If we're writing about you, your career could be in trouble
Every now and then Five Things gets a cranky call from a club secretary somewhere in Sydney, complaining that we've been unnecessarily snarky about their afternoon teas, or ground, or Fourth Grade captain, or something. And we're sorry, kind of. A bit. But a sober analysis of the data shows that the time to get mad is when we say something nice about you. Look at it: we raved about Jamie Brown's hot streak of form - the next week, he scored five. We praised Jonathan Cook's consistency: he immediately endured his only wicketless day of the season. Nick Bertus couldn't hit one in the middle for a month after we pushed his representative claims. Danny Bhandari responded to our recognition of his efforts by getting suspended and making a duck on his return, before retiring hurt in the second innings. Even Jarrad Burke's tattoo is probably fading now (although we may have made that up - we're too scared to check). Forget criticism - it's when we say something positive about you that you know you're in trouble.
Sydney University plays Bankstown again on Saturday. Bankstown is a fantastic team.
There are no upsets
It's tempting to say something about the upsets in Round 13 of First Grade, but the truth is that, this season, there are no upsets. It's been more than four rounds since the team coming first on the ladder actually won a game. Not for the first time, University of NSW enjoyed complicating life for the older institution of higher learning, with run-machine Nick Selman (131) and Josh Bennett (5-69) excelling, although a dogged last wicket stand between Ben Joy and Lawrence Neil-Smith denied the Bees the points. Fairfield-Liverpool was surprised by North Sydney's Anjan Oberai, who rescued the Bears from 2-35 to hit a rapid, unbeaten 184. Similarly, Sutherland was overwelmed by a Josh Clarke masterclass; he hit 188 not out to make 320 look an easy target for Hawkesbury. At the moment, there are no guaranteed points anywhere, which will make the last two rounds extremely interesting. Two obviously important match-ups this week are Easts and Parramatta, and Gordon's visit to Sutherland. Gordon has been a touch off the pace all season but could conceivably sneak into the top six if it upsets Sutherland at Glenn McGrath - except, remember, there are no upsets.
But one pair of finalists is settled
At least we can be sure who will meet in the First Grade Limited Overs final - it's Sydney University and Parramatta, at Old Kings on 4 March. The surprising thing about the weekend's semi-finals was Parramatta's margin of victory over Easts, who were under-strength but still fielded reliable pro Angus Robson, the ageless Ian Moran and Nic Maddinson, who may be the best white-ball striker in Sydney at the moment. But Jack White removed Maddinson early, Ben Martin dismissed Robson for 2, and only Moran, with 52 from 60, troubled the Parramatta attack for long. When Parramatta lost 2-21 it was anyone's game, but Will Affleck and Nick Bertus calmly added 148 for the third wicket to end the contest. Sydney University continued its long tradition of winning tight games against Bankstown in which Tim Ley plays a crucial role. After Damien Mortimer (91) and rookie of the year Hayden Kerr (78 from 72) propelled University to a competitive 289, Ley claimed 4-42 to clinch the match. Bankstown looked well-placed at 1-134 before Kerr removed Daniel Solway (53) and Brendan Smith (59) in quick succession. Kerr's clean striking has brought him 614 runs at an average above 40 in his first full season in Firsts, and his left-arm seamers have often contributed handy wickets.
This season can't last too long for Scott Rodgie
Gordon ran down Mosman in a high-scoring game of Bat at Chatswood Oval, but it wasn't Scott Rodgie's fault. His third hundred of the season took him past 1000 runs (including T20 games). The Mosman captain's consistency has been phenomenal: he has passed fifty in ten of his 17 innings and failed to reach double figures only twice. He's been chipping in with the ball as well, taking ten wickets in the last three matches. In Round 13, Rodgie hit 126, took four wickets and ran out Axel Chalin, and ordinarily a player who did all that would expect to end up on the winning side. Chasing 378, Gordon lost its eighth wicket at 332, and batting ten was Alex Patterson, who had never made more than 24 in 40-odd Premier Cricket innings. But Elliot Richter played his best knock of the season, an unbeaten 77, while Patterson equalled his career-best score, ending on 24 not out, as Gordon ran down the target with ease.
North Sydney needs a new keeper in Fourths
You may have seen, during the last round of Shield matches, that Tasmania's wicket-keeper, Matt Wade, responded to Jackson Bird's injury by taking off his pads and wrapping up Queensland's innings with a quick burst of medium-pace. Sadly, Wade's 3-13 made him only the second most impressive bowling keeper of the week. Darryl Hands, in North Sydney's Fourth Grade side, has worn the gloves for most of the season, as well as opening the batting. But James Leary, up from Fifth Grade, had the gloves in Round 13, and when Fairfield-Liverpool had reached 1 for 71, the Bears' captain, Chris Lloyd, threw the ball to Hands. The result - 8.3 overs of left arm wrist spin, 6 maidens, six wickets for seven runs, as Fairfield lost nine for 34. North Sydney won outright after Leary hit a century and Hands grabbed three more wickets, although at the disappointingly normal cost of 36 runs. We've now reached that enjoyable part of the season when lower grade bowlers make the most of dodgy post-Christmas pitches and under-strength opponents to collect ridiculously cheap wickets. Also in Fourth Grade, Hawkesbury's Ethan Franke nabbed 5-6 as Sutherland crashed for 34, and Randwick-Petersham's veteran leg spinner Rod Stafford took a hat-trick in his 5-17 as St George lost outright, subsiding for 59.