Five Things We Learned from Round 4

Five Things We Learned from Round 4

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.

Five Things We Learned from Round 3

Five Things We Learned from Round 3

Counting is an under-rated skill

In the week in The Grade Cricketer published the second volume of his tortured thoughts on the game, it was somehow fitting that the author's club was tied up in a mess that will fit very neatly into volume three.

Wet weather stripped 26 overs from the match between Gordon and Northern District at Mark Taylor Oval and the reduced time and flat surface combined to create an old-fashioned declaration game.  Gordon batted into the second day, and captain Steve Colley (who led the way with an excellent innings of 90) set the home side a target of 328 in 78 overs.  The main obstacle for Northern District was Charlie Stobo, who made good use of the new ball and quickly removed Tom Fulton and Jonathan Whealing.  But Henry Hunt, who has found a rich vein of form, combined with Andrew Harriott for a third-wicket stand of 109 (in which, unusually, Harriott was the quieter partner).  Matthew Parkinson (a Lancashire leg-spinner who turned 21 yesterday, so happy birthday, Matt!) hauled Gordon back into the game with two quick wickets, but then Hunt and the aggressive Daniel Anderson (who hit 79 from 87 balls) added 148 for the fifth wicket to place NDs in a winning position.  

At some point during that partnership, Henry Hunt planted a ball over the fence.  The scorers dutifully recorded the six, but then the umpire signalled "dead ball", apparently because a child had wandered onto the field as the ball was being bowled.  It seems that the dead ball call was missed by both scorers, so that Northern District continued their chase in the belief that they had six more runs that they actually did.  Matt Junk and Parkinson triggered a brief collapse late in the day but Hunt, who played brilliantly, kept his cool and hit Parkinson to the fence with one ball remaining in the final over.  Northern District celebrated its win, only to be told by the umpires half an hour later that Hunt's six hadn't counted, that the scores were wrong and they had finished two runs short of their target.  By then, the covers were down and it was too dark to resume play, so the match was called a draw.  

Whether that result will stand will be decided by the SCA on Thursday, and we make no comment on that.  But it would be a shame if Hunt's fine innings went unrewarded.  So far this season, he has hit 114, 31 and 160 not out in Firsts, and a pair of unbeaten fifties in Poidevin-Gray, but this may have been the best performance of his career to date.

Chris Green has settled in at Manly

Three games into the season, Manly sits in first place in First Grade, and new captain Chris Green averages 112 with the bat and 10 with the ball.  In Round Three, the off-spinner collected a career-best 7-42 against North Sydney, bowling with immaculate control on a dry surface.  North Sydney had a glimpse of a chance when Manly lost its fourth wicket on 119, with 111 runs still needed, but then Green played with cool authority for 69 not out to steer his side to first innings points.  He was well supported by Jack Edwards (64 not out), who bashed three sixes in his first half-century in the top grade.  It used to be said by Rugby League players that the only Manly Junior anyone had ever seen was the sailing boat, but Edwards (who emerged from Beacon Hill and St Augustine's College) is a genuine local product.

Easts are formidable at full strength

There are a few grade bowlers who will be hoping that the Test selectors change their mind about Peter Nevill.  In Round Three, Nevill was one of five players in the Easts side with first-class experience (the others were Angus Robson, Nick Maddinson, Will Somerville and Harry Conway - and that doesn't count NSW contract player Henry Thomas Raphael York Thornton), and understandably the Dolphins had too much firepower for Hawkesbury.  Hawkesbury did pretty well to reach a solid total of 331, with Jordan Gauci showing his best form of the year, but on Owen Earle Oval, Easts were always favourites to overhaul that target.  It was no surprise that the first wicket fell to Blues spinner Arjun Nair - but it took over two hours for the first breakthrough to come, and by that time Maddinson (94) and Nevill had already added 178 for the first wicket.  Nevill carried on serenely, batting for over four hours for his unbeaten 130, and vigorous cameos from veteran Ian Moran (46 from 45) and newcomer Baxter Holt (38 not out) hurried Easts to victory in barely 65 overs.  The Dolphins now sit in second place on the ladder, and the interesting question will be whether they have the depth to maintain that position once the side is depleted by representative calls.

