Blacktown is on a roll

The youngest club in the Grade competition is enjoying a surge towards the First Grade finals, winning five of its last seven games (and drawing the other two). There have been some handy scalps in there – table leaders Bankstown, Manly and, last round, Easts.  This success has come more from solid teamwork than exceptional individual efforts – the club’s most successful bowler in Firsts is Matthew Bursa, with only 13 wickets, while its leading run-scorer, Simon Keen, has 469 runs to his credit.  But contributions have come when they’ve been needed.  Easts roared away to a phenomenal start (one for 209) before leg-spinner Gabriel Joseph collected five wickets to limit the total to 320.  Keen (119) led the chase but it was a composed 62 not out from wicket-keeper Tim Doonan that steered Blacktown to the points.  Blacktown may lack stars, but they’re playing with plenty of confidence and momentum.  And, for good measure, the Second Grade side is only one win out of the top six.

 Rain messes things up

A number of sides hoping to stay in touch with the competition leaders endured the frustration of watching the rain wash away their chances.  Campbelltown-Camden and Penrith were unable to bowl a single ball at Raby Oval; Sydney slipped from first place when rain hit Owen Earle Oval.  Sydney University outplayed Parramatta, with Liam Robertson compiling an impressive hundred and Nick Larkin and Mark Faraday weighing in with high-class innings, but the loss of over forty overs across the two days left the Students unable to force a result on a very flat pitch.  With more rain on the way, this won’t be the last time this season that results are impacted by the weather.

Rain really messes up Northern District

It’s hard to know what more Northern District could have done in Second Grade to win some points against St George.  61.3 overs of play were possible at Mark Taylor Oval, and in that time the home side limited St George to seven for 178 before setting off on a frenetic chase.  Openers Dan Friedrich and Neil Kimberley slammed 100 runs from 75 deliveries before the rain came – but the rain brought the game to a close.  It’s hard to recall a more dominant performance in recent times that was rewarded by precisely no points.  The draw keeps Northern District just outside the top six in Seconds, five points behind a rather lucky St George side.

Cook has given Wests an edge

Western Suburbs may be enduring a tough season, but the side has continued to improve throughout the year, and the attack looks decidedly stronger with the addition of former NSW Country leg-spinner, Jonathan Cook, who joined the club in January.  In his first three matches, Cook (who had recently been playing in the Illawarra competition) has snared 2-47 against Penrith, 4-40 against Hawkesbury and 6-94 from 30 overs against Fairfield-Liverpool.  Fairfield appeared set to overhaul Wests’ total of 329 when openers Wendell Delpechitra and Dean Attard built a partnership of 207, but Cook maintained consistent accuracy and pressure, and reaped the rewards when the middle order tried to force the pace.  Wests will need Cook to be at his best this weekend, when they visit Bankstown.

Stephen King is unlucky

No, not the guy who writes books about people getting carved up by supernatural creatures or disgruntled housekeepers: the one who opens the bowling in Third Grade for Sydney.  King’s season has been nothing to get excited about – before Round 11 he had six wickets at an average of 35.  But the pitch at Benson’s Lane 2 was distinctly ordinary, and after Sydney was rolled for 92, King took the ball for the second over of Hawkesbury’s innings.  First he trapped veteran Michael Goeke lbw, then hit the pads of keeper Lawson Clark, and completed his hat-trick when he had Mitch Stevens caught by Jackson Edwards.  At the start of the next over, James Pike took another wicket, so Hawkesbury’s total was four wickets for two runs.  But Hawks captain Dean Laing – who is nearly as old as Goeke – stopped the nonsense with an unbeaten 55.  So: you wait all your career for a hat-trick and to have your opponents 4 for 2, and you lose.  Unlucky.