Campbelltown's resurgence is serious
After six rounds, last season's wooden spooners confirmed the strength of their recovery by hitting the lead in the First Grade competition. The Ghosts thoroughly outplayed Western Suburbs, who have also improved significantly since last season, but had no answer to Luke Webb's left arm swing, crumbling for 79 in their first innings. Webb only collected 19 First Grade wickets last season, but even then he unsettled a number of reputable players with his ability to bend the ball back in to the right-handers. On Saturday, he snared his first five-wicket haul in the top grade, capturing 5-26 from only ten overs. Aaron Yabsley, another player who endured Campbelltown's tough times last season, helped to set up the win with a rapid 75 on the first day; and, inevitably, new recruits Philip Wells (72) and Jarrad Burke (2-18) chipped in. The Ghosts don't have an easy path through to the mid-season break, but if they can hold off Manly in Round 8 they could well celebrate Christmas with top place on the ladder.
Jonathan Cook is a force
That Campbelltown didn't have everything its own way at Raby Oval was largely due to the efforts of Jonathan Cook, who continues to keep Western Suburbs competitive in every match. It's only the start of December, but already Cook has 30 wickets to his name. Purists might argue that he doesn't give his leg breaks much air, but no one can question his accuracy of the impact of his subtle variations. His 5-72 against Campbelltown was the third time this season the former Port Macquarie bowler has taken five in an innings (and twice he's taken four). Not only is he the Magpies' most effective attacking force, he also keeps things tight, conceding little more than two and a half runs an over. As captain, he couldn't ask much more of himself.
Steve Hobson looks at home in First Grade
It's always risky suggesting that something or other is a Premier Cricket record, because it usually turns out that it either happened in 1911, or Greg Mail did it (no, either, not both). But we're fairly confident in suggesting that never before has a 39 year old batsman hit his maiden First Grade century immediately after taking a match off to attend a ballet concert. Steve Hobson has been playing for Sydney University since he turned up just before the start of 2011-12. A little bit of research would have turned up some impressive performances in South African junior cricket and the Surrey League, but as no one was quite sure who his was, he was placed in Fifth Grade, and responded by belting 240 against Parramatta. Since then, he's scored heavily for the Students, mostly in Seconds, and early this season he made an unarguable case for promotion by hammering two hundreds in successive Second Grade games, including a record-breaking 229 not out. The only problem was that he had committed, before the season began, to attending his daughter's ballet concert, so he was unavailable for Round 5. He made up for lost time in Round 6, playing a highly assured innings against a good Sydney attack, driving confidently and punishing anything short. He was ruthless against Ben Manenti's off spin, cutting and sweeping before lifting the ball over long on to bring up his hundred. Even though he hasn't played all that much in Firsts, he's already playing as though he's been there for a long time.
Usman Qadir is a chip off the old block
You may need to ask your father who Abdul Qadir is - if he's forgotten, there's always YouTube. Qadir took 236 Test wickets for Pakistan between 1977 and 1990 and was the best, and most entertaining, leg-spinner of the pre-Warne generation. No fewer than four of his sons have played first-class cricket in Pakistan, and the most promising of them has been Usman, who turned out for his country at the Under-15, Under -19 and Under-23 levels. He made his first-class debut in December 2013 but, in one of those situations that seems to occur remarkably often in Pakistan, he was given little to do with the ball and soon fell out of favour. Deciding that his options were limited at home, he tried his luck for a while in Adelaide, and this season he's playing for Hawkesbury. He started well against University of NSW, taking 5-84, then bowled a marathon spell against Northern District, collecting 6-111. He has also been highly effective in the Twenty20 games, grabbing 2-14 and 3-15. He may never reach the heights that his father scaled, but he has formed a very effective combination with Arjun Nair, and gives the Hawks a genuine attacking option on the generally blameless surface at Owen Earle Oval.
This is getting silly
In Round 5, Mosman's Seconds ran up 5 for 542 in only 82 overs against Fairfield-Liverpool, and did not win - the visitors batted out 115 overs to save the game. Last round, the Whales hit 385 against Blacktown, and did not win - when rain ended play, the Warriors were 4 for 263. That's 1583 runs on four days, with a wicket falling, on average, every 61 runs. Both games were at Allan Border Oval. It's none of our business, but if we were a Mosman bowler, we'd be buying the ground staff their Christmas beers early this year, and buying lots of them.