Jamie Brown has broken through
It's taken longer than expected for this to happen, but Jamie Brown has emerged this season as a genuine force in the First Grade competition. The Sutherland right-hander was identified as an exciting prospect as long ago as 2008 when, at 13, he played the first of his three seasons in the AW Green Shield side. By 18, he was in First Grade. But it took him a while to find his feet. In 2013-14, he took a break from the game, sitting out the whole season. After he returned, he hit his maiden century in Firsts, but lost the confidence of the club selectors and spent most of 2015-16 in seconds. He bounced back strongly in 2016-17, scoring more than 700 runs, but his career average remained below thirty, and he had managed only two hundreds in 61 innings. There was nothing about his start to this season that suggested anything better; he opened with scores of 4, 4 and 8. Since Round 8, though, he's been unstoppable. He hit a rapid 101 in a 50 over match with Penrith, followed that with 109 at North Sydney, and narrowly missed a third successive century when Randwick-Petersham's Adam Semple trapped him lbw for 91. He made up for that in Round 11, with a patient, matchwinning 126 against Bankstown. That's a streak, and it's helped to propel Sutherland to the lead on the First Grade table.
Tim Ley is under-rated
Tim Ley turned 30 this season. His pace isn't quite what it was, and it's unlikely that the representative selectors will be hunting for his phone number any time soon, but he remains a remarkably consistent and dangerous new ball bowler. Even though he missed a game to nurse a delicate hamstring, he's the most successful fast bowler in the First Grade competition this year (with 27 wickets - 36 in all formats), moving the ball both ways, maintaining an excellent line and length, and putting to work all of his accumulated knowledge about how to get batsmen out. He had a decent total to defend on Sunday, after Hayden Kerr, Steve Hobson, Nick Larkin, Damien Mortimer and Liam Robertson helped Sydney University to post 282 in their limited overs quarter final against Sydney. But Sydney has a powerful batting line-up, and Drummoyne Oval was in great condition, so the game remained wide open - until the first two balls of Sydney's innings. Tristen McDonald edged Ley's first ball through to Tim Cummins behind the stumps, and the second was a gem that flattened Dan Smith's off stump. Sydney was 2-0 from two balls, and although Harry Dalton fought hard, there was no way back from there. Ley took his 300th First Grade wicket earlier this season, and is a single good afternoon away from capturing his 500th wicket for the club. he may fly under the radar, but he's critical to University's chances of retaining its First Grade premiership.
The future looks bright for Liam Scott
It wasn't a great weekend for Sydney, who were upset in First Grade by North Sydney and crashed out of the Limited Overs finals. But there was a silver lining in Third Grade, where Liam Scott opened the batting and was still there when Craig Di Blasio declared, unbeaten on 201. Scott, who has a preference for the on-side, faced 223 balls, hitting 26 to the fence as well as five sixes. It was only Scott's ninth Grade game, as school commitments with Trinity Grammar School have limited his appearances so far, but he was a member of Balmain's premiership-winning Green Shield team last season, when he won two competitions with the Tigers (he hit 78 in the Fourth Grade grand final). An Australian Under-15 representative, he played for Cricket Australia in the 2016-17 Under-17 championships before turning out for NSW Metro this year, when he scored 57 in the grand final win over Queensland. At the age of 17, he already has a knack of scoring runs in finals, and (when free from injury), he's also a very handy medium-quick bowler with a high, upright action. In the Sydney club's long history, no-one had ever scored a double-century in Third Grade before, and Scott is unlikely to linger in Thirds for very much longer.
It's crunch time for Manly
Manly did everything it needed to do last round, with a clinical demolition job on Blacktown. Michael Visser and Mickey Edwards cut through the Warriors' top order, reducing them to 5 for 28, before Thomas Kaye finished the job with 4-9, his best return in the top grade to date. Then James Crosthwaite pounded 141 from only 116 balls, adding 167 for the second wicket with his brother, Adam (who hit 69). But Blacktown (and especially Jake Fawcett, whose unbeaten century soaked up 151 balls and included 11 fours and six sixes) did well to prevent Manly from taking full points, and the result leaves Manly just outside the top six. Manly's next two matches are against Bankstown (6th) and Parramatta (2nd) - so by the end of Round 13, they could be securely lodged inside the top six, or well adrift of it.
Easts are scary at full strength
Campbelltown probably thought they had a decent chance of knocking Easts out of the Limited Overs Cup after Phil Wells (97) steered them to a total of 264, and left-armer Luke Webb dismissed Peter Nevill for only 3. But when Easts are at full strength, getting rid of Nevill just brings Nic Maddinson and Angus Robson together. Maddinson has had an odd season, struggling for a run in four-day cricket, while often rising to quite spectacular levels in the short game. On Sunday he went beserk, thrashing 113 (out of 145 runs scored while he was at the crease) from only 56 balls, launching five sixes along with 13 fours. Robson anchored the rest of the innings with an unbeaten 83. Easts now meet Parramatta in the semi-final, but that's on 18 February, when the New South Wales team has a Shield game in Adelaide. Maddinson, Nevill, Will Somerville and Harry Conway might all be chosen for that game, in which case the match will become a test of Easts' depth rather than its horsepower.