By Nick Creely
It started off in odd fashion, but ended with a vital win for the Bloods.
With a nice crowd building for the highly anticipated Turf 1 grand final rematch between Springvale South and Buckley Ridges on Saturday, Bloods openers Nathan King and skipper Ateeq Javid strode out to the middle to face the music from fast bowler Jerome Jones.
But after just one ball, a leave outside the off-stump from King, the players and umpires converged in the middle for five minutes before slowly trudging off the ground.
The weather was perfect, the ground looking superb, but the problem: the 30-metre markings for the inner circle were too short for the one-day clash, forcing the groundsman to re-mark the circle and measure it out again.
But after the 15-minute delay, the players made their way back onto Alex Nelson Reserve, where – as expected – runs began to tick over.
From the first two balls after the delay, aggressive opener Nathan King sent boundaries to the rope, and after a typically flamboyant start, the wily Greg Todd (2/44) managed to snare the breakthrough, with King holing out to skipper David White at mid-on.
From the outset of Ryan Quirk (39) making his way out to the middle, the Bloods were just busy, dropping and running if possible and dispatching anything that strayed straight to the boundary, with Javid also building into his best work with a series of cracking drives.
But just as the Bloods were threatening to burst away for good, Haider Rahimi (2/35) struck in consecutive balls, getting one through the gate of Quirk before trapping recruit Akshay Ballal in front first ball.
While the Bucks managed to stem the bleeding somewhat, the class of Javid continued to keep the scoreboard ticking along nicely, with the skipper combining with Josh Allen (25) for an entertaining 47-run stand that saw Allen send two flying over the ropes.
But the reigning premiers – who were without champion all-rounder Daniel Watson due to a hamstring injury and weren’t as threatening as usual – once again managed to find a few breakthroughs, with Javid’s wonderful knock ending on 87, and as a result crossed over the 250-run mark already this season in just four digs.
With the Bloods looking to find the boundaries at any rate, Jerome Jones (2/45) found a couple of late wickets, but a few lusty blows from Brayden Sharp saw the home side reach an imposing 6/251 from 40 overs.
Susa Pradeep and David White were the two to open up the innings due to the absence of Watson, and the pair got off to the perfect start, racking up 43 quick runs before Pradeep was caught for a well-made 19.
While star South African White was looking in ominous touch, the pressure continued to mount with a lack of support around him, and when the Bloods managed to prize out the skipper for a 59-ball 54 – his third half-century of the season already – the Bucks soon found themselves 3/100 with a Bloods bowling attack relying heavily on its disciplined slow-bowling attack.
With left-arm tweaker Jarryd Straker (4/33) continuing his fine Turf 1 form with yet another decisive spell of bowling, and Akshay Ballal (2/32) providing valuable support, the Bucks were dismissed for 204 after a middle-order collapse.
Turf 1 newcomers Narre South, meanwhile, have surged to the top of the ladder after another comfortable victory, this time against St Mary’s at Strathaird Recreation Reserve.
The Lions have been superb since jumping up from Turf 2 this season, and are yet to lose a game as they make a claim as one of the early-year contenders.
Batting first, the Lions reached 7/197 off the back of champion skipper Scott Phillips, who got his first real score of the season with a brutal 80 off 73 balls.
Phillips – who’s had perhaps a slow start to the season considering his lofty standards – is just starting to warm into the season, another warning sign for opposition sides as Christmas nears.
Morteza Ali (38) also continued his rampaging form with the blade while Kyle Hardy found a bit of touch with a well-made 39.
But it was with the ball that the Lions were at their dangerous best.
Seamer Tim Phillips (3/19) continued his fine form with the new-ball to have the Saints in early trouble, before Ali (5/11) showcased he’s not just a gun bat, completely bamboozling the visitors after striking 125 with the bat the week prior.
The Saints were eventually rolled for 115, with Wendyl Pires top-scoring with 31.
Berwick were another side to make a mighty statement as the Bears thumped Hallam Kalora Park at home.
Back into the side, destructive opener Jordan Cleland stole the show after the home side elected to bat.
With skipper Matthew Chasemore (25) just needing to sit back and watch on the other end, Cleland belted 93 off 109 balls, sending three sixes over the rope as the Bears geared up for a potentially monster score.
Cleland’s early-season form has helped cover the loss of Nathan Pilon to retirement, with the right-hander putting together solid scores in regular season and Twenty20 games.
Rising batsman Matthew Robertson was also incredible with his strike power, sending seven balls over the rope on his way to 74 from just 51 balls as the Bears set the Hawks 233 runs to win.
Hawks quick Steve Gilmour (2/49) battled hard to pick up a couple of wickets for the visitors.
And in a disappointing batting performance from the Hawks – who were unable to cope with the variations of leggie Ruwantha Kellapotha (4/8), and the pace of James Wilcock (1/9) and Brendan Rose (2/15) – the Bears rolled the visitors for a meek 58 in 28.3 overs.
Only one Hawk managed to reach double-figures in a performance they’ll need to very quickly move on from on Saturday.
In the remaining match, Heinz Southern Districts (4/192) easily accounted for North Dandenong (127) at Reedy Reserve.
Eranda Ekanayake (55) struck another half-century for the Cobras, while Trevor Davies (53) was also in fine form. With the ball, the Cobras had five bowlers – Michael Davies, Justin Davis, Chandima Abeykoon, Josh Dinger and Cam Dinger – take two wickets.
It’s set to be another action-packed weekend of cricket this Saturday in yet another one-day round. Hallam Kalora Park’s task of getting back on track won’t be easy when they host Springvale South, Buckley Ridges and Narre South meet in what looms as a blockbuster, St Mary’s and HSD will do battle, while North Dandenong will welcome Berwick to Lois Twohig Reserve.