1. Gordon could be this year’s Sydney
Last season, an unheralded Sydney team surprised everyone except themselves by storming into the First Grade finals. A mixture of promising young players, journeymen and the hard-headed, experienced Dan Smith, they surged through the season on a blend of committed effort, teamwork and sheer momentum – much of which came from an exceptional start to the season. It’s too early to make predictions, but Gordon has started the new season in much the same style. It doesn’t field a very fashionable collection of players – its one first-class player (before the expected arrival of Hampshire leg-spinner Mason Crane) is all-rounder Chad Soper, and he plays for Papua New Guinea. Fairfield-Liverpool, in contrast, had four NSW representatives in its side last Saturday. But Gordon produced a great effort in the field, supporting the suffocating accuracy of Elliot Richter and Tym Crawford, who removed the potentially explosive Ben Rohrer for only two. It’s a brave man who bowls left-arm spin with the surname Junk, but Matthew, an off-season acquisition from Mosman’s Second Grade, marked his first game for Gordon’s top side by taking two cheap wickets. Gordon than battled past Fairfield’s representative new ball attack of Doug Bollinger and Gurinder Sandhu to claim the points. There’s a long way to go, but Gordon has two wins from two starts and has University of NSW (yet to win its first match) this week. As Sydney showed last season, early-season momentum can be invaluable.
2. Northern District has a handy one-day side
Northern District has bolted out of the gate this season, scoring bonus-point wins in its first two one-day games. It turned out a decidedly useful team on Saturday, including four NSW representatives. Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon bowled neatly, as did his Blues understudy, Chris Green, although the greatest damage was done by opening bowler Harry Conway, who defied the flat pitch to take 4-30 and contain North Sydney to 200. That was never going to be enough if Dan Hughes got going, and his first century of the season occupied only 98 deliveries. Andrew Harriott was even faster, blasting three 6s in his 78 from 63 balls. The target was run down inside 29 overs: off-spinner Robbie Aitken took both the wickets to fall, but gave away 46 runs from 29 balls in the process. Along with Bankstown and Sydney University, Northern District looks likely to feature prominently in the two short forms of the game this season.
3. Ayden Brown has started well
Bankstown has introduced its young fast-medium bowler, Ayden Brown, into First Grade gradually and gently over the last two seasons. In truth, he’s been promoted more on the basis of promise (he was in the NSW Under-17s a few years back) rather than for anything he’s achieved in Seconds, where his record isn’t remarkable. But the policy seems to be paying dividends this season: he followed an impressive 3-52 against St George in Round One with a lively spell of 3-26 against Manly last weekend, bowling all three of his victims. If he continues to improve at his present rate, his name will be much more familiar by the end of the season, which will prompt even more people to wonder whether his parents just couldn’t spell “Hayden”.
4. Nic Bills plays for Sydney now
An update on fast bowler Nic Bills, who seems like a veteran – he played Shield cricket for NSW five years ago – but actually is still only 24. Bills played with North Sydney when he made his State debut, but in 2014-15 he moved to Manly. It wasn’t a bad idea: Bills had a strong season, and helped his new club to a First Grade premiership. For reasons we can only guess at, he then played the following season at Mosman, which didn’t work out quite as well, and now he’s with his fourth club – Sydney – in as many seasons. Bills is a gifted cricketer with plenty left to offer, and hopefully this move will help him return to his best form. On the other hand, if he does move on again next spring, he’ll equal some kind of record by playing for five different clubs in as many seasons. That was achieved back in the 1980s by slingy fast bowler Russell Duncan, who turned out for a bewildering variety of clubs even though players were then supposedly bound by residential qualification rules. The legend was that those rules didn’t apply to Duncan, because he lived in the back of the panel van he drove to matches every Saturday. It may or may not be true, although we have seen the panel van.
5. Corey Collymore still plays
Did you ever wonder what became of Corey Collymore, the opening bowler for the West Indies between 1999 and 2007? No, we didn’t either: Collymore was a hard-working servant of West Indies cricket, who took 93 wickets in his thirty Tests, but he wasn’t the most exciting of cricketers. His open-chested action didn’t generate great speed, and he relied on accuracy and a little bit on inward movement for his wickets. After his Test career ended, he prolonged his time in the game through county contracts with Sussex and later Middlesex, for whom he last played in 2013. More recently, he’s been turning out in the Nottinghamshire League for the West Indian Cavaliers. Somewhere along the way, too, he played a few games for Parramatta, and he appeared for Blacktown in 2011-12. Anyway, now, closing in on his 39th birthday, he’s back playing for Blacktown. Whatever pace he had deserted him some time ago, but he’s as relentlessly accurate as ever: his eight overs against Campbelltown-Camden last Saturday brought only a single wicket, but cost just six runs.