There's more room in the air
Not strictly Round 7, but it's hard to ignore Shane Watson's performance in Sundays' Kingsgrove Sports T20 semi-final for Sutherland against Mosman. Allan Border Oval is a small ground with a flat pitch, where batting records always look a bit vulnerable, but even so Watson's furious 114 not out from only 53 balls was exceptional. Mosman actually started the game well, reaching 2 for 111 with Scott Rodgie blasting 72 from 51 balls and Johan Botha 36 from 33. But Watson made his first intervention to remove Botha, after which Mosman limped to 8 for 150 - slightly below par. Watson hit the first ball of Sutherland's innings for 4 (the only four he hit) and then took only four runs from his next seven balls, showing plenty of respect to Danul Dassanayake's off breaks. But from his next 46 deliveries, he hit 110 runs, 96 of them by clearing the fence 16 times. He reached 50 from 29 balls (7 sixes) and 100 from 50 (with 14 sixes). Shortly after he reached fifty, he drilled the ball straight to Botha at long-on, but the ball bounced from the former South African captain's chest over the fence for yet another six. Sutherland didn't lose a wicket until Jarryd Biviano fell to George Crowe with the total on 149, and Watson hit the winning runs with a ridiculous 28 balls to spare.
Watson had never hit as many as 16 sixes in a senior match before, and it seems to be a record for Sydney First Grade cricket in any of the three formats. In 1906-07, Test fast bowler Tibby Cotter smashed 16 sixes in a furious innings of 156 for Glebe against Waverley. It's true that the legendary Victor Trumper cleared the fence 22 times while scoring 335 (in a single afternoon) for Paddington against Glebe on 31 January 1903. But at that time, hits over the fence scored only five runs (and Trumper had to change ends each time he hit one), so technically the record for sixes stands with Cotter and Watson. According to Tom Iceton, font of all knowledge on Sutherland cricket, Watson also passed the record for the highest T20 score for Sutherland, previously held by a certain Steve Smith.
All of which meant that another impressive performance was overlooked. In the midst of the run-scoring orgy, Sutherland opening bowler Jake Wilson took 4-23 from his four overs, playing a key role in holding Mosman to 150 - especially by removing Dan Hughes before he scored. On pretty much any other day, it would have been a man-of-the-match effort.
Jack Preddey had a day out
It's taken a while for Jack Preddey to find his feet in First Grade. He started out with Randwick-Petersham, one of his father's old clubs, then moved on to share the misery of Campbelltown's 2016-17 season, and has now turned up at Easts, taking the spot left vacant by Jonte Pattison's move to Northern District. His opportunities at Easts have been limited by the team's batting strength and the form of the side's senior spinner, Will Somerville. But last Saturday, he seized the chance to make a decisive impact on the game, going to the crease when the score was five for 152, with Easts in urgent need of a boost from its lower order. Preddey cracked an unbeaten 60 from 52 balls, sharing a rapid unbroken stand of 67 for the seventh wicket with new keeper, Sam Mullens (who hit 26 not out from 16 balls on his debut). Daniel Nicotra and Josh Hilder gave Blacktown's chase a decent platform with an opening partnership of 51, but then Somerville (4-36) and Preddey (4-39) ran through the innings. Easts' comfortable victory left them in second place on the First Grade table, while Preddey could celebrate two career-best efforts on the same day.
Oliver Pope is one to watch
It seems as though half the cricketers in England are in Australia at the moment, in one touring squad of another, pouring beers over each other at The Avenue (short for "aven' you had enough?") or playing for club sides in the hope of being called up into one of the squads where they pour beers over each other. This isn't entirely fanciful - remember Scott Borthwick being summoned from Northern District to play a Test at the SCG? Anyway, flying a bit under the radar at Campbelltown-Camden is Surrey's 19 year old keeper-batsman, Ollie Pope, who made a strong impact on the county scene in 2017. Fresh from Cranleigh School, Pope hit an unbeaten 100 against Hampshire in only his third County Championship match and showed plenty of invention in the T20 games. He hit 114 against St George in only his second game for the Ghosts, and on Saturday he helped Philip Wells (97) chase down a tricky target against Gordon, notching 72 not out from 90 balls. Wells and Pope added 159 for the third wicket and were brutal on Charlie Stobo - the Blues fast bowler leaked 60 runs from only 6.4 overs. Campbelltown held onto top spot in First Grade, and Pope continued to give the impression that he may be back in Australia with a touring team before too much longer.
We need to talk about Nick Bertus
Hawkesbury's total of 204 was never going to be enough to challenge Parramatta once Tim Ward and Nick Bertus got going on Saturday, and the two batsmen probably regretted that they didn't have a few more to chase, since Ward finished up on 98 not out, with Bertus unbeaten on 90. That pushed Parramatta into the top six, and it also gave Bertus 502 First Grade runs this season at an average above 100. Which follows a series of highly prolific seasons for the left-hander. And a Futures League season in which, so far, he has hit 251 in three innings without being dismissed. It seems puzzling, and a little troubling, that New South Wales cricket doesn't appear to offer much opportunity for such a consistently successful performer. Not to pick on Nic Maddinson, a gifted player who no doubt would score runs by the truckload if he played club cricket regularly, but in the five Shield games so far this season, he has scored 177 runs at 17.70 without reaching fifty once and without ever appearing in danger of losing his place. Selections are never easy and often controversial, but there are times when it would be comforting to see a more direct correlation between performance and reward. One obvious example: last season, Tom Rogers won a premiership with Sydney University and was named the Toyota Futures League player of the season, but was somehow judged not good enough to win a State contract. So he went to Tasmania. That's the Tasmania that just beat New South Wales by ten wickets in Hobart, where Rogers took 2-37 and 3-32. So far this season he has 15 wickets at 16.06 from four Shield games. It would be no surprise if Bertus were thinking about whether he needs to move to win more recognition.
The smart money is on Clark
Here's a trick to bear in mind when spot betting takes off in Sydney Premier cricket - put your money on the next wicket to fall to Blacktown being taken by a bowler named Clark. The father and son combination dominates the Warriors' Second Grade side, with the veteran Tony already gathering 26 wickets this year with nagging little medium-paced things. On Saturday, the father and son combination destroyed Easts by taking the first four wickets between them for only 17 runs. Tony finished his ten overs with 6-33, while Ryan picked up 2-34. Five Things is old enough to have played against Tony back when he was a fresh-faced young Sutherland player - who bowled loopy leg spin. At the moment, he's playing as though he wants to be the first Premier cricketer to play in the same team as his grandson.