Monty Noble looks safe

One of the few long-standing batting records in Grade cricket belongs to Monty Noble, the Test captain whose career for Paddington spanned over thirty years.  In 1898-99 Noble achieved a batting average of 273, a mark which has never been bettered. For a few weeks before Christmas it looked as though St George batsman Damian Bourke might get close: after Round 7, his average was a monumental 528.  But of course statistics like this are anomalies- they depend on the batsman remaining not out more often than not (Noble was dismissed only twice in his record-breaking season).  Bourke's dismissal for 70 against Gordon reduced his average to a mere 202 - and, while he is in the form of his life, Noble's record seems safe for a while yet.

Jade Dernbach is back

It seems to be compulsory for English cricket fans to ridicule Jade Dernbach.  It's not quite clear why - it could be the ear-rings, the tattoos, the South African origins,  the theatrical wicket celebrations or the fact that more than a few times he's gone for plenty while bowling at the death.  But he's a nippy and resourceful bowler, good enough to play 58 times for England in short-form cricket.  Ten years ago, Dernbach turned out for Randwick-Petersham, but this season he has joined Sydney, and after a sluggish start against Northern District, he made an impression against Campbelltown-Camden, with two early wickets and an economical spell of 2-23 from his ten overs.  With the pitches starting to green up, his arrival gives the competition front-runners a useful boost.  Speaking of which...

The wickets are greening up

Sydney cricket seasons are usually divided in two - before Christmas the pitches are dry and flat and batsmen fill their boots; afterwards there's more grass on the decks and more moisture beneath the surface and bowlers get their revenge.  This is probably even more true in the lower grades, when bowlers can hope for some pitches to be poorly prepared and others to be badly covered.  And so it came to pass in Round Nine, when soaking rain was followed by team totals of 47 in Thirds (Wests routed Penrith), 46 in Fourths (Campbelltown crashed against Sydney) and 46 in Fifths (Sydney against Campbelltown).  About now is a good time to be a lower-grade seamer.

Todd O'Keefe is still with us

In that Fifth Grade match, Campbelltown's keeper-batsman Todd O'Keefe not only top-scored for the game but also (with 47) out scored the whole of his opposition.  The interesting thing about this is that O'Keefe has been playing with Campbelltown since 1985-86 - the club's first season in Grade cricket.  He has played well over 300 matches, appearing in every grade, and continues to set the benchmark for club loyalty.

And Daniel Jackson is no spring chicken either

Parramatta seamer Daniel Jackson hasn't been around quite as long as O'Keefe - he made his First Grade debut in 1990.  But although he passed his 44th birthday in November, he remains hard to get away, hits the bat harder than expected, and earns respect from First Grade batsmen.  His 2-37 from 10 overs was crucial in Parramatta's nail-biting eight run victory over University of NSW- and edged Jackson's career tally a touch closer to 650 wickets.