Hamstrung Hancock hundred melts Maroons

Jake Hancock hit a delightful hundred for Berwick on Saturday against North Dandenong. 374101 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Marcus Uhe

Jake Hancock produced a roar of satisfaction after clipping the ball through the leg side to reach his first DDCA hundred for Berwick on Saturday.

But no one appeared more elated than his teammate, Matthew Hague.

As Hancock turned back for his second run after punching North Dandenong’s Zarak Azeel back down the ground with a straight drive to move to 85, he suffered the dreaded prang of a hamstring strain and stumbled to the safety of the batting crease under duress.

With Hancock determined to bat-on for his side and maximise the platform that he and the top-order had laid after being sent in to bat, Hague stepped up for his teammate with the tricky responsibility of being Hancock’s runner for the remainder of the innings.

When the former domestic cricketer cracked the three figures, his batting partner Mitch Shirt completed the single and embraced Hancock with a bear-hug.

It was Hague who stole the show, however, removing his helmet and raising his bat to his teammates in the stands as if it was a century of his own.

“I had to explain that passage of play to my girlfriend about six times because she could not figure out what was going on, where ‘Haguey’ had come from, where he was standing,” Hancock said of the milestone moment, with his partner watching the match on FrogBox.

“‘Haguey’ is a funny man, he was saying that he was thinking about how he was going to celebrate that moment from the moment he walked onto the ground.

“It (the hamstring strain) happened when I was on around 80, and fortunately he put the pads on and was able to help me out.

“I think he walked out there and said ‘You’re probably the worst person to run for, because I know you’re just not going to get out and you’ll be out there for the rest of the day’.

“It was good fun and put a smile on my face.”

The celebration personified the affinity permeating through the Berwick side at present, a club eager to return to the competition’s elite in its 160th year after missing the finals in 2022/23.

Players have raved about the energy at the club following the return of a number of senior players with an ambition born in the off-season to restore a sense of pride and enjoyment to the Bear cave.

Alongside Hague’s jubilance, Hancock found support in the form of Jordan Cleland and skipper Jarrod Goodes, who both offered their leadership and words of wisdom following the injury when they batted with the centurion.

“I had about 15 runs left (when I suffered the hamstring strain) but the whole time I was saying to myself, ‘I want to hit a boundary and try to get there in two/three hits,’” Hancock recounted.

“I had ‘Jordy’ (Cleland) at the other end saying ‘take whatever time you need, do it in 15 singles if you have to, you deserve to get there’, and that goes back to that whole ‘team camaraderie’ thing of, it wasn’t just me doing it by myself.

“I think (camaraderie) is probably the most crucial thing: you spend a lot of time together training, you’re in group chats, you talk and you’re around these people so much and the vibe amongst the team has been fantastic, from the very first training session and around preseason.

“We’re all mates and we enjoy playing together and I think we’re building a really positive direction.”

Hancock finished the day unbeaten on 141, confirming Hague’s trepidation, as the Bears set a total of 7/365, comprehensively their best batting performance of the season.

Hancock added 126 in his partnership with Matthew Robertson (74) who benefited from an attacking start from Hague and Jarryd Wills.

The openers put the North Dandenong bowlers immediately on the back foot and both struck above 80, allowing the Bears to reach 2/216 at tea at nearly five runs per over.

The white picket fences of Arch Brown Reserve picked up a number of new red cherries as Hancock and Robertson found the boundary with ease; square of the wicket on either side of the ground proving to be the hot scoring zones.

Cleland, Shirt and Goodes each made smaller contributions towards the end of the day as the Bears posted the highest Turf 1 team score of the season to date, an impressive display without a calamitous collapse that has dogged the side in previous weeks.

Hancock was undoubtedly the star of the day, and hopes the performance will kick-start his campaign as he seeks attainment of the lofty standards he places on his shoulders.

“When you come to a new club you really want to prove yourself and play well,” he said, now in his second season at Berwick.

“There’s no one that puts more pressure on me than me, and you come to a new club and you want to make a good impression.

“I felt like I had a good season statistically last year but didn’t feel like I performed to a level or standard that I was capable of.

“We only played one day cricket last year and with only 45 overs, I struggled to adapt to that style of game play.

“I was happy with how I did last year and I think the guys knew what type of player I was, but I knew that I had more to give and the weekend was, hopefully, the tip of the iceberg.”

Each of the North Dandenong bowlers received punishment from the Berwick batters, frequent bowling changes from Clayton McCartney seeing seven of his teammates roll their arms over in sweltering humidity.

Only spin-bowler Imran Laghmani’s economy finished below four runs per over; opening pair Khan (5.42) and Sushant Gupta (6.2) particularly expensive.

Jurgen Andersen took 4/75 as the Maroons’ leading bowler for the afternoon.

Hancock’s injury is on the minor side of the severity spectrum but he may be forced to sit-out a game or two before the Christmas break.