Sean Abbott is a handy grade cricketer

Parramatta's Sean Abbott must still be working out how he managed to end up on the losing side last weekend.  Returning from State duty on day two of the game against University of NSW, Abbott wrapped up the Bees' innings with a burst of three for one from three overs.  Then he hit his maiden First Grade century, 102 from 154 balls.  His partnership with Nick Bertus carried Parramatta to three for 194, a decent platform from which to chase 351.  But the game turned when off-spinner Marcus Atallah removed Bertus for 87.  After that no-one could stay with Abbott long enough to build a substantial partnership, and Atallah, Declan White and Josh Bennett worked their way through the lower order to give the Bees their first win of the season (which owed a good deal to James Henry's patient 153 on the first day).   Abbott's grade stats for the season currently stand at 146 runs at 146, and eight wickets at an average of two.  Useful.

The British are coming

The annual influx of pale-faced county cricketers is now almost complete.  Apart from Angus Robson (Sussex) at Easts and Matt Parkinson (Gordon), other English players in action in Round Three included Ned Eckersley (Wests and Leicestershire), Oliver Pope (Campbelltown and Surrey), Nick Selman (the Glamorgan batsman, who hit 97 for UNSW) and Sydney's Delray Rawlins, a Bermudan left-arm spinner who now plays for Sussex.  It's good experience for them and at times gives Sydney cricket a nice cosmopolitan touch - the closing stages of the game between Gordon and Northern District featured a Lancashire spinner (Parkinson) bowling to Chad Soper, opening bowler for Papua New Guinea, and that isn't something you see every day.

Five Things We Learned... Round 2

Five Things We Learned... Round 2

Tim Ley is a threat on any surface

6019 runs were scored across the ten First Grade matches in Round Two, and each fielding side paid an average of 37 runs for every wicket it snared.  In that context, the one effort that stood out most conspicuously wasn't any of the fifteen centuries scored, but the performance of Sydney University opening bowler, Tim Ley.  The pitch Ley had to bowl on was as flat as all the others: Sydney University had hammered the Blacktown attack for 394 runs while losing only two wickets.  Ben Trevor-Jones stroked his maiden First Grade century, reaching 144, while James Larkin (96) narrowly missed his first top grade hundred and Damien Mortimer played fluently for his unbeaten century.  But the pitch looked far from docile when Ley had the ball: despite a hamstring niggle, he bowled aggressively and accurately, and with just a hint of movement away from the bat.  He captured two wickets late on the first day, and tore through the innings on the second morning with a spell of four wickets for six runs.  He collected his sixth wicket when Gabriel Joseph offered no shot to a ball that jagged back to hit the top of off stump.  Blacktown slumped to be all out for 65 - in a round where the average innings total was close to 400.  Ley's 6-18 was the best return of his First Grade career, and in the second innings, he took his 269th First Grade wicket for University, to become the club's joint fifth-highest wicket taker in the top grade.  It was a remarkable spell, which showed off Ley's skill, experience and determination, and University will be hoping that his hamstring holds up to the strain of his early-season workload.

Chris Green has a good memory

No-one has a better appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of his team-mates than an astute captain.  Last season, Chris Green was an astute captain of Northern District; this time around, he's leading Manly, and Round Two brought him face to face with his old team.  Manly owed its total of 306 almost entirely to Adam Crosthwaite's patient 133, helped by some lower-order defiance from Ryan Farrell and Matt Alexander, and on a slow surface at Manly Oval, this wasn't obviously a winning score.   It was reasonable to think that Test spinner Steve O'Keefe would pose the greatest problems on the second day but, while he bowled neatly enough, it was Green who put his knowledge of his opponents to work and did most of the damage.  Northern District reached one for 80 without too many alarms, but Green then grabbed the key wickets of Jonathan Whealing and Andrew Harriott, before working his way through the lower order to end the day with five for 42.  The fact that Northern District got as close as it did to its target was largely due to a fighting 79 not out from Jonte Pattison, who showed a welcome return to form after enduring a lean season with Easts in 2016-17.

