Premier cricket is 125 years old

Last weekend marked the 125th anniversary of the Sydney Premier Cricket competition (although for much of that time it was known as the Sydney Grade competition, and before that as the Electoral competition). It began as Electorate Cricket on 7 October 1893 - so known because (except for the University of Sydney), the clubs were based on State electoral boundaries. On the first day of competition, East Sydney bowled out Manly for 89, Glebe made 126 against University, and Redfern reached 9 for 217 against Central Cumberland. Canterbury and Paddington had a bye. Most of the clubs were missing their Australian representatives, who were still on board the ship bringing them home from a tour of England. Sydney Premier Cricket isn’t quite the oldest cricket league in the world: the Birmingham League was formed in 1888, and the Victorian Pennant competition began a year later.

It helps if you get on

We probably knew this already, but it’s a huge advantage to be able to get onto the ground when it rains. On the weekend, results were reached in only four of the ten First Grade games. Penrith and Sydney seized the chance to move to the top of the table, and Wests and Manly hauled themselves back into the pack after starting slowly. Twelve other teams had to be happy with a solitary point for the draw. Premiers Parramatta had the most reason to feel aggrieved: after piling up 7 for 383, they reduced Campbelltown-Camden to 6 for 83 before running out of time. Nick Bertus (predictably) and Trent Crittenden hit hundreds for Parramatta, and off-spinner Liam Lofts continued his impressive start to the season, grabbing two wickets for next to nothing.

Hayden McLean had a Phil Antman moment

You may not remember the late Phil Antman, but he was a strongly-built seamer who bowled a useful inducker and led the Gordon attack through much of the 1970s. He was in the NSW training squad for a while, and played well for NSW Colts, without ever quite breaking through into Shield cricket. Anyway, back in 1976-77, Geoffrey Boycott was refusing to play for England because they wouldn’t make him captain, and instead he spent a season with Waverley (as Eastern Suburbs was then known). In one sense, it went quite well: in 15 innings, he racked up seven hundreds, on his way to 1160 runs at an average of 165. Unfortunately, he spent so much time getting those runs (often batting well into the second day), that Waverley won only two games all season. The point is that, in the middle of all that heavy scoring, Waverley played Gordon at Chatswood, and Phil Antman slipped an inswinger past Boycott’s usually impregnable defence, bowling the Yorkshireman for 1. Events like that are less frequent than they used to be, because leading players turn out so rarely in Premier Cricket these days, but something similar happened in the match between University of NSW and Randwick-Petersham. At one end, David Warner - Test average 48 (higher than Boycott, as it happens), 21 Test hundreds, fresh from a match-winning century in Round One. With the ball, Hayden McLean - career record, 42 First Grade wickets at 37. But it only takes one ball. In the third over of the innings, McLean bowled the former Test vice-captain for only 2 - an event that at least one of them will remember for a very long time. Rain prevented play on the second day when the match was evenly, and interestingly, poised.

Lachlan Hearne is in good touch

After an excellent start to his First Grade career last season, Mosman left-hander Lachlan Hearne has opened the season in exceptional touch, following his first-round 59 not out (which clinched victory against Steve Smith’s Sutherland) with an impressive 92 against Northern District. Hearne is already firmly established in the various junior pathways run by Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia, but he’s providing Mosman with excellent value before he disappears off to the next round of junior representative games. After 12 matches in Firsts, he now averages just a tick under 82 with the bat. Not that it’s any of our business, but it’s probably time to promote him from number six in the order, given that nothing he’s faced so far in First Grade seems to have bothered him much.

Jono Cook isn’t ready to give up the O’Reilly Medal

It used to be said that the best way to win the O’Reilly Medal was to be an all-rounder in a team that wasn’t conspicuously strong. The logic was that you’d have the chance of earning points on both days of the game, and not a huge amount of competition from your own team-mates. Leg-spinner Jono Cook fits that profile, although the simple fact is that he won the O’Reilly Medal last season because he was outstanding with the ball (leading the competition with 53 wickets). Again this season he’s already emphasised that he’s easily the outstanding player in the Western Suburbs side. Wests were in all sorts of trouble when Cook went in at 5-98 against Fairfield-Liverpool, but he dragged his side out of trouble with a combative 75. Then he captured three wickets on the second day, leading his side to a narrow, 31-run victory. Wests will win their share of games this year, Cook will have a hand in most of them, and you can be sure he’ll figure prominently in the O’Reilly Medal voting at the season’s end.