By Nick Creely
All hail the great James Nanopoulos.
After producing a near perfect 9/26 last season in Victorian Premier Cricket against Greenvale, the Dandenong champion has almost inconceivably produced an even grander performance against Kingston Hawthorn on Saturday.
It needed to be seen to be believed, with the right-arm dynamo completely flattening the Hawks at Shepley Oval in a spell of bowling likely to be spoken about for years to come.
The golden performance also gave the Panthers an early Christmas present – a strong 3-1 record to launch at it in the New Year.
In the space of Nanopoulos’ first four overs, the quick took 6/0, including a hat-trick to leave the visitors in disarray at 7/4 and with absolutely no answers to his impeccable lines.
His first victim of the hat-trick was skipper Shorye Chopra caught behind, before Joel Lewis was also caught next ball.
He then sealed the deal with a cracking delivery to skittle the stumps of Hawk Harvinder Singh.
In the blink of an eye, the Panthers star turned the screws and made the scoreboard look like the wrong buttons might have been pushed.
But incredibly it was no typo, as the Panther great ripped through the top and middle order to leave the spectators reaching for the record books, and the Hawks scrambling to just survive.
It would be a surprise if not for Nanopoulos’ stunning bowling displays across his glittering Premier Cricket career, and in particular in the last few seasons where he has simply gone to another level.
With a career tally of 350 wickets within sight this season, Nanopoulos has already snared 9/26 in an innings, has six five-wicket hauls and has a 10-wicket match haul, which was taken in the Greenvale clash last year.
It was just seven matches between his stunning 9/26, making his latest achievement all the more phenomenal as he continues to be one of the most destructive bowlers in Victoria.
He’s also taken 62 wickets from his last 20 matches at an average of 11.04.
In total, only two players in the Hawks’ top six managed to even score a run, with Nanopoulos not even conceding a single run until his fourth over, and with six wickets already on the board.
Despite eventually conceding a run, Nanopoulos then secured his seventh wicket of Prateek Patil to leave the Hawks 8/15, before Sacheen Paramesh fought hard but was ultimately caught behind to give the all-rounder his eighth scalp.
He finished with the remarkable figures of 8/16 off 10 overs despite pushing hard for his ninth wicket in a pressure-filled final over, with the Hawks falling over for just 48 in just over 90 minutes of play.
Pete Cassidy (1/16) and Braden Taeuber (1/14) provided valuable support for Nanopoulos, while emerging Hawks star Abhishek Jain (33 not out) scored almost the entirety of the visitors’ runs with an entertaining cameo that saw a few crunching shots.
All in all, Jain was the only Hawk to reach double figures, with six ducks and a next highest score of just four.
While the Panthers lost one wicket in the chase, the home side ran the target down with ease in 9.1 overs, giving the club a massive momentum boost going into Christmas.
Lincoln Edwards (22 not out) and Comrey Edgeworth (21) were in the runs for the home side with skipper Tom Donnell promoting Edgeworth to the top of the order.
The red-hot Panthers will take on region rivals Casey-South Melbourne after the Christmas break on 9 January at Casey Fields.
It was also a golden day in the seconds, with the Panthers also thumping the Hawks.
The Hawks posted 8/207 from its 50 overs, with quicks Adam McMaster (3/37), James Maxwell (2/38) and Jack Fowler (2/50) doing the bulk of the damage.
But it was with the bat that the Panthers truly shone, with openers Jarryd Wills and Josh Slater (75 not out) ensuring the visitors would chase the runs down with one wicket down.
Wills – a product out of the Berwick Cricket Club – slashed his maiden century for the club, belting 118 from just 95 balls, with five sixes and 10 fours thrilling the crowd. It’s been an impressive start to the season from the emerging batsman, with 237 runs at 59.3 putting him well and truly on the brink of a first XI debut after Christmas.