Scoreboard pressure is a thing
Just because Shane Warne mentions it every three minutes in his BBL commentary doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist: Round 13 helps to prove that scoreboard pressure actually is an observable phenomenon. What does it mean exactly? Well, opinions vary, but it’s basically a slightly more scientific update on the old mantra, “we’ve got ‘em, now they have to get ‘em.” Or, if you want to be slightly more analytical, it’s a state of stress induced in batsmen not entirely by the fielding team or the pitch but also by the state of the game. Exhibit A: Gordon at home to Sydney University. A win would have Gordon entrenched in the top six; with a loss, they’d drop to eighth. University had recovered from 7 for 161 to reach 316 - not a huge score at Chatswood, with its short square boundaries and flat strip - and, as University showed, batting gets easier as the day wears on. Cam Eccles handled the attack calmly to reach 63; Axel Cahlin helped him in an opening stand of 73, and then Harry Evans played fluently for 50. Gordon reached 2 for 172 with Evans and the in-form Steve Colley seemingly in control. At which point, everything went pear-shaped. Experienced quick Ben Joy got the key breakthroughs, bowling Evans and then trapping Colley in front. Steve O’Brien fell to improving off-spinner Ryan McElduff. And then the whole innings collapsed in on itself, three wickets falling on 223 to leg-spinner Devlin Malone and left-armer Dugald Holloway. University looked cooked two-thirds of the way through the day, but walked off with a comfortable 71-run win. Scoreboard pressure. Exhibit B; Western Suburbs, playing to keep their season alive. A win over UTS North Sydney would have placed Wests only four points from the top six. The Magpies did the hard part well, knocking over the Bears for only 237. Quincy Titterton continued his greatly improved form, grabbing three wickets, and young Connor Blaxall-Hill had a memorable day, snaring not one Crosthwaite, but two. In reply, Wests reached two for 74, with captain James Psarakis looking strong. Then Englishman Toby Lester carved through the middle order and, from 7 for 103, not even a late-order rally could save Wests’ season. Scoreboard pressure, right, Warnie?
The Limited Overs competition is worth its place in the calendar
The First Grade 50-over competition is the ugly duckling of Grade cricket, almost tacked on as a bit of an afterthought. It’s not as sexy as T20, with its SCG finals, and not as respected as the deep tradition of the Belvidere Cup, besides which Cricket Australia still doesn’t really know what it wants to do with the 50-over game. And yet the quarter-finals of the competition last Sunday produced some quite exceptional cricket. The holders, Sydney University, dominated Penrith (who were missing captain, Ryan Smith): Damien Mortimer crafted an exceptional, unbeaten hundred, while Ed Cowan smashed a remarkable 89 which included eight sixes. The veteran left-hander actually cleared the fence six times before hitting his first four. Penrith was always going to struggle to reach 312, and Devlin Malone cut through the innings with five wickets, becoming the first bowler in Sydney to reach fifty Premier Cricket wickets (across the three formats of the First Grade game) this season. Bankstown contained North Sydney’s powerful batting line-up to 237, then romped home through Mitch Brown (who followed his 2-26 with 126 not out from 100 balls) and Nathan McAndrew (64 from 40). Sydney walloped St George - Ryan Felsch not only removed Kurtis Patterson for 8, but also whacked 61 from 48. But the match of the round was at Chatswood, where Gordon collapsed for the second day in succession. University of NSW built its innings around Matt Gilkes, who resumed his early-season form with 109 from 103. 237 is probably sub-par at Chatswood, and looked it once Cam Eccles and Axel Cahlin took the score to one for 99. But Harry Brook and Josh Bennett then triggered a ridiculous collapse in which Gordon actually lost six wickets for seven runs (this might have been scoreboard pressure, but we need to check with Warnie) - eight down, and still one hundred needed. That brought together Glenn Winsor (promising enough, but with a First Grade average of 12) and Charlie Stobo, who certainly bats better than his father did, but has reached fifty exactly once in 128 Premier Cricket matches. They played calmly, and sensibly, and hit the bad ball, and by the time Winsor fell to Bennett for 60, seven runs were needed from two overs. Stobo somehow produced a ramp shot for 4 from the first ball of the 49th over, and Matt Junk nicked the fifth ball away for two to complete a memorable win. Gordon celebrated just as much as you would in that situation, while the Bees will be wondering just what happened to a season that had so much promise.
There are seven teams chasing five spots
Mathematically, Sydney University can’t miss the First Grade finals. Even if the Students go to the wrong ground for the last two games and everyone in the chasing pack gets maximum points, University could not possibly finish lower than fifth. Also mathematically, all the teams bunched between 35 points and 31 points (Mosman, University of NSW, Sutherland, Wests, St George, Northern District, Randwick-Petersham) could make the finals, but it would take the combination of an outright win and a sequence of other results roughly as likely as a team of monkeys typing out Hamlet. So that leaves Easts (44) and Gordon (43) just outside the top six and struggling to get in. There could be an opening for one of them, because next round Sydney (4th, on 50) plays Parramatta (5th, 44). If Parramatta loses, its season is on the line - the reigning premiers would almost certainly drop outside the top six, and then they would need one of Easts, Bankstown or Gordon to lose in the last round. On the other hand, if Parramatta wins, it’s likely that the table after 14 rounds could show University first, followed by North Sydney and Penrith, followed by four team on 50 points and one on 49. This one looks like going down to the wire.
You don’t win many games after scoring 16
We actually knew this already, but how often do you see it? In Fifth Grade, Eastern Suburbs were sent in to bat by Fairfield-Liverpool at Don Dawson (where the pitch is apparently prepared by the same guy who does the Edwards brothers’ hair), and batted for more overs (22) than they scored runs (16). Fairfield captain Simon Grove did most of the damage, taking five for four from his eight overs; Green Shield opening bowler Shaun Shaji might well have done just as well, but he’s limited to six-over spells, and had to come off with figures of two for four. Number ten batsman Tom Speiser top-scored with five. There was a famous county game in 1922 when Hampshire was bowled out for 15 by Warwickshire, and won the game, after making 521 the second time around. This was not that game: Fairfield declared with a lead of 38, and although Easts managed 72 in its second effort, Fairfield took all ten points. The moral: do not get bowled out for 16. You’re welcome, no charge.
Justin Green is immovable
While we’re in Fifth Grade, Sutherland’s 16 year-old Justin Green steered his side to an outright victory last Saturday with an unbeaten 35. Nothing much to see there, you might think (although the game itself had plenty of colour, with Blacktown subsiding for only 30 in its first innings, and Don Nash blasting 57 in the second innings). Except that those runs took Green’s Grade cricket average for the season beyond 300. Graded in Fifths, Green was run out for 24 in the first game, against Mosman. After hitting 31 not out against Easts, he was promoted, and marked his Fourth Grade debut with an unbeaten 106 against Hawkesbury’s experienced attack. After another unbeaten hundred against Randwick-Petersham, he was promoted to Thirds, where he didn’t bat in his first game, then missed two rounds with a back injury. When he returned to Thirds in Round Nine, he showed impressive maturity to remain unbeaten on 17 as his team collapsed for only 96. But then he injured his ankle in a Green Shield game, and came back through Fifths last week. In Grades 3 to 5, he now has 313 runs at 313.00 and is yet to be dismissed by a bowler. Oddly, in Green Shield this season, he was out five time while scoring 119 runs. Our advice to opposing captains: when Green comes in, it’s time to bowl your 15 year-olds.