By Nick Creely
It was a Brett Forsyth knock that made the difference.
One of many in a glittering Premier Cricket career.
Needing someone with the ability to soak up the pressure, sum up the situation and provide the presence needed in a tense and tight affair, the Panthers were once again treated to a gem of a knock from the Ryder Medal winning right-hander.
The champ has played many great hands for his beloved club on his home ground of Shepley Oval, and on Saturday with it all on the line against Richmond, Forsyth produced yet another match-winning performance.
Forsyth has certainly scored more free-flowing knocks during his career of almost 8,000 first XI runs but his timely half-century was an example of the control and patience in his batting.
It was far from easy for batsmen to get into its groove at Shepley, and Tom Donnell elected to send the Tigers – missing a few names including Jake Fraser-McGurk on BBL duties – in to face the music.
An inspired decision saw the wickets tumble rapidly – largely through a beautiful new-ball spell from Pete Cassidy (3/24) – who has started the season with a bang.
All of Cassidy’s wickets were bowled as he swung hoops around the opposition in what was a golden spell that ultimately set the tone.
At 4/13, and Cassidy with figures of 3/3 and James Nanopoulos (3/39) also causing headaches, a lowly score was well and truly on the horizon.
Sam Mills (32) fought hard to resurrect something for the bowlers to defend, but ultimately the Tigers were rolled for 110, with Jakeb Thomas (2/11) also continuing his strong early season form, Suraj Randiv (1/17) was tidy while debutant Braden Taeuber (0/17) from Monbulk showed promising signs.
But if the Panthers thought it was going to be a stress-free chase, it was far from.
In the opening over, skipper Tom Donnell was trapped in front off his second ball in a vital early spell from offie Reiley Mark (3/29) – who looked incredibly impressive in the early stages with his lines and varieties.
And the Panthers’ top-order and middle order fell apart, with the Tigers clutching at the momentum and leaving the home side hanging precariously at 7/62 and struggling form any meaningful partnerships.
But, luckily for the Panthers, its much-loved run machine Forsyth was standing firm with rock-solid defence and a huge price on his wicket as he usually does.
He just needed someone to go the distance and bring the game down to the wire.
Combining with Suraj Randiv, the Panther pair soaked up a huge amount of pressure, and some disciplined Tiger bowling – led well by Tobias Keast (2/24), Mark and Dom Matarazzo (1/18) – to shelve the target for a short period and focus on consolidating the innings with the run-rate not an issue.
But slowly, and surely the scoreboard began ticking over, and despite some near moments, the Panthers clawed closer to its target, and importantly a 2-1 record to start the season.
Despite bowling well, and with plenty of energy, Forsyth remained calm and cool in his match-winning 50-run stand with Randiv (28 not out) to guide his side home with three wickets in hand.
Scoring 52 not out from 123 balls in two and a half hours of batting, it was a knock that meant much more than just the scoreboard suggests. It was the steady hand needed for the Panthers in a chase that looked to be going right against them.
It was a particularly special occasion, with Forsyth awarded the Peter Davies Medal for Player of the Match, in recognition for ex-Victorian player Peter Davies, a club great for both cricket clubs.
At 2-1 after a tight loss last week, the Panthers have started the season strongly, and will take on Kingston Hawthorn at home on Saturday in what is the final match before the Christmas break.
The Panthers also snared another win in the seconds against the Tigers at Central Reserve, moving the side to a 3-0 record.
The Tigers clawed its way to 210 off the back of an impressive 80 from Jonathan D’Rozario, with the Panthers well served by Adam McMaster (4/53) and Gehan Seneviratne (2/37).
Running down the target with just the loss of three wickets, skipper Cam Forsyth’s golden start to the season continued with an unbeaten 62, while opener Jarryd Wills was impressive again with 66.