Jason Sangha will be a force this season

Randwick-Petersham's Jason Sangha is best known as the youngest player ever to hold a New South Wales Blues contract, and that's a mixed blessing.  On the one hand, you're the youngest player ever to hold a New South Wales Blues contract.  Against that, Sangha has had to contend with the grumbles in the background, to the effect that he was given his contract before he earned it.  Last season, while he often played well for Randwick-Petersham, he scored only one fifty in 12 matches, and he began this season with a second-ball duck against North Sydney.  Sangha (who turned 18 just before the season began) was under all kinds of pressure when he went out to bat against Mosman last Saturday: his side was two for 70, chasing 343 (after Scott Rodgie posted his second successive hundred).  And his response was outstanding.  Most importantly, he won the match for his team, batting with great composure, and displaying a wide range of shots, for nearly four hours.  His partnership of 120 with ex-Mosman player Shaun Eaton set up the chase; then, after Danul Dassanayake's off-breaks triggered a middle-order stutter, he played maturely to marshall the tail.  Sangha helped to steer the Lancastrian newcomer, Josh Bohannon, through his first innings in Sydney, and then Riley Ayre contributed only four runs to a vital eighth-wicket stand of 36.  The SCA website claimed that Sangha's 162 not out was the highest maiden century by an 18 year old in the history of the First Grade competition, although there have been higher maiden centuries (Liam Robertson's 193 for Sydney University against Campbelltown in 2014-15 springs to mind).  Anyway, at least for the time being, Sangha's silenced that muttering in the background.

Important Jarrad Burke update

All right, we didn't learn this from Round Two, but we learned it during Round Two, and that's close enough.  Experienced Grade cricket watchers will remember Jarrad Burke as a promising young Campbelltown all-rounder back in the early part of the century, not least when he won the O'Reilly Medal as a 22 year-old back in 2004-05.   One of Burke's Campbelltown team-mates in those distant days was Scott Coyte, and it seems that on the circuit one Saturday night, Coyte questioned how loyal Burke really was to the Ghosts.  Burke decided to prove his loyalty in exactly the way you do when you're circuiting, by visiting the nearest tattoo parlour and having the Campbelltown Ghost tattooed on a part of his anatomy where... well, where it's unlikely to be affected much by tan lines.  It isn't clear whether Coyte felt sorry about this when he left Campbelltown for Randwick-Petersham.  Nor is it clear how the Ghost was received in the showers when Burke moved on to Penrith and Bankstown.  But Burke's return to Campbelltown-Camden means that, after a lengthy break, his ink now once again matches the rest of his kit.   This may help to explain his excellent early-season form: in Round Two, he was the only bowler to exert any control over the Fairfield-Liverpool batsmen, collecting four for 65 from 28 mean and probing overs, and he then bashed Campbelltown to a win with a forthright, unbeaten 61.  Burke's form is a key reason why it has take Campbelltown only two rounds to double the number of wins it recorded last season.

There's another Matt Moran

Mention Matt Moran to the average Mosman resident, and they'll recognise the name immediately, before launching into a lengthy, well-informed discussion about which of the chef's restaurants is the best ("I still prefer the slow-cooked lamb at Chiswick to the jurassic quail at Aria…").   Those conversations might become a little more confused soon, if Mosman cricketer Matt Moran can build on his remarkable effort against Randwick in Third Grade.  Moran is just finishing Year 12 at Shore, where he performed reasonably well in GPS games without building any very special reputation.  His record for Mosman, though, was nothing to get excited about: playing Fourths and Fifths in the school holidays over the last three seasons, he managed only 208 runs at an average of 11.55 with a highest score of 41.  Having missed Round One, he opened the batting in Thirds at Coogee Oval (his debut in that grade), and reeled off an extraordinary 202 from 204 deliveries, bashing four sixes and 25 fours.  Like most tall batsmen, Moran likes to drive, and he deals harshly with anything on his pads, but the interesting thing about his innings was the efficiently brutal way in which he rocked onto the back foot to punish anything short.  His progress will be worth watching.

