By Tyler Lewis
Brett Forsyth – the master of deteriorating bowling attacks with his arrow straight bat and sheer mental power, was at his best on Saturday against St Kilda, grinding his way to a sensational century on his home deck at Shepley Oval.
There was only 370 sleeps separating Forsyth’s 16th and 17th Victorian Premier Cricket century, but as a victim of his own simply marvellous standards, it felt like an eternity.
From ball one, he looked ominous, whipping the opening delivery of the day to the mid-wicket boundary; before bringing out his cut shot only overs later, crunching the ball backward of point, seemingly sending the ball to the fence faster than it met his bat.
He lost long-term stablemates Tom Donnell (10) and James Nanopoulos (8) early, but it was destined to be a day to bat around the Panther rock.
Once passing 50 for the 57th time, Forsyth was struck high on the pads, but after a thorough appeal the Saints found there voice in the middle, but it was soon silenced by a series of textbook drives through minuscule mid-on and cover gaps.
As some teased the boundary and others crashed into the fence, the triple-figure milestone seemed only a matter of when, rather than if.
His second largest partnership with Comrey Edgeworth (36) through the middle session of the day was one of monumental importance, the pair added 74 before a mix-up saw Lincoln Edwards join Forsyth in the middle.
Edwards (43 from 48 balls) brought a spark of energy to the crease, relieving the pressure on Forsyth to score quickly as he approached the 90s.
His first sweep shot of the day on 93 inched him closer, within striking distance.
When he braced for his 260th ball of the day on 99, a stillness echoed Shepley Oval, it was soon broken by the crunch of leather on willow before a cry of ‘yes’ from the reigning Ryder Medallist, followed by the cheers and car horns of friends and family.
Cutting his way forward of point to a 17th Victorian Premier Cricket century, one his team was in dire need of as every week looms an elimination final.
Some nice strokes early helped Forsyth get the feel of the wicket and more importantly, a feel of the ball in the middle of the bat.
“It probably helped calm the nerves as such,” he said.
“I guess if you hit one or two early in the middle, you gain confidence and you feel confident at the wicket a bit quicker than if you played and missed at a few.
“Or you weren’t able to find the middle or even weren’t able to pounce on a few bad balls that were delivered, I think it calmed me down and allowed me to focus on watching the ball.
“I felt pretty good from the first ball which is a bit unusual as a batter, an opening batter anyway.”
While bringing up a ton may have looked destined from beyond the fence, Forsyth said the three-figures didn’t creep into his mind until it was too close to avoid.
“I generally find once you think about it is when you make a mistake,” he said.
“I didn’t really think about it too much to be honest, I was just trying to take it phase by phase within the game, building partnerships.
‘Trying to know when good opportunities to attack certain bowlers and when were times to respect the bowlers a bit more and get off strike.
“Probably when I got into the 90s was when I thought it was a good chance it was going to happen today if I don’t make a big mistake, my scoring rate slowed a little bit and the heart rate got up.
“I think it might have been on 99, I hadn’t felt the heart rate at that stage so it was nice to hit the ball through the gap and then once you get to 100 it is really nice batting after that, you relax and try to score as many as you can in as little balls as possible.
“It has been a tough season, when I have got set or in positions where I feel set, I have either got a good ball or made a mistake myself or a combination of both.
“I definitely wasn’t getting too carried away about that personal milestone because it hasn’t been a year where that has eventuated as often as I would’ve liked.”
As he struck the ball through the gap on 99, the call of ‘yes’ bellowed around the ground, showing it may have meant a bit more than previous centuries.
“It was probably a bit more of a relief than normal,” he said.
“I think I said that because I hit it and thought ‘I am running here’, but as I called the yes I saw it beat point and I knew it was going to go through to the boundary so it was probably a call that turned into a bit more.
“I thought ‘That’s a bit over the top, I will just tap down and quietly celebrate after that’.
“Part of it was playing against a really good team and a strong club and wanting to do well against one of the best teams in the competition.
“It is a pretty important game, my form at Shepley Oval hasn’t been great, it’s been consistently not great.
“Pretty pleased to be able to put a good score on – just to show the boys we can put big scores on our home ground.”
Forsyth finished on 126 from 302 deliveries, Dandenong are 8/277 overnight and are likely to declare in an attempt to get the 10-wickets to win the match next week.
Monash Tigers claimed victory on day-one against Essendon, and if Dandenong are to win, it is highly likely the Panthers are to make finals.