By Nick Creely
The Twenty20 kings have done it again.
Buckley Ridges’ extraordinary dominance in the shortest format of the game has continued with yet another Dandenong District Twenty20 title – it’s eighth in just 13 tournaments in what has been a stunning period of success for the little powerhouse at Park Oval.
Incredibly, since the Bucks’ first Twenty20 flag in the 2007/08 season, club greats and loyal servants Daniel ‘DJ’ Watson and Suren Ekanayake have played in each of them, while a host of others have played in a large chunk of the titles.
“DJ loves the finals, which is why he plays the game,” his skipper David White said of the loyal servants on Wednesday morning.
“And for Suren and a lot of the other guys as well, it’s just a great testament to their loyalty.”
In Victoria, let alone Australia, few local clubs have enjoyed such success in the Twenty20 format, and few can match them when push comes to shove, whether its with bat, ball or in the field.
The Bucks took on Springvale South at the picturesque Shepley Oval , the home of the Dandenong Cricket Club on Tuesday evening in what always loomed as Twenty20 grand final with as many stars to keep an astronomer busy.
It was Bloods skipper and Dandenong great Brett Forsyth that won the toss and elected to bat, but the Bucks rallied early to snare the Panther champ without troubling the scorers, before the wily Greg Todd (1/22) found a way to pick up run-machine Ateeq Javid before he could unleash.
Despite the two early wickets, Akshay Ballal (40) and Ryan Quirk (47 not out) found another gear, with Ballal in particular the aggressor as the Bloods clawed its way to 4/141.
Brayden Sharp’s more than handy 10-ball 25 was also vital in the final stages of the innings with the Bloods taking some much-needed momentum into the changeover.
For the Bucks, Todd kept things extremely tidy in his four overs, while Jerome Jones (1/30) and Daniel Watson (1/35) were always threats with ball in hand.
But it was then Watson – and fittingly – who gave the Bucks the platform to another piece of silverware in the cabinets, crunching a brutal 57 off 34 balls, a knock featuring five fours and three sixes, with the likes of David White (17), Susa Pradeep (16), Jayson Hobbs (21) and Jerome Jones (17 not out) providing handy contributions as the champs ran away with a six wicket win with 12 balls to spare.
For Watson, it’s not the first time he’s produced a strong performance in the Twenty20 final.
In the club’s first title in 2007/08, he crunched 59, made 44 the next year, 58 in 2009/10, took 4/20 in 2016/17, and now has produced his latest match-winning performance.
Skipper David White – who finished the tournament with 282 runs at 67.15 to clearly be the most dominant force throughout the campaign – clearly has one eye fixed firmly on this weekend’s crunch final at Narre South, and hopes the momentum carried across from the Twenty20 final can be translated.
“It was a really good game of cricket, and we were really happy to turn it around,” he said.
“We’ve been in a bit of a slump in the regular season, so hopefully it’s good for morale and we bring that to Narre South on the weekend.”
While White can’t exactly put his finger on exactly why Buckley Ridges continue to be one of the dominant Twenty20 sides anywhere, he said that the group’s abilities in the shortest format hold them in good stead.
“I think there are a lot of guys that are naturally suited to the format, and it’s the most enjoyable format,” he said.
“It’s a great release for the guys from Saturday cricket, and they’ve been free.”
In an expected tough contest against its great rivals, White admitted he would have also won the toss and batted, and pointed to the winning culture of Springvale South as a reason for why the two powerhouse clubs continually meet in the big finals.
“We’ve had some great clashes with Springy South, and they just know how to win, and get to grand finals,” he said.
“They clearly have a great winning culture – even though there was a lot of personnel change from last year, their culture stands out.”
And now, with a big clash against Narre South in the Turf 1 semi-final at Strathaird Recreation Reserve as they look to defend its premiership glory of last season, White said his group was ready for the challenge despite going down there in the Round 13 fixture.
“I think the guys have really got their head around Narre South, and we learnt a lot from the loss the other week,” he said.
“It’s a pro-batting wicket, but as one of the guys pointed out, ‘half of us are bowlers anyway’.
“But it’s up to us too as batters – we might have to do it the long way now to the big dance, but the guys are really looking forward to it.”
BUCKLEY RIDGES – 2019/20 DDCA TWENTY20 CUP PREMIERS
David White (capt)
Troy Aust (wk)