By Tyler Lewis
Bowling short to Tom Donnell is a crime, and it very rarely goes unpunished.
Sunday’s stylish innings was no exception.
Chasing Monash’s 247 from the day before, when the ball landed half-way down to the elegant left-hander, there was a brief silence after the crunching noise of leather on willow, before the eruption of his team mates as the ball raced across the boundary rope.
It didn’t take long for him to bring the trademark pull stroke out. On the third ball of the day he sent one half-way to the rope, before making sure the fifth ball went all the way.
A back-foot cut brought up his 34th run of the day and 8000 Victorian Premier Cricket first XI runs, but it wasn’t the milestone the cricket gods had in mind for Donnell, who raced to 50 before the lunch interval.
Separating the trademark pull strokes and nudging was a touch of class, a late cut through a barely vacant gully region when he was in the 60s made the time the ball flew across the 22 yards feel like an eternity.
When Donnell lost his great mate Brett Forsyth (43) after yet another opening stand of three figures (128), an energetic Comrey Edgeworth came to the crease.
While Edgeworth was finding the gaps with ease, Donnell was compiling a collection of dot balls. But a swift swing of his Kookaburra blade sent leg-spinner Wil Parker over the rope into the breeze – assuring everyone, he was still in control.
After the tea break, which Donnell sat through unbeaten on 95, he punched a single into the off-side and one into the leg-side, before pouncing on yet another short ball, punishing it to the boundary to bring up his 12th Victorian Premier Cricket century.
While there were 11 before it, some in big finals, some off 60 deliveries – none have been more special than Sunday.
A little wave of his bat upon the milestone almost suggested he was embarrassed to be in the spotlight after such a sublime innings.
Dandenong chased Monash’s total of 247 with over 20 overs to spare and nine wickets in the shed – Donnell unbeaten on 141 from 220 balls a knock that included 16 fours and one six.
After crunching some of his vintage pull shots early, Donnell felt he was away with his knock from the very first over, while also adding it was a test mentally at times with the lack of pace.
“Definitely, I think always look for your go to shots early,” he said.
“Luckily enough, I got a couple there and I think the first 15 to 20 overs set the foundation for us on Sunday which was important.
“It made the rest of the day a lot easier with the start we got off to.
“It was always testing mentally I suppose, with slower bowlers on you have to reign yourself in and realise they are going to bowl some good balls and just try and wait for the loose ones, try to get through that period.
“I think it was more so not losing too many wickets to give them a sniff.
“Very rarely at Dandenong do we cruise to a victory, but that was the key on Sunday with as little hassle as possible.”
Going into the tea break on 95, Donnell felt he was close, but not within striking distance.
“I thought I would’ve had to be close, but I didn’t think I was that close to be honest,” he said.
“Without a scoreboard, I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing, you don’t know how many you are on.
“It was sort of a relief to get to tea and get a little rest I suppose, that was the main thing, just recharge then go out and get the runs.”
When he brought up his milestone, Donnell briefly addressed the crowd, a slight raise of his bat, nothing too special – while he isn’t known for relishing in the spotlight, he said the wind is to blame for his discreet celebration.
“I wasn’t 100% sure I was there, you couldn’t hear much out in the middle because the wind was going against it (the cheers),” he said.
“It wasn’t really too loud, I didn’t want to jump the gun too early if I wasn’t there, probably just too lazy to do anything.”
Donnell and Edgeworth put the foot on the accelerator in the final session, putting the tired fielders to the sword – but for the pair, it was about protecting the middle order that had been waiting all day to wield the willow.
“We didn’t really need a lot to get and I just thought of the batsmen coming in,” he said.
“It is not a good time to bat when you need 20 or 30 to win, so I really wanted to finish the job, Comrey and myself, didn’t want to expose the others when there is not much to gain individually for them.
“I have a bit of a habit of not making big enough scores, or throwing my wicket away easily.
“So I suppose it was something different for me to end up not out, it was pleasing, it was (also) pleasing to see Comrey do the same and bat as well as he did.
“I didn’t have much left in me at all, I was pretty cooked to be honest, and fielding all day Saturday took it out of me.
“Saturday Sunday cricket is not much fun when you have to field all day on one of the days, but that’s the way it is and it was good to get through and go alright.”
Comrey Edgeworth (54 not out) accompanied Donnell off the ground to the applause of family and friends, while the Panthers remain in the finals hunt, given they continue the run of form into its next two encounters with Melbourne and St Kilda.