And North Sydney has broken its duck
Someone was always going to come away happy from Pratten Park on Saturday, as both Western Suburbs and North Sydney went into the game in search of their first points of the season. Kent batsman Fabian Cowdrey did all he could to get Wests across the line, stroking 72 from 91 balls and bowling his ten overs of left-arm darts for only 22 runs. But the decisive blows were struck by Dave Guthrie, who followed his 3 for 34 by coming in at number ten with 13 runs needed and settling the issue by launching opening bowler Geoff Ashmore over the fence.
Mark Stoneman is in good touch
Over the last few seasons, Bankstown and Sydney University have been the two most successful 50-over teams in Sydney, andSaturday’s contest was as tight as expected. The match-winner was Durham opener Mark Stoneman, who actually played two distinct innings on the day. In the Powerplay, he essentially played baseball, squaring up and trying to cross-bat the ball into right field. There were a couple of home runs, a fair few strikes, and from his first 35 deliveries, Stoneman carved 35 runs. But then the unlucky Ben Joy and the excellent Will Somerville dragged University back into the game with some suffocating bowling, and Nigel Cowell and Tim Ley worked through the middle order. Stoneman changed gear, occupying the crease and taking the responsibility of guiding his team home. He ended up carrying his bat through the innings, facing 133 balls for his unbeaten 84, and clinching victory by two wickets. With the First Grade table still congested, his innings was the difference between third place for Bankstown and a spot outside the top six. In his two innings for Bankstown this season, Stoneman has amassed 226 runs, and no-one has got him out yet.
This one’s unusual
On Saturday, Bankstown’s opener Ethan Leten hit a return catch to Tom Kierath. becoming the Sydney University spinner’s 200th victim in Second Grade. What’s unusual about this is that Kierath also has 200 wickets to his name in First Grade. He’s the first player to do this for Sydney University, and one of very few from any club to achieve it. The reason why it’s rare is logical enough – anyone good enough to take 200 First Grade wickets doesn’t play all that much in Seconds unless something unusual happens. It happened at Bankstown in the 1980s and 1990s when the club had three of the best left-arm spinners in Sydney. Ken Hall had a mortgage on a First Grade place, so David Freedman and Paul (“Straws”) Talbot took turns to play Seconds, even though they both excelled in First Grade when they appeared there. Freedman and Talbot both passed 200 wickets in each of the top two grades. In Kierath’s case, he spent much of his time at University behind slow bowlers like Jamie Stewart, Greg Matthews, Stuart MacGill and Will Somerville. It’s a feat that requires an unusual mixture of talent, endurance and – an increasingly unusual commodity - club loyalty.
Alan Hansen would hate Sutherland
Alan Hansen played football 26 times for Scotland, but he’s best known as the television pundit who announced, in 1995, that Manchester United could not expect to have a successful season because “you win nothing with kids”. Those kids – who had names like Beckham, Scholes, Giggs and Neville – proceeded to win everything in sight over that year and the next few. No-one seems to have told Sutherland that you win nothing with kids. On Saturday, Green Shield batsman Luke Hawksworth made his First Grade debut against Campbelltown and compiled an invaluable 22 not out to lift Sutherland to 9 for 155. That gave teenage spinners Devlin Malone (5-30) and Riley Ayre (2-38) enough runs to conjure up a 27-run victory. Sutherland has an unusually gifted crop of young players at the moment – it will be interesting to see what happens if they can hold them together.