By Tyler Lewis
Passages of brilliance placed Dandenong in a position to steal a famous win in its first match of the Victorian Premier Cricket season.
But unfortunately for the Panthers, those passages were too few and far between to secure a Round 1 victory at Shepley Oval on Saturday.
Melbourne Uni skipper James McNeil called correctly at the toss and sent the Panthers in to kick off the season.
Dandenong was immediately on the back foot as a result of early wickets, but at 3/21 James Nanopoulos provided resistance the only way he knows how – with intent.
Still, his 17 from 17 balls with three boundaries wasn’t enough to dig the Panthers out of their early hole before the first passage of brilliance redirected the Dandenong innings.
At 4/55, Cam Forsyth strolled to the crease to join his older brother Brett, who had seen all the carnage unfold at the non-striker’s end.
Together, the pair doubled the Panthers’ total before Brett (48) fell just shy of yet another raise of his bat. Cam (25) joined his brother in the sheds shortly after, chasing a wide ball that caught the edge.
After losing the two set batsmen, the Panthers needed some late order resistance.
It didn’t come through the likes of Pete Cassidy (nine), Akshat Buch (six) and Suraj Randiv (four) as the Panthers swiftly moved from 4/110 to 9/134.
With the deck already playing havoc, it seemed if Jacques Augustin and Jakeb Thomas could scrounge to 150, it was going to be a competitive total.
After nudging the score to 9/148, Thomas found the mid-off fielder three balls in a row before he swung through the line of the ball and cleared the boundary to the onside.
The maximum kick started a small fightback from the numbers 10 and 11, as Augustin found the rope the following over. Fighting to 9/163 after their 50, the Panthers had a decent total to defend.
Melbourne Uni’s opening pair got away to a fast start without the loss of a wicket until Thomas forced the chop on off the dangerous looking Jarrod Martignago (18 off 21 deliveries).
With the visitors cruising to victory at 4/116, Akshat Buch’s consistent line and length broke through and wreaked havoc on Uni’s middle order, taking them from 4/116 to 7/124 in the space of two overs to put the Panthers back on top.
With every ball from Buch looking like getting a wicket, Suraj Randiv joined him from the other end to force the issue upon Melbourne.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Buch couldn’t bowl all day and finished his remarkable 10 overs with the figures of 3/28 with four maidens.
Nanopoulos took the ball from the end Buch did all the damage and immediately followed in his footsteps.
With one of the more deceiving slower balls, the medium pacer trapped number 10 batsman Steven Reid in front.
With one wicket needed for Dandenong and six runs for Melbourne, every ball had match-defining repercussions.
Shortly after the dismissal, Nanopoulos again went up for an LBW appeal, almost on his knees pleading all the way at the striker’s end. He was denied the match-winning scalp.
Only a number of balls later, Uni’s debutant Akon Mawien struck the ball down the ground to claim victory for Melbourne, chasing the total nine wickets down.
Stand-in skipper Brett Forsyth said the group felt quietly confident although wanting a few more runs on the board.
“We thought we probably left a few runs out there,” he said.
“I guess we were hoping for 180 to towards 200 – even with the start we had losing three early wickets.
“We were confident if we bowled really well we would make it hard for Melbourne Uni which turned out to be the case and it ended as a great game of cricket.”
During the middle period of the second innings, the Panthers were fighting back on top through the spin of Buch and Randiv, an asset Forsyth believes to be a powerful strength up the Panthers sleeve.
“We knew the ball had started spinning, ragging and bouncing a little bit,” he said.
“We found a way to find a fielder and put him in slip – he (Buch) bowled really nice line and length.
“He brought first slip into the game that doesn’t often happen in one day cricket.
“His spell was really important in getting us some wickets and putting them under pressure.
“We were really pleased with his efforts and with Randiv as well, away from the left and right handers depending on the match-ups.
“That is going to put us in good stead.”
The Panthers will be searching for their maiden win of the season when they take on Footscray at Mervyn Hughes Oval on Saturday.