Tom Pinson has nerves of steel
So here's the situation: Sutherland was defending a rather modest total of 217 against Sydney. Sydney never exactly raced towards its target but at 5 for 169, seemed to have the chase in hand, needing about a run a ball from the last eight overs. A Sydney win would knock Sutherland out of the top six, placing them behind the winner of the Bankstown-Easts match. But Pinson, a Yass product who made his Futures League debut this season, kept calm and maintained his line and length. He removed the dangerous Beau McClintock, caught by Jamie Brown. Another catch by Brown accounted for Alex Glendenning (whose 4-31 in Sutherland's innings showed a welcome return to form and fitness). The fall of wickets, and some tidy overs from Jake Wilson, meant that with two wickets in hand, Sydney needed 14 runs from the last over, with Nic Bills and Ryan Felsch at the crease. Bills, who has often batted well this year, immediately skied the ball to Austin Waugh, who held the catch: nine for 204. That gave the strike to Felsch, who kept Sydney in the hunt by smashing Pinson over the fence. But he could manage only a single from the next ball, and Pinson's next delivery pinned Thomas Ortiz in front of his stumps. Sutherland was home by six runs and the ice-cool Pinson (5-46) completed his second five-wicket haul of the season. Sutherland faces Sydney University in this weekend's qualifying final.
Hayden Kerr is our rookie of the year
Sydney University clinched a top three place with a ruthless demolition of minor premiers, Campbelltown-Camden, at Raby Oval. Campbelltown batted first, and never recovered after losing its first five wickets for only 69 runs to Lawrence Neil-Smith, Tim Ley and Hayden Kerr. Some dogged batting by Jarrad Burke lifted the Ghosts to 8 for 155, but the Students sprinted past that target in only 19.4 overs, with Kerr smashing 53 from 32 balls. His four sixes were impressive, but Ed Cowan went one better, clearing the fence five times on his way to an unbeaten 75 from 49 balls. Jordan Browne's only over was taken for 24, with Cowan hammering three fours and two sixes. Two seasons ago, both Kerr and Neil-Smith were members of the University team that won the Fourth Grade premiership, and before this season, Kerr had played only three First Grade matches. Saturday's effort gave him 716 runs for the year across the three First grade formats, scored at the healthy average of 40, and at a very rapid rate. Add to that 17 wickets with his left-arm seamers (on Saturday, he knocked out Phil Wells' middle stump, which is a feat not easily accomplished), and we rank him as the rookie of the year in the First Grade competition. Certainly, there have been a number of impressive young players this year - Mosman's Lachie Hearne has been excellent, as have Manly's contingent of Jack Edwards, Oliver Davies and Joel Foster ad Easts' Baxter Holt. But no other newcomer has made quite the same sustained impact on the competition as Kerr. Last season he was 12th man for University in the finals - this season, he goes into the play-offs as a key member of the side.
Gordon timed its run to perfection
At the end of Round 10, only the most extreme optimist in the Chatswood clubhouse would have suggested that Gordon would take part in the First Grade finals this season. At that points, the Stags had just lost their second game in succession, giving them the unpromising record of three wins from ten matches and a position on the table of meh. Five straight wins later, and Gordon has been the biggest beneficiary of the even nature of this year's competition, leaping into fifth spot and heading into the finals with plenty of momentum and confidence. A few weeks ago, spinner Scott O'Brien was winding down the season in a Second Grade side hovering just above the foot of the table - but since Matthew Parkinson's return to England, he's taken 4-58 and 3-37 in Firsts, so now he's an important member of a First Grade finals team. Spearhead Charlie Stobo has regained fitness and form at the right end of the season, and young opener Axel Cahlin has hit two centuries in his last four innings in Firsts. Gordon will have a tough challenge against Parramatta at Old King's, but arguably enters the finals as the form team of the competition.
Playing Randwick-Petersham will feel different next season
It was a tough weekend for Randy-Petes, who could have reached the finals in Firsts and Fourths if a whole bunch of other results went there way. Both sides controlled what they could control and got the results they wanted, but the rest of the competition failed to co-operate, so their season's over. This was harsh on Alex Kemp (83 not out from 81, with four 6s) and former Mosman player Greg West (whose 5-33 was his fist five-wicket return in Premier Cricket), who helped to pulverise Parramatta in First Grade, but it was also an anticlimactic end to two outstanding careers. David Bourke and Rod Stafford helped to secure the points in Fourths - Bourke top-scored with 35, and Stafford then strangled Parramatta's innings, returning the absurd figures of 1 for 8 from ten overs (with six maidens), to clinch victory by only four runs. Both Bourke and Stafford have been mainstays of the amalgamated club, and it won't be quite the same watching R-P's sides next season.
Revenge is sweet
Round 15, in the lower grades at least, is when the bowlers strike back. By round 15, there are several dodgy lower grade pitches around; holes in covers seem to get bigger; and several teams seem under-strength, either because players are being shuffled into grades with better finals prospects, or because too many players have dropped out. Anyway, this is when the bowlers get their revenge for the flat pre-Christmas pitches. In Fourths, Manly happily defended a modest total of 116, blasting out Mosman for just 58 (Alex Bain taking 3-9). At Asquith, a pitch which becomes vicious when even slightly damp, Northern District was knocked over for 108 but then routed North Sydney for only 48, with Nicholas Onslow grabbing 5-11. As a bowler, you wait a long time for these days. You need to enjoy them when they happen.