By Nick Creely
What a statement from Hallam Kalora Park.
And what a result in the context of a tightly-contested DDCA Turf 1 season.
With little separating first from fifth, and Narre South entering the weekend outside of the top-four on percentage, the Hawks’ win against Buckley Ridges – who have now slipped down to fifth – is a vital result for all the sides jostling for position.
Even more so, there’s almost guaranteed to be further twists in the finals race in the final few rounds.
But on Saturday, the Hawks clearly had an intent to not slip out of the four again, dominating Buckley Ridges in an incredibly impressive display.
As a result of the barnstorming win, the Hawks are now top-of-the-ladder and are meaning business at the pointy of the season.
It was set-up through a clinical bowling display from quicks Jordan Hammond and Will Whyte, who have continued to lead the way this season.
The duo used the new-ball to their advantage, removing the star-studded Bucks’ top-order, which includes names such as Benny Howell, Ian Cockbain, Daniel Watson and skipper Jayson Hobbs to leave the visitors in a tricky position.
It was class bowling from the very first ball of the match.
After the early domination, the Bucks seemingly got back on track, but found themselves 6/33 with Whyte and Hammond once again making their presence known.
Shell-shocked, the Bucks needed something of note to get them back into the game.
Jake Cronin (27 not out) and Hussain Ali (21) did everything they could to get the visitors to something worth bowling at, but the Bucks were rolled for 85.
Whyte snared 4/33 from his 12 overs to take his season wickets to 20, while skipper Hammond was a menace to snare 4/23.
All-rounder Leigh Booth took 2/15 to help remove any chance of a late tail wag.
In a pure show of dominance, the Hawks ran down the target without the loss of a wicket, in arguably the most impressive performance of the Turf 1 season to date.
Hawk openers Leigh Booth (51) and Rob Parker (26) coolly ran down the target in 31.3 overs, and without much trouble in a golden day for the club who are in a terrific position to push for its first Turf 1 flag since 2001/02.
Buckley’s loss became Narre South’s gain, meanwhile, with the Lions comfortably defeating HSD to return to the top-four.
After the disappointment of last week with their home pitch being vandalised, which actually saw the side fall out of the four as a result, it was clear – despite some key outs – that the Lions meant business.
Much like Hallam Kalora Park, the win was sparked by a stunning bowling effort, this time led by gun seamer Josh Dowling.
Dowling has been outstanding for the Lions, particularly post-Christmas, and his form continued with another haul of wickets, snaring 5/24 from 10.4 overs to bamboozle the opposition.
It was a spell of new-ball bowling that the Cobras couldn’t recover from, eventually bowled out for 95, with Morteza Ali also taking advantage to snare 4/25.
But the form of Dowling would worry rivals as finals draws nearer with each passing game, with the right-arm seamer snaring figures of 4/37, 4/37 and now 5/24 after the Christmas break. His strike rate for the season also sits an impressive 22.5.
Despite a slight wobble seeing the Lions fall to 4/23, the visitors reached the target with five wickets to spare.
Kyle Hardy’s strong form continued with an unbeaten 36 to steer the ship, while Kirk Dickson crunched 28, to also go along with a wicket.
Ruwantha Kellepotha has once again gone to another level for Berwick, with the DDCA superstar producing a memorable display against Springvale South in the blockbuster clash at Alex Nelson Reserve.
The raging Turf 1 Wookey Medal favourite flattened the Bloods to continue his freakish season.
Runs flowed off the bat of the Berwick batsmen after being sent in, with Jordan Cleland (33) and skipper Matt Chasemore (54) setting the tone with a fluent opening stand.
Just as the pair looked to go even further, the home side fought back to dismiss the pair in a strong period of bowling that saw the visitors stumble slightly to 3/108.
But the platform set by the pair yielded great momentum for the reigning premiers, with Kellepotha and Nathan Pilon getting to work.
The pair consolidated the innings, before launching the ball to and over the boundary in an 81-run stand of tremendous value.
Kellepotha was eventually dismissed for a classy 63 from 59 balls, launching four sixes in his brilliant knock. It was his second half-century of the Turf 1 season.
Worryingly, for the Bloods, Pilon was sticking around, and looming large.
The champ proceeded to flay the ball to the boundary at a rapid rate, finishing 77 not out off 51 balls, with Lachlan Brown (19 not out) providing a stable hand for Pilon to launch.
The Bears finished with the ominous total of 4/262 from its 45 overs, setting up what always was going to be an entertaining chase.
Skipper Nathan King was removed early in the chase, courtesy of veteran seamer Jarrod Goodes (1/27), but Ryan Quirk – combining with star recruit Clint Tomlinson – quickly asserted themselves on the contest with a brisk stand.
Despite the wicket of Tomlinson for a rapid 33, Quirk was set at the other end, and just needed a few partners to combine with.
That’s until Kellepotha, the leg-spinning star entered the attack.
Already with 23 wickets next to his name, he completely took the game away in a matter of three deliveries.
Removing Dylan Quirk, before trapping Mitch Cox in front and having Cameron Scott caught to snare a memorable hat-trick, the spinner – in the blink of the eye – had the final say.
Kellepotha ended with figures of 6/31 from 9.1 overs, with the Bloods unable to recover before being bundled out for 169. He now has 29 wickets for the season at the mind-boggling average of 9.7.
Even more frightening than that, he is averaging a wicket every 18.6 deliveries.
Despite the all-rounder’s brilliance, Ryan Quirk fought hard to make 73 from 90 balls.
In the final game of the round, St Mary’s stunned North Dandenong in what could prove vital in the relegation race, knocking over the Maroons by 31 runs in a wicket-frenzy.
The Saints batted first at Lois Twohig Reserve, but were undone by a cracking spell from Nimesh Kariyawasam, who snared 4/11 from 9.2 overs as the visitors fell over meekly for 98.
But a really important cameo from Junaid Kari (35) gave the Saints hope after he came to the crease at 5/29.
In a seemingly small chase, the Saints struck early to leave the Maroons 2/1, but appeared to get themselves back on track after the early stumble.
However, some brilliant bowling from Kusan Niranjana (3/2), who backed up the excellent work done with the new ball from Keppler Fernandez (4/38) saw the home side fall from 5/53 to being bowled out for 67.