Rain messes things up
Rain affected both days of Round 4 and, as it always does, had the effect of distorting the shape of the competition. It wrecked the top-of-the-table clash at Waverley Oval, where Manly would have been disappointed at failing to extend its lead over Eastern Suburbs. Easts had the best of the opening exchanges, with Sam Doggett and Harry Conway reducing the visitors to 3 for 11. But a robust 103 from James Crosthwaite dragged Manly back into the contest. Easts fought back through NSW representatives Conway and Will Somerville, who worked their way through the middle order so effectively that the seventh wicket fell at 184. Manly bats deep, however, and Cameron Merchant is a distinctly useful player to have coming in at seven. He hit a crisp 102 to boost the total to 283. There were no such fluctuations on the second day when, in miserable conditions, five Easts batsmen reached 20 but none passed 30. Michael Visser was the main threat, picking up four of the five wickets to fall. It was a big day for Visser, who captured his 300th wicket for Manly when he bowled Greg Clarence. Manly was well-placed to claim the win, but the weather closed in, while Will Somerville and Jack Preddey blocked diligently. Both sides collected a point from the draw, which leaves the head of the table looking congested, with Manly on 20, Easts and Campbelltown on 19, and Sydney University on 18.
Wests are on the way back
Not even Manly would have been as deeply frustrated on the weekend as Western Suburbs were. For all but a couple of hours of the game, Wests outplayed Sydney at Drummoyne Oval, but rain prevented the Magpies from collecting six points they richly deserved. Accurate leg-spinner Jonathon Cook has emerged as one of the most reliable bowlers in the competition, and his four wickets on the first day helped to dismiss Sydney for the moderate total of 273. In truth, that score should have been lower, after the home side's eighth wicket fell at 173, but some uncomplicated biffing from Ben Manenti (43 from 47) and Nic Bills (76 from 101) boosted the total by another 100 runs before the last two wickets fell. From 15 innings last season, Bills managed only 49 runs at 4.45, but he seems to have rediscovered his batting form of 2012-13, when he hit an unbeaten 96 for North Sydney against Bankstown. English import Ned Eckersley (109 not out) and James Psarakis (52) put Wests on track with a third-wicket stand of 105, after which Alec Baldwin played aggressively as the rain approached. When the game was cut short, Wests needed only 42 runs with seven wickets in hand, and they'll feel that only the weather denied them victory. There are encouraging signs of a resurgence at Pratten Park this season, with Wests outplaying the premiers, Sydney University, and now Sydney, in the last two rounds.
Nigil Singh keeps on going
If you've played grade cricket at some time in the last 20 years, the chances are reasonably good that you've come up against Nigil Singh at some point. The Fijian-born medium-pacer (an investment banker with Morgan Stanley) started his career with Randwick back in the pre-amalgamation days, and has now taken 479 wickets across the five grades since the combined club was formed (he also took 70-odd for the old Randwick club). He had a brief, but very respectable, First Grade career, taking 27 wickets at 25.44 between 2004 and 2006, but after some problems with illness, he has concentrated on terrorising lower grade batsmen. Last season, he was content to spend his time in Fifth Grade, where he led his side to a premiership, took 56 wickets at 11, rissoled Gordon for 25 in a semi-final (taking 7-18) and won the player-of-the-match award in the final. This season, in Round 4, he turned up in Third Grade, where Randwick-Petersham were in all sorts of bother. They were dismissed by University of NSW for only 161, and at stumps on day one, the Bees had reached one for 64. The rain spiced up the David Phillips pitch on the second day and Singh, with his usual mixture of accuracy, swing and hostility, took full advantage. He removed Tom Byrnes and Joshua Mellick with consecutive deliveries before a run had been scored on day two, and bowled relentlessly to rout University for 139. He produced the remarkable figures of 6-32 from 24 overs, 14 of which were maidens. Singh now has 247 wickets in Third Grade for Randwick-Petersham - just one decent spell away from 250. But the more interesting statistic (and just about the only one you won't find in Lyall Gardner's comprehensive club records) is how many games Singh has won for his club. Whatever the number was, add one more.
