By Tyler Lewis
A disappointing weekend for Dandenong has the Panthers chasing the top eight heading into the red ball fixture this weekend.
In both matches, the Panthers begun on top, but were unable to break game saving partnerships in the respective matches.
On Saturday against an in-form Northcote side, the Panthers were strong up front, with Ed Newman taking a sensational catch running in from the boundary to put the Dragons on the back foot.
Having Northcote 4/55, the Dragons compiled a strong partnership in the middle overs through Max O’Sullivan (75) and Josh Sundberg (51) that proved to be game defining.
After going for consecutive boundaries, James Nanopoulos rattled the stumps of O’Sullivan before the right-arm quick collected another three scalps to minimise the target.
The rain settled in moments prior and through the innings break to force a reduced match and adjusting the Panthers target to 185 from 40 overs.
Early wickets again had Dandenong in a similar situation to the week prior, but the Panthers were unable to create déjà vu as the wickets continued to tumble.
Nanopoulos and Cameron Forsyth joined at the crease shortly before the rain set in once again and created a new match scenario.
Walking back out to the middle, the Panthers needed 99 from 11 overs, and with Nanopoulos at the crease, it was well within reach.
For the first number of overs, the Panthers were on track, but once the wickets begun to drop the runs started to dry out with victory streaming away from Dandenong’s grasp.
On the following morning at Casey Fields, Dandenong got off to another raring start with early wickets to Jakeb Thomas and Suraj Randiv.
A terrific opening spell from Thomas (six overs 1/6) set the platform for Pete Cassidy to set up camp on a good length and claim another.
Having Casey South-Melbourne 3/30, one of them being English superstar Luke Wells, the Panthers were on top.
But once again, a crucial partnership in the middle saved the match for the Swans.
Coming to the crease at 2/11 following the wicket of his captain, Joel Mitchell accumulated the singles and punished the bad balls in a magnificent 83.
He wasn’t alone as the experienced Michael Wallace also collected 55.
The Panthers weren’t bowling poorly; the Casey pair just looked to be batting on a different wicket to anyone else throughout the day.
With 15 overs to go, the Swans had a platform for a monstrous total before key wickets from Cassidy, Randiv and Thomas marginalised the Casey score.
In reply, the Panthers needed 219 for victory.
Comrey Edgeworth accompanied Brett Forsyth to the middle in reply and the two immediately paved the way for the rest of the side.
Going slow, but wicket less – the pair nudged their way to 0/86 in the 27th over before Edgeworth skied one to square leg on 46.
Together, the Forsyth brothers upped the ante without much risk – adding 57 at a run a ball.
The departure of Forsyth (24) and Edwards (11) added theatre to the already thrilling run chase – with Nanopoulos joining his captain in the middle with 56 from 54 required.
The wicket of Nanopoulos was a dagger to the heart of the Panthers and salt was added to the wound when Brett Forsyth’s brave innings came to an end shortly after (76).
As the Swans continued to collect wickets, the Panthers chances slimmed as they fell 17 runs short of victory.
Dandenong captain Brett Forsyth was pleased with how his side approached the second match and the resilience of Newman after making a duck the day before to slide down the order and showcase his talent with powerful cameo towards the end.
“It is always disappointing when you lose in any sport, so obviously the players were disappointed that we were on the wrong side of the result,” he said.
“But the beauty of playing Saturday and Sunday is you don’t have to wait a week to right the wrongs of the game you have just played – we were actually really looking forward to playing on the Sunday.
“Through the middle period we weren’t able to bowl as well as we would’ve liked, taking wickets and the opposition were able to find the boundary a bit more regularly then we would’ve liked – credit to the batters who built the pressure.
“It was just trying to give him (Newman) a different opportunity and experience to bat in the middle and I know he ended up getting run out but he struck the ball really nicely and looked to be in good form.
“We have been under a little bit of pressure with myself, Ed and Comrey at different stages so it was just mixing it up, trying to get the balance right, it wasn’t a knock on him in any shape or form it was just to mix it up,” Forsyth said.
Edgeworth and Forsyth were going slow at the beginning of the chase, building a platform and more importantly were travelling wicket less, Forsyth said the slow run rate at the beginning of the chase had a lot to do with the quality of bowling from the Swans attack.
“It was hard to score, it kind of felt like the air had been taken out of the ball – Casey’s bowlers bowled really well,” he said.
“They (Casey bowlers) bowled to their field and made it hard to score, hard to hit boundaries.
“We were trying to keep the run rate at five or below five, we were able to do that for a while and then when Cam (Forsyth) came in we had a positive partnership.
“But then the rate got out to six which we thought was managaebale but Casey’s bowlers bowled really well,” Forsyth said.
Despite suffering back-to-back losses, the Panthers will enter the red ball matches with confidence in time for an important match against Geelong on their home deck at Shepley on Saturday.