1 Jason Sangha is earning his reputation
The guests at Western Suburbs’ 120th anniversary dinner last week were warned by the former Test bowler Rodney Hogg that Cricket Australia’s talent manager, Greg Chappell, was scouring the country for promising young embryos to sign up before they ruined their cricketing potential by being born. It could have been Jason Sangha he had in mind – signed by Cricket NSW at only 16, Sangha made his List A debut for the Cricket Australia XI earlier this season, when he had precisely one First Grade fifty to his name. The young Newcastle batsman’s promise is obvious, but there have been grumbles in the background that some of the game’s rewards have been bestowed too easily upon a player who had done relatively little outside age-group cricket. The best way for Sangha to answer these murmurs was to score runs for Randwick-Petersham, which he did under the most testing circumstances on Saturday. Chasing Bankstown’s modest 182, Randwick-Petersham slumped to four for 40 against an attack that included, improbably enough, four fast bowlers with first-class experience – Nathan McAndrew, Aaron Bird, Alister McDermott and Mitch Claydon. Sangha produced his most impressive performance yet for his club, batting for almost two hours, hitting nine fours and a six, and reaching 60 from 89 balls before he fell to spinner Jarrad Burke. He added 71 for the fifth wicket with James Psarakis at better than four runs an over, a stand that decided the match and lifted Randwick-Petersham into the top six. Even Rodney Hogg would have been impressed. Maybe.
2 Ed Cowan still knows how to clear the fences
2002-03 was a memorable season for Sydney University: it won the First Grade competition for the first time in 89 years, and two young batsmen engaged in a season-long tussle to see who could hit the ball over the fence most often. It ended in a tie – Kevin Pietersen and Ed Cowan each finished the season with 19 sixes in First Grade. As Cowan later remodelled himself so effectively as a risk-averse opening batsman, it bears repeating that early in his career he was often accused of playing a touch too freely. At the University Cricket Ground on Saturday, Cowan played positively enough as he and Nick Larkin chased a bonus point against Northern District – their century partnership was posted in only the 23rd over. But no-one was quite ready for what followed. The 24th over of the innings was sent down by off-spinner Tom Felton, who has been consistently economical all season. Larkin took a single from the second ball; Cowan slaughtered the next four for 4, 6, 6 and 6. Bonus point achieved, with Cowan hitting four sixes altogether in his 74 from 74 balls. University displaced Northern District as the competition leader with an emphatic all-round display. The pace attack of Tim Ley, Tom Rogers and Ben Joy stifled the top order and wrecked the tail; Greg Mail prised out two important wickets; and spinners Devlin Malone and Ashton May sent down 15 overs between them, taking three wickets and allowing only 39 runs. Larkin and Cowan chased down the target so efficiently that batsmen as dangerous as Ryan Carters, Damien Mortimer and Mail were not required. University has lost only 50 wickets in nine matches this season: batting at five in this team can be very frustrating.
3 Mason Crane is a major asset for Gordon
Half-way through his season with Gordon, English leg-spinner Mason Crane is becoming an increasingly valuable asset to his club, as he develops impressively into an all-rounder. He dominated the match against Parramatta, first by holding the lower order together with a fighting innings of 51. He added 35 for the last wicket with Charlie Stobo, runs that were vital in a low-scoring game. Then he struck twice, quickly, with the ball, removing Will Affleck and Tim Ward as Parramatta slumped to five for 82. But, with its place in the top six at stake, Parramatta fought hard, and Trent Crittenden took the attack to Crane, hitting a rapid 62. Crane absorbed the punishment, kept his length, and worked through the lower order to collect 5-66. Gordon squeaked home by 22 runs and if anyone is happier than the Chatswood Oval supporters, it’s the Hampshire County Cricket Club, which will gain the benefit of Crane’s progress in the English summer.
4 Hawkesbury is always good for an upset
Hawkesbury is tracking in eleventh place now, within reach of the top six but never quite in it. The Hawks seem to find ways of losing games to teams that they’re capable of beating, before springing upsets against sides that look stronger on paper. Sydney became the latest team to learn how dangerous Hawkesbury can be, going down by two wickets in a tight struggle at Drummoyne Oval. Aamir Jamal (3-44) removed the dangerous Joe Denly, and Josh Clarke enjoyed a rare triumph with the ball, wrapping up the Sydney innings to take 4-14. Hawkesbury stumbled towards its target of 178, but a mature and composed innings by Corey Lowe clinched victory with two overs to spare. The result means that Sydney has dropped out of the top six, and that only eight points separate third place on the table (38) from eleventh (30).
5 Some days you just get them
Tas Yazdani has been a consistent grade cricketer for more than a decade now, capturing over 350 wickets for Mosman and Eastern Suburbs, but without ever threatening to break any records except as the grade player whose name scores the highest in Scrabble (edging out Ben Dwarshuis). Before Saturday he had taken a dozen wickets this season in Seconds for Easts at an average of about 25, which is pretty much what you’d expect – solid, reliable, unexceptional. But on Saturday he took the new ball against Fairfield-Liverpool and caused havoc. In his first spell, he removed Chris Jones, Mitchell Williams and Nick Johns to leave Fairfield reeling at 3-10, but then he was withdrawn from the attack by captain Kevin Pillay, whose undoubtedly cunning plan allowed Fairfield to recover to reach five for 158. Then Yazdani got his hands on the ball again, and wrapped up the innings by dismissing Zac Johns, Jeremy Maher, Nathan Smith and Chad Sammut in rapid succession. Fairfield was all out for 163, leaving Yazdani with the kind of figures rarely seen outside the under-14s: eight overs, five maidens, five runs, seven wickets. His own explanation for his success was that “some days you just get them”, and who could argue with that?