Panic is contagious
That rain, again. It reduced the Third Grade game between Sydney University and Hawkesbury to a one-day game, theoretically of 120 overs duration, although the weather shortened play to 106. The captains, Ash Cowan and Dean Laing, reached a gentlemen's agreement to split the overs, and University ground out nine for 209 from its 53 overs before declaring. Veteran Hawks left-armer Shane Mott sent down 27 consecutive overs, bowling through the entire innings for his four wickets. Hawkesbury started with 53 overs to chase down its target, although rain then reduced that to 40. And for a while, it looked easy. Eknoor Singh hit 55, Scott Baldwin 64, and the most experienced man in Premier Cricket, Dean Laing, scorer of several gazillion lower grade runs, was at the crease and well set on 19 as his side cruised to 3 for 202. Eight to win, seven wickets in hand, four overs remaining. Easy. But then Baldwin lofted Jim Ryan to Jack Hill at long-off, Kieran Tate removed Mott for a duck, and panic set in. In Ryan's last over, Laing and Tom Wood both clubbed drives to Hill at mid-off, and Matt Williams was bowled. Ryan had grabbed four wickets in eight balls, and Hawkesbury still needed three runs from the final over. Liam Hodge smashed the first ball from Tate away through the leg side for what his team-mates thought was the winning boundary. But the rain had left the outfield heavy, and the batsmen ran only two, to level the scores. Tate then flattened Hodge's middle stump. Last man Adam Renfrey came to the crease with the scores tied and four balls remaining. With the third ball of the last over, Tate beat the bat and narrowly missed the stumps, somehow prompting non-striker Tyson Beatty to set off for an optimistic bye. Keeper Matt Powys gathered the ball cleanly and rolled an underarm throw at the stumps - which missed, but was gathered by Tate at the bowler's end. While Renfrey and Beatty met in the crease at the striker's end, Tate calmly removed the bails to end the innings. Hawkesbury lost seven for seven in 17 balls and if anyone can beat this for the collapse of the season, it will be truly spectacular.
It was Tibby Cotter Round
The SCA named Round Four "Tibby Cotter Round" to mark the centenary of the death of the Test fast bowler, killed at Beersheba while serving with the Australian Light Horse. So here are five things you may not know about Cotter's career in Grade cricket.
- Cotter made his First Grade debut for Glebe against Central Cumberland at Parramatta Oval on 11 March 1899. At 15 years, 98 days, he was the eighth-youngest debutant in Sydney First Grade. There were two other debutants in the Glebe team, Warren Bardsley and Percy Dive, and all three of the newcomers went on to represent New South Wales (although Dive did not play for his State until 25 years later, in 1924-25).
- In 101 First Grade games for Glebe, between 1898-99 and 1914-15, Cotter took 297 wickets at 20.22. 234 of these were bowled - 78.78% of his wickets.
- He took four wickets in four balls against Sydney at Wentworth Park in 1910-11 (he took 7-39, all of them bowled). He performed the hat-trick again against Redfern, also at Wentworth Park, in 1912-13.
- In First Grade matches, he hit 2173 runs at 20.69. When his hitting came off, he was phenomenally effective. In 1906-07, he hit 152 in 85 minutes against Waverley at Waverley Oval, an innings that included 16 sixes. The following season, he punished Waverley again, hitting 121 in 64 minutes.
- His best First Grade season was 1906-07, when he scored 494 runs at 49.40 and took 37 wickets at 19.73. His efforts propelled Glebe to equal first on the table, with the Paddington club, and a final was required to decide the premiership. Cotter missed the final, preferring to tour north Queensland for money in a team assembled by Victor Trumper (and taking Glebe's wicket-keeper with him). Paddington won the final, and Cotter was censured by his club's committee.