Panthers under the pump

Comrey Edgeworth was rock-solid for the Panthers on Saturday. Picture: TYLER LEWIS

By Tyler Lewis

At times, an innings can’t be defined by runs scored, but by what a team requires at that particular moment.

There was a component of Rahul Dravid about Comrey Edgeworth’s 181-ball 51 on Saturday – he was the glue of an innings, in an impenetrable defence preventing the Carlton bowling attack.

It took the Blues only 26 minutes to welcome Edgeworth to the crease after the dismissal of Tom Donnell, but it took the Carlton attack a further five hours to send him back.

Wickets were tumbling steadily at the other end; Edgeworth’s biggest partnership coming with LJ Edwards who crashed one of the more eye-catching knocks of 20 before playing the ball on to his stumps.

On an uneven wicket combined with an extremely slow outfield, runs weren’t easy to come by; neither was spending a significant time at the crease.

Forsyth (10), Donnell (10), Edwards (20) and Newman (12) all got started in the middle but were unable to kick on.

When Peter Cassidy was dismissed through a direct hit run out, the Blues could smell blood, and the Panthers were 6/86 with more than 40 overs remaining in the day.

The only problem for Carlton – wickets were only coming from one end with Edgeworth demonstrating a textbook forward defence at the other.

Throughout the middle session, Gehan Seneviratne (seven from 36 balls faced) and Jacques Augustin (13 not out from 57 deliveries) both provided some stability at the other end.

Edgeworth passed the well-deserved milestone of 50 briefly after tea before his marathon innings came to an end.

In reply, the Blues faced a difficult period to bat, requiring 135 for victory but only 17 overs remaining in the day.

Blues superstar Brayden Stepien was the man the Panthers group would have wanted back in the pavilion after a short-lived stay in the middle and who else to complete the job than the in-form James Nanopoulos who continues to bowl hand grenades.

Nanopoulos was joined in the wickets column in the final over by Seneviratne who trapped Smyth in front leg before, forcing Carlton to use a nightwatchman to protect the big wicket of Blues skipper Evan Gulbis.

Edgeworth – who came out to bat at 1/20, before it shortly became 2/20 – survived despite a scare in one of his first balls, and told Star News Group that the pitch was causing some issues for batsmen.

“It was seaming around a little bit, it (the pitch) was a bit up and down as well,” he said.

“I am pretty sure my first ball just about rolled so if that was on the stumps it would have been all over pretty early, (there was) a bit of sideways movement, swing in the air as well, it is always a battle when you are in early against the new ball.

“I have had a bit of difficulty playing at Shepley a bit this year with the sideways movement, one of my focuses was to play as straight as I can and be solid in defence.

“When the ball is moving around, if your defence isn’t up to it then I guess you are in for a long day (in the sheds).”

Throughout the day, Edgeworth gave very few chances, a testament to his concentration, but that concentration is something he prides his most cherished knocks on, especially on a difficult wicket.

“I would say a characteristic of my batting is being able to bat long periods of time,” he said.

“I had a couple of knocks in the twos where I batted long amounts of time without putting a huge score on the board.

“I feel that my concentration is one of my strengths as a batsman, a mentality of not giving your wicket away too cheaply and trying to do your best for the team.

“We know it is more of a bowler friendly wicket at Shepley this year, take nothing away from Carlton, they set smart fields and are a well drilled side, but obviously (the aim was) to get as many runs as we could to give the bowlers something to defend.

“It is quite a funny wicket at Shepley this year, you don’t really feel like you are set as a batsman, it was difficult, I was just trying to protect my wicket and runs were obviously harder to come by then other venues but I didn’t really get that feeling that it was easy – it was really difficult.”

Dandenong will face an uphill battle this week with Carlton honing in on a first innings victory, but without the Edgeworth knock, the match very well may have already been resulted.

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