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.