By Nick Creely
That’s a huge result for Buckley Ridges.
And a huge result in the context of a fascinating, ever-changing landscape of DDCA Turf 1 cricket in 2020/21.
The Bucks – facing its great rival Springvale South away from home – were graced by the class of its star recruit, with Ian Cockbain blasting his way to victory in a gem of a knock.
There was an inevitably to the knock in many ways – Cockbain showed a glimpse of his best back on 30 January with an unbeaten 63 against St Mary’s – but this one against a fellow premiership contender could prove the masterstroke in the Bucks’ quest for another piece of silverware.
It was a stern task for the Bucks, who were set 221 for victory after a strong batting performance from the Bloods.
Winning the toss and batting, the Bloods lost dangerous duo Nathan King and Ryan Quirk early, courtesy of a ripping new-ball spell from Michael Davies (3/52), and when Benny Howell prized out star bat Clint Tomlinson for 21, the home side were wobbling at 3/46.
But Jack Sketcher steadied the ship beautifully, compiling a classy 75, knocking five fours and four sixes to lead the way, linking up in a key partnership with Paul Hill (40) to get the home team in a strong position.
Despite Sketcher eventually falling 25 short of his hundred, the Bloods piled on the runs late with Dylan Quirk (29 off 23) and Akshat Buch (18 off 9) working out the boundaries in vital cameos.
Daniel ‘DJ’ Watson was in no mood to waste time running down the target, racing away to 36 off just 18 deliveries like only he can, but a double-strike from Akshat Buch (2/22), firstly Watson and then bowling Benny Howell (21), saw the Bucks fall to 2/65.
The clever left-arm spinner has turned many games this season for his side, and once again provided a timely spell of slow bowling.
As Cockbain entered Alex Nelson Reserve, it was clear that if the visitors would pull of its most important win of the season, he needed to be there at the end.
The right-hander started steadily, building in small partnerships with Troy Aust (13) and skipper Jayson Hobbs (20), before he accelerated with precision.
As it looked like the Bloods were tightening the screws, Cockbain blew the game away, flaying a remarkable 95 not out as the Bucks took the points with four wickets left to spare.
The classy Gloucestershire batsman is well-renowned as a white-ball specialist, and came to Australia off the back of a brilliant English T20 blast, where he finished fourth in the competition for runs, and lived up to that billing with nine fours and three sixes in the brutal display.
But, despite the win, the Bucks are only just outside the four, with the Bloods holding on to fourth position by just .03 in what looms as a mouth-watering finish to the season.
St Mary’s produced a stunning result, upsetting Narre South’s run towards finals in what could loom as a costly loss for the Lions.
Sending the Saints in at Strathaird Recreation Reserve, Matt Brooks’ group restricted the visitors to 141, with seamer Josh Dowling (3/45) the man to lead the charge again, while Kirk Dickson (3/33) also got in on the act with some impressive bowling through the middle.
But it was a horror start to the chase, and one the Lions just couldn’t come back from in the end.
In-form batsman Kyle Hardy fell second ball, before skipper Matt Brooks was skittled the next delivery as the home side lost 2/0 off its first over.
New ball duo Deeshan Vimukthi (5/31) and Corey Ely (3/14) proved almost unplayable as the home side slumped to 5/23, and with very little answers.
Vimukthi in particular was a menace for the top-order batsmen.
Morteza Ali (36) showed the fight required to get the Lions back in the contest, but the side was bowled out in the 44th over, finishing on 120.
It’s a big result for the Saints, particularly with a few rounds to play, who appear almost certain to avoid relegation, and have improved as the season has gone on in promising signs for the future.
Ladder-leading Hallam Kalora Park, meanwhile, show absolutely no signs of slowing down, brushing aside Heinz Southern Districts.
The Hawks were relentless after being sent out to field, rolling the Cobras for 70 in the 35th in a disciplined, well-drilled display of one-day bowling.
It could have, however, been a lot worse for the home team, who were at one stage 7/32.
Quick Will Whyte (2/9) was once again sublime, taking both openers’ wickets, while Lee Brown (3/11) controlled things through the middle and Leigh Booth (3/9) continued his outstanding season with another trio of wickets.
The Hawks were never really in any bother in the chase, running down the target with seven wickets to spare, as Sachith Jayasingha (33 not out) cooly guided the team home.
But its another huge momentum booster for the side that has quickly established itself as the season’s most consistent force, and as finals draws nearer, are peaking at the exact right time.
In the final match of the round, Berwick was made to work for it, but ultimately overcame North Dandenong after a match-winning knock from Brodie Emmett.
The Maroons batted first, and clawed its way back from 4/70 to post a highly competitive 6/192 – largely off the back of the highly talented Imran Laghmani.
Laghmani belted 74 from just 79 balls with a total of nine boundaries to really make his mark with the bat, while skipper Clay McCartney was once again among the runs, compiling a fluent 45 not out.
It was yet another show of class from leggie Ruwantha Kellepotha, who snared 4/38 from his 12 overs to be a constant threat.
It’s now the fifth time he has taken four or more wickets in a match this season with a 40-wicket campaign now within reach.
The Bears were dealt an early blow, with skipper Matt Chasemore falling in the opening exchanges, before dangerous keeper bat Jordan Cleland was trapped LBW for a quickfire 21.
At 2/35, Emmett – alongside the experience and power of Nathan Pilon (46) – got the home side back on track, before Pilon’s scalp gave the Maroons an opening.
Buddhika Janith (2/31) was up and about, bowling the dangerous Kellepotha and having Lachlan Brown caught, and suddenly – at 5/134 and needing near a run-a-ball – the home side were in trouble.
Brodie Emmett was the man of the moment and ultimately the difference in the end, crunching 74 from 112 balls (his second half-century of the season) to keep the runs flowing, bringing the game close before his departure once again shook things up.
He’s been a huge improver in 2020/21 at the top-of-the-order.
But Josh Holden (19 not out) and James Wilcock (12 not out) quickly rattled off the remaining 26 runs, with the Bears registering a four wicket win with two overs to spare.
Round 13 Fixture
Buckley Ridges v Berwick – Park Oval
North Dandenong v Narre South – Lois Twohig Reserve
St Mary’s v HSD – Carroll Reserve
Hallam Kalora Park v Springvale South