Sutherland’s great escape shows that anything is possible
To be honest, we’d pretty much written off their chances.
At the start of Round 15, Sutherland was tenth. The Sharks needed to beat finals contenders Gordon, and they needed all three of Easts, Mosman and Bankstown to lose. Unlikely. Then they lost Jarryd Biviano to the first ball of the game. Even less likely. But captain Chris Williams picked an ideal time to hit his first century of the season, holding the innings together and brutally targeting Steve O’Brien’s leg spin along with Peter Saroukos, the chunky short-form specialist, who played his role to perfection, hammering four sixes in his 43, to help Sutherland assemble a competitive total. 237 is far from a huge total at Chatswood, but Tom Pinson set Gordon on its heels with an early wicket and a run out, and although Gordon’s key batsmen - Axel Cahlin, Steve Colley and Harry Evans - all made lively starts, no one could play the long innings needed - and, this time, despite some brave swiping by Charlie Stobo, there was no rescue act from Gordon’s tail. The game limped to a soggy conclusion after breaks for rain, but Sutherland still needed other results to fall their way. Mosman was the biggest threat, chasing a Duckworth-Lewis target of 288 from 44 overs at Hurstville. With four overs to go, Mosman needed 22 runs, with Scott Rodgie hitting the ball everywhere. It isn’t often that St George does its neighbouring club a favour, but Nick Stapleton (whose 170 was the highest limited-overs score ever for St George) held his nerve with the ball, bowling Rodgie for 154, and Mosman scrambled only 17 runs from the last four overs. A final ball six would have salvaged a semi-final place for the Whales, but instead Sutherland leapfrogged into the finals. Now Sutherland plays Sydney University - sixth against first, sure, but here’s the thing - Sutherland has won the last two meetings between the two sides, in Round 14 and in the T20 final at the SCG.
Sydney University has a bit of depth
As far as we can tell, Sydney University’s tally of 1624 Club Championship points is the highest tally ever recorded in the competition’s history, and it’s hard to remember a time when the same club has ended the regular season as minor premiers in each of the top four grades (although a bit of research usually shows that St George has done this kind of thing before). Director of Cricket, Cam Borgas, keeps stressing that University hasn’t won anything yet, and will be acutely aware that the First Grade side has appeared in both white-ball finals this season, without yet collecting a trophy. Even so, the club showed off its depth in sweeping all five grades against Wests. Wests actually made a pretty good start in Third Grade, with openers Shajan Sheth and Surya Malhotra sharing a stand of 33 before the wheels fell off. Seamer Murray Watts, graded in Fifths and playing in only his fourth game in Thirds, removed former First Grader Emmanuel Parmakellis and then wrapped up the innings with four wickets in five balls in his fourth over - including a hat trick. Wests managed 53; Watts ended up with five wickets for two runs. The entire game lasted less than 28 overs. University Thirds ended up with a quotient of 2.391 - the highest of any side in any grade.
The weather is a player
Most games on Saturday were rain-affected to some extent, a reminder that the weather often plays an important part at the end of the season. Here’s this week’s forecast: Wednesday, rain; Thursday and Friday, thunderstorms; Saturday, rain; Sunday, rain. So, this week at least, the advantage of finishing in the top three has extra value - those are the sides that will go through to the semi-finals if rain prevents a result in the qualifiers. Penrith and Randwick-Petersham would have been an epic contest had the rain not intervened: Penrith, thanks to Ryan Hackney’s 127 and a furious 89 from Cameron Weir, ran up a very competitive 5 for 313 at Coogee, but not even that total looked safe from David Warner and Jason Sangha. A rain break left Randwick-Petersham with a brutal Duckworth-Lewis target, which seemed achievable while Warner (110 from 77) and Sangha (33 from 15) were assaulting the bowling. But young left-armer Henry Railz removed them both, and Penrith clinched second place on the ladder.
Liam Scott is handy in the one-day game
Sydney’s young opener, Liam Scott, has had a slightly unusual season. He made his First Grade debut in Round Four, scoring 99. He then went back to Seconds for a bit, partly because his club seems to regard him as a two-day opener, preferring the more explosive Ryan Felsch as opener in the limited over formats. Then, in the Under-19 representative games, NSW Metropolitan used him as a middle order batsman and seam bowler. So, while he’s performed well everywhere, his role hasn’t always been clear. Anyway, with Zak Crawley and Steve Eskinazi back in England, Scott found himself back in Sydney’s 50 over side on Saturday, and responded with his first First Grade century - 104 from 92 balls, with three sixes. He actually outscored Felsch (36) in an opening partnership of 90. This weekend’s qualifying final at North Sydney pits two of the competition’s strongest batting sides against each other, and Scott won’t be out of place at the top of Sydney’s order.
Samuel Beckett knew a thing or two
It’s not a bad trivia question: who is the only winner of the Nobel Prize to have played first-class cricket? The answer, of course, is Samuel Beckett, the Irish writer of bleak plays and novels who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, and played two first-class matches in 1925 and 1926. As his first-class scores were 12, 18, 4 and 1, Beckett was very familiar with the close relationship between cricketers and failure, and that may have been what he had in mind in his novel Worstward Ho, when he wrote:
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Failure is built in to cricket. Across the five grades in Premier Cricket, thirty teams will now play in the finals, which means that seventy will not. Guess how many batsmen were dismissed for nothing across the five grades in Round 15? Guess again. 99. About a quarter of those were first-ballers, and Joe Byrnes of University of NSW achieved a perfect nullity of an afternoon, run out without even facing a ball. What sane person would give up a Saturday in summer to be run out without facing a ball? This time of year is littered with teams that miss the finals, players whose Round One Personal Goals are now a bitter, mocking, memory, players whose doosra remains a mystery mostly because it never lands on the pitch, and players who switched clubs but somehow are still in Second Grade. It’s a reductive game: for every one player who succeeds, many must fail.
But they’ll be back next September, most of them. Ready to try again. Ready, if they’re honest, to fail again. But hoping they can fail better.