By Nick Creely
Melbourne has escaped with a remarkable Victorian Premier Cricket victory against Dandenong on Saturday, in a match at Beaumaris Secondary College that came down to the wire.
With the game hampered by the rain across Melbourne, it took a star turn from new recruit Jack Craig, and some nerves of steel to guide the Demons home in the last over of the match.
It’s a result that could be vital as the year wears on.
In champion Panthers skipper Tom Donnell’s 250th match, a remarkable achievement from one of the south-east greatest ever products, the Demons won the toss and sent the visitors in to face the music.
Donnell was particularly influential, scoring 51 from 78 balls (his 46th half-century), combining with Lincoln Edwards (36) to put together 82 for the first wicket.
But a mix-up, which resulted in Ed Newman’s run-out without facing a ball, and the wickets of Edwards and Donnell saw the Panthers stumble to 3/103, and then 4/120 with Jack Craig (2/30) skittling Brett Forsyth for 17.
A late cameo from recruit Aaron Fernando (44) and a typically industrious hand from Comrey Edgeworth (39 not out) saw the Panthers claw its way to 9/214 from 50 overs, a handy score considering the rain and conditions.
Once again, James Nanopoulos (3/38) and Jakeb Thomas (4/50) once again impressed with the new-ball, and with the rain continually looming, the Demons were in trouble at 7/128, before a storm swept through the ground.
It was the momentum changer that the home side desperately needed.
Needing to go at almost 10 an over when play resumed with a revised target of 202 due to the Duckworth-Lewis system, it appeared almost certain that the Panthers would move to 2-0 in a huge scalp.
But that was until Craig, in just his second match at the level, showcased his undeniable talent, crunching 49 from 53 balls, combining with lower order bat Kieran Elliott (25 not out) to win the game in the dying stages, and with just one wicket left in hand.
Despite the loss, the Panthers fought hard until the end, with Nanopoulos and Thomas in fine touch, while offie Suraj Randiv (2/25) was a huge factor once again.
The Panthers play host to Richmond in Round 3 at Shepley Oval, with both sides interestingly poised at 1-1.
In the other grades, Dandenong (8/244) were dominant in its win against Melbourne (8/98) in the seconds, with Josh Slater striking 93 with the bat and spinner Gehan Seneviratne (5/16), the Panthers (4/160) were defeated in the thirds by the Demons (4/244), and also went down in the fourths.
In the Women’s Premier Cricket, Dandenong fought back from a slow start in its clash with Carlton-Brunswick on Sunday to remain one of two undefeated sides.
The Panthers were in dire trouble early after winning the toss and batting at Princes Park, with the visitors soon finding themselves 3/4 after a dynamic new-ball spell from Emily Mitchell (4/42).
But the visitors fought back hard, with opener Julie Fearns (29) and Kelly Applebee (64) guiding the Panthers to a more than competitive 9/172, with Uvindee Wijesena’s late cameo off 22 (19 balls) also proving vital.
With the Panthers up and about, the home side were unable to recover after falling to 5/41, finishing 7/140 from 41 overs.
Poppy Gardner (3/15) was once again impressive with the new ball, while Uvindee Wijesena (2/19) was tidy.
The Panthers (7/188) also banked wins against Carlton-Brunswick (161) in the seconds, while in the thirds, the Panthers steamrolled the opposition, rolling them for 36 and chasing the total down with no wickets lost.