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3rd Grade vs Bankstown - Semi Final - 2012/13

AdairGordon hosted the Bankstown Cricket Club over the Easter long weekend at a Chatswood Oval in the midst of Shute Shield preparations. A kinesthesia of tense anticipation lay ever present beneath blue skies and a crisp breeze on Saturday morning, as Howitt won the toss and gave the visitors first use of the facilities.

Adair Durie will drag the exercise bike around for one more week 

Having bowled Hawkesbury out for 65 seven days prior, the Gordon bowlers and fieldsmen were hopeful of a similar outcome, yet realistic in their expectations of the day's cessation against a tremendously strong Bankstown batting side that had won the minor premiership by seven points in front of Gordon.

While Gordon may well have anticipated to field for 87 overs, to bowl Bankstown out for 133 was beyond even their greatest wishes. Yet the performance of all and sundry deserved nothing less.

BlaizeBankstown, who had evidently been playing on flat wickets all summer, were adamant on getting on the front foot and bludgeoning drives back down the ground. But with Chatswood Oval’s outfield - and infield for that matter - needing to grow long for Round 1 of the rugby season, the batsmen’s crisp blows were rarely rewarded with the runs they perhaps deserved, if at all, as they near hypnotically hit fielders with unerring consistency. 

An amazing performance by Irving-Holliday kept a strong Bankstown side to a very gettable total 

Durie, Irving-Holliday and then Kidd battered the Bankstown top order with patient regularity. While the batsmen incessantly sought boundaries, the three Gordon quicks ascended the tension, pressure and burden on the incoming batsmen, as they gave near nothing away. 

Bankstown’s opening pair had trudged their way to 27 before Irving-Holliday found the edge and a scrumptious diving catch was completed by Newman, celebrating his 21st birthday, in front of Livermore. Kidd picked up the second edge and wicket of the match, neatly snuffled by Atkinson at second slip and Irving Holliday made it three in two overs for the hosts, as Newman claimed his second. Bankstown, 3-31.

In a session of the match where Bankstown would have looked to establish a good score, it was Gordon who wrestled the ascendancy and stamped their authority on not only the match, but this finals series with ruthless and unyielding accuracy with the ball. Irving-Holliday was, quite simply, unbelievable. 

JamesBankstown continued to ignore singles and strike rotation, persistently opting for the boundary instead - with rare effect. With the assistance of Durie and Kidd, Blaize near-on single handedly demolished any hope of Bankstown amassing a large total as they slumped to 7-75 and then 8-96. 

James Kidd provides the 3rd prong to the pace attack that will take on Sydney Uni this weekend 

When a tiring Irving-Holliday eventually did offer a bad ball, it was brilliantly caught by Tait at point and the German-like efficiency of the Stags rolled on to the tea break. Livermore, a keen observer of German culture - and a Mercedes driver - was particularly pleased.

With the three quicks being bowled into the ground, Howitt and Tait chipped in with a combined 21 overs of relief, but Gordon - whose efforts had nearly sent themselves into fatigue - were off the field after the second new ball, when the innings closed at 133. 

Irving-Holliday finished with the astounding figure of 23 overs, 15 maidens, 5 for 10. Just let that sink in for a while. Remarkable figures that are surely likely to never be repeated, let alone in a semi-final.

A hazardous, precarious and unpredictable 15 overs lay ahead of the Gordon batsmen on the end of day one. Livermore was out leg before in the 5th over, introducing Higgins to the wicket to join Spratt. Things seemed to be going just fine until Spratt was violently struck on the eye by a quick short ball, much to the delight of a number of Bulldogs players. He was forced to retire hurt as his eye rapidly began to swell, again to the pleasure of more than one visiting player, and this proved to be the catalyst to a disastrous final half an hour for Gordon.

MaxRetallick was out leg before for no score, as was Atkinson and Gordon were 3-23 with Spratt uncertain of making a return. Tait joined Higgins and the two reached stumps unscathed and managed to take the runs required to under 100 with the final ball of the day. 

The birthday boy, Newman, plays an innings that mirrors his increasing maturity 

Day two couldn’t have started much more worryingly for the hosts, as Higgins was out leg before on the last ball of the first over. From here, however, Newman and Tait - under a barrage of verbal assault that reeked of tasteless, tactless desperation - rarely looked in trouble at the crease as the two combined for a match winning 92 run partnership, on the back of a 51 run stand the weekend before. 

Rarely were two contrasting styles of play more apparent between the eventual winners and losers in this encounter. While Bankstown frustratingly threw their hands and blades to every direction of the boundary in search of 4’s and 6’s, Gordon - and in particular Newman and Tait - dropped, caressed and guided singles and two’s around the edges of the square, manipulating the field settings and driving the bowlers insane in the process.

The score was 5/130 when Tait was dismissed for 52. He has now amassed 400 balls faced and 419 minutes at the crease in two weeks. Love is a beautiful thing. 

TaitA gutsy effort by Spratt to make it back to the crease was not rewarded, as he was out two balls later and a few nerves began to creep in at 6/130. 

Tjaard Tait provides a stone wall which we will be looking for this weekend 

The ever reliable Howitt laid those fears to rest as he clubbed his fourth ball down the ground for a rare boundary and the tie was won. 

The game continued on, albeit aimlessly for a further fifteen overs, and handshakes were eventually made with the score on 6/176 from 74 overs. Newman finished unbeaten on 46 from 154 and Howitt with a breezy 31. It appears that the captain hasn't got any softer in his old age, denying the birthday boy a chance at an unbeaten half-century.

And so here we are. The grand final beckons. The 3rd Graders will play against one of the only two teams to have beaten them in the regular season, in Sydney University. To add a twist to the tale, they will play on Uni’s Number 1 Oval, despite being the higher ranked side. Sydney University will be another tremendously tough encounter as they’ve struck highly impressive form since finishing 6th at the end of round 15. 

Win or lose, grand finals are a wonderful thing to be a part of, but I can’t decide if I’m more nervous about the team photo beforehand or the actual match itself. Better lock myself in for a Saturday morning Tony & Guy appointment.

Congratulations to 5th Grade too. Back-to-back finals are one thing, but to do it this year with nine different players from last, is a testament to a lot of people. Good luck to the Stags.

Take Monday off work.



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