By Nick Creely
Dandenong made its mark as a champion team from a system that meant that if one person can’t do the job, someone else would step up and do it.
It seems the 2018/19 season is no different, the Panthers – as a team – understand each other better than any Premier club in the state.
In the season opening clash against Ringwood on Saturday at Russell Lucas Oval, it was tweaker Akshat Buch that stood up when it mattered.
As was the case with most early season pitches, scoring freely can be hard to come by, and champion opening pair Tom Donnell (22) and Brett Forsyth (32) scratched away early after being sent in by Rams skipper Ian Holland.
The star pair clocked up yet another 50 run stand, but both were undone by spinner Brendan Walsh, leaving the Panthers 2/68.
A late, and exciting flourish by Lincoln Edwards (68 not out), as well as cameos from the returning James Pattinson (22) and James Nanopoulos (23) lifted the visitors to 5/197 off their 50 overs.
Encouraging quick Jakeb Thomas (1/42) snared an early Rams scalp – and it was a big one – with David King departing early, but Holland and Jackson Freeman built steadily, knocking the ball around to take the shine off the new ball.
Enter Buch (5/26) – an unassuming left arm spinner who has terrific control – who got through the gate of Freeman to break a 45 run partnership, before moments later knocking over Nathan Walsh.
Holland continued to show off his abundance of class by threatening to take the game away from the Panthers, but Buch trapped the star in front and sent Joseph Loorham packing the very next ball, leaving the Rams precariously hanging at 5/114.
Lincoln Edwards then snared a catch in Buch’s next over to give the left armer a fifth wicket, and the Rams were unable to recover, falling short in a thrilling finish, 7/187.
In Sunday’s opening round of Women’s Premier Cricket, Dandenong were taught a cricketing lesson by Carlton Brunswick at Princes Park.
Winning the toss and batting on a warm Melbourne day, English product Ellie Mason went bersek on her first innings down under, belting a run a ball 103 – an innings that featured 18 boundaries – as her side racked up 8/270 off 50 overs.
Panthers star Courtney Neale (4/33) was a shining light in a tough couple of hours for her side, and if not for her brilliance, the score could have well exceeded 300 or 350.
Early wickets brought about the Panthers’ downfall, falling to 2/17 before a brief fightback from Lucy Cripps (26) and skipper Emma Gallagher (18), but wickets tumbled and they were eventually rolled for 95.
Tahlia Simpson starred for Carlton with 4/24 off five overs.
The Panthers have a chance to respond when they host Prahran at Shepley Oval this Sunday.
By Nick Creely