Five Things We Learned from Round 1

Five Things We Learned from Round 1

The premiers are rebuilding

Sydney University opened its defence of the Belvidere Cup on Saturday with a side that bore only a passing resemblance to the team that clinched the premiership at Bankstown Oval last April.  Greg Mail has retired after breaking just about every batting record available in Premier Cricket, which would have been a major loss without anything else, but Ryan Carters, Ashton May, Kieran Elley and Will Hay have also joined him in retirement.  Tom Rogers accepted a contract in Tasmania; David Miller is overseas.  All of that adds up to a fairly serious rebuilding exercise, on top of which University began the season without last year’s leading run-scorer (captain Nick Larkin, who broke a finger batting in a State trial) and top wicket-taker (Devlin Malone, who fractured his cheekbone in a fielding mishap during the recent Red Bull Campus Cricket World Finals in Sri Lanka).  Despite it all, University’s campaign began in promising style.  Hayden Kerr, making only his fifth appearance in First Grade, weathered a testing opening spell from Gordon’s Charlie Stobo, and got the innings away to a brisk start with 86 from only 76 balls.  He struck the ball cleanly, played one outrageous ramp over the keeper for four, and blasted three sixes before hitting a hard return catch to Sri Lankan spinner Sohan Boralessa.  Damien Mortimer continued last year’s fine form with a crisp 57, and stand-in captain Liam Robertson was dominant, hammering 102 from 84 deliveries.  Robertson combined silky, elegant drives with brutal slog-sweeps; his six 6s included the massive blow with which he raised his century.  298 always looked like a tough target for Gordon, especially after the evergreen Tim Ley claimed two early wickets, including key man Harry Evans, for a second ball duck.  Tym Crawford played a threatening innings which ended when he trod on his stumps playing back to leg-spinner Darius Visser.  Joe Kershaw, back in Firsts after battling injury, bowled a couple of testing spells and when Gordon slumped to 8 for 201, University looked likely to gain a bonus point.  Improbably, Gordon got within nine runs of victory, after some furious hitting by Charlie Stobo, who looks much fitter and stronger after his off-season with the Blues.  Although it has often been claimed that he bats better than his father did, Stobo had never passed 20 in Firsts; but on Saturday, he hit cleanly and often, lofting five 6s on his way to 71 from 51 balls.  He might have done even more damage had he kept hitting through the line instead of embarking on a repeated but completely futile effort to scoop the ball over the wicket-keeper.  Gordon got within hoping distance of its target, but Ben Joy and Kershaw kept their nerve at the end, and University emerged with the win.

Campbelltown has recruited wisely

There’s a scene in Moneyball, Michael Lewis’ bestseller about the economics of baseball recruiting, in which Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland As, reminds his scouts that they should pay less attention to players’ physiques and more to their productivity on the field: “We’re not selling jeans here!”

This could have been the template for the Campbelltown-Camden recruitment team, which faced a tough task after last season’s disappointments.  They’ve attracted two players from Bankstown who would not be quite at the top of your list if you were after prime quality rigs, but who know an awful lot about winning cricket matches.  And, against Sutherland on Saturday, Philip Wells and Jarrad Burke fully justified their new club’s confidence.  Wells has been one of Sydney’s most reliable batsmen for many seasons, and he provided the backbone of the Cambelltown innings, compiling a composed 89 after the loss of two early wickets.  It’s a return to Campbelltown for Burke, who won the O’Reilly Medal as a 21 year-old Ghost in 2004-05, and he played a perfect finishing role with a forthright 49 from 43 balls.  Sutherland appeared to be cruising towards its target when openers Jarryd Biviano and Chris Williams added 83, but Burke’s left arm spin broke the partnership, and he then removed marquee player Shane Watson first ball – caught by Wells.  Burke’s third wicket was Austin Waugh, the Trinity Grammar student making his First Grade debut (following in the footsteps of his father, Steve, and three uncles).  The tail folded to Burke, who ended with 6-16 from 7.4 overs, leading Campbelltown to a surprisingly comfortable 90-run victory. 

Ian Moran refuses to get old

There was plenty of representative talent on display at Mark Taylor Oval, where Northern District’s Test players, Nathan Lyon and Ian Butler, faced Easts’ internationals Peter Nevill and Nic Maddinson, backed up by Blues Harry Conway and Will Somerville.  But the match was dominated by a 38 year old whose career with New South Wales was confined, inexplicably, to a handful of Twenty20 games.  Ian Moran is in his 22nd First Grade season, and only his former team-mate Greg Mail has scored more runs in the competition, but his only concession to the advancing years has been to cut back on his bowling.  On Saturday, Henry Hunt’s maiden century propelled the home side to 6 for 276, which sounds like a lot of runs unless you’ve ever played at Mark Taylor Oval in September.  Maddinson (49) and Nevill (62) gave the chase a rapid start, but then it was all Moran, who cracked his 18th First Grade century, finishing with an unbeaten 113 from only 94 balls.  The last time Nathan Lyon bowled in the middle, he took thirteen wickets in a Test match, but although he bowled neatly, Moran and Nevill peeled 49 runs from his ten overs and Easts cantered home with eight wickets and five overs to spare.  Each team, incidentally, fielded a leg spinner (Jack Preddey for Easts, Jonte Pattison for NDs) playing for his third club in three seasons, which isn’t something you see every day.

Matthew Hopkins has settled in at Hurstville

Left-handed opener Matthew Hopkins has an extensive collection of club caps in the bottom of his kit bag: having started out at Bankstown, he moved to Sutherland, where he broke into First Grade, then spent four seasons at Penrith, and now he’s turned up at St George.  Back in 2010-11, he hit a century for Sutherland in only his fourth First Grade match, but although he had some solid seasons with Penrith, he’s only hit one other hundred in the top grade before this season.  The move to Hurstville seems to be suiting him well, though: he hit an unbeaten century in St George’s last trial match, and followed it up with 132 not out against Hawkesbury in his Premier Cricket debut for his new club.  St George teams always look ridiculously strong at this time of year, before the Blues representatives leave, and Kurtis Patterson overshadowed Hopkins with a brutal 66-ball century before Moises Henriques bludgeoned 38 from 24 balls.  Hawkesbury put up a strong fight, through Josh Clarke (99) and Arjun Nair (83), and at one stage had reached three for 242, but Andrew Walsh settled the issue when he dismissed Corey Lowe, Jay Dyball and Harrison Ridgewell with successive balls to claim his first hat-trick in First Grade.

Zain Shamsi’s shoulder is fine

Zain Shamsi, a popular and cheerful contributor to Western Suburbs’ lower grade teams for the past few seasons, wasn’t certain that he’d take his place in Fourth Grade for the opening round: the medium-pacer was troubled by a sore shoulder.  But he took the field against Parramatta at Merrylands Oval, and was introduced into the attack as first change after Parramatta’s openers had added 17 rather sedate runs.  Shamsi and opening bowler Albert Brooks then grabbed six wickets for only ten runs, and although Parramatta engineered a slight recovery, its batsmen never came to grips with Shamsi, whose two spells yielded five wickets for only eight runs from his full ten overs.  Wests’ batsmen also found the going tough on the dusty surface, but they ran down their target of 87 in time to earn a bonus point.  The game was a mirror-image of the First Grade match, in which Sean Abbott (5-15) blasted out Wests for 95 before arresting an early collapse to steer his team to a bonus-point victory.