2020 Mid-Season Wrap

To coin an over-used word, it’s been an unprecedented season so far, with a late start and only limited overs cricket for lower grades, a lot of rain in November creating a bit of a lottery, and the cancellation of all cricket on the last weekend before Christmas after the Northern Beaches COVID-19 outbreak. But we’ve enjoyed 12 weeks of cricket, including some thumping wins and thrilling contests that have gone both ways.

Our highlight was without doubt the clean sweep, or Bearwash, of Randwick Petersham – traditionally one of the men’s competition’s strongest clubs and the defending First Grade premiers. That wasn’t without drama, as First Grade needed an unbroken partnership of 64 for the ninth wicket to get over the line and Third Grade also had a scare before winning by three wickets. It was especially pleasing as a club to get the sweep just two weeks after winning only one grade against St George in a round better best forgotten.

We go into Christmas joint eighth in the men’s club championship, two places higher than we finished last season but several places lower than we were at this stage of the season and, arguably, a position that doesn’t do justice to the talent in the club.

There’s a lot to be cheerful about – Fourth Grade sit top of the ladder and Third Grade are second. Our women’s section has recorded three wins in half a season between the two sides, after one in the first two years combined, and has a depth of players we could only have dreamed of in seasons past. We’ve welcomed many new players to the club, both male and female, who have blossomed, and several talented young Bears are climbing up the grades. The season’s Austin Punch Club membership to date includes eight players who’ve made ten hundreds between them, while six bowlers have taken 5-wicket hauls to enter the Victor Emery Club, and the total of 16 is two thirds of the tally for the whole of last season.

The club has also maintained its group of committed and talented volunteers and secured a new revenue stream through player sponsorships to help insulate against the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to everyone who’s played a role on or off the pitch to get us here – now it’s time to capitalise on the start we’ve made to the season and come back firing in January to make further inroads up the ladders.

Gaz's thoughts

The  club has had reasonable returns in the season thus far and is positioned 8th in the Club Championship. I was particularly pleased with a Bearsweep against Randwick Petersham. That said, the weather hasn’t help our cause in gaining points to be better positioned overall.

The top two grades have played well but haven’t converted opportunities and this has mainly been because of a number of missed chances, as well as washed out fixtures against wests and UNSW. Inconsistency over the first half of the season is reflected in the position of both teams on their respective ladders. I’m confident that, with our ability to stay in the contest in all matches. Both sides can build momentum and target a position in the top six.

Our lower grade teams, especially third and fourth grade, are well placed in the top four and, again, are very capable of continuing the excellent cricket they have played.

Our Poidevin-Gray team has played positive successful cricket and we are very hopeful they can go a step further than last season.

Our Green Shield squad has a number of very talented players, and as a group are very capable of success.

The challenge, once we return in the new year, is to have all the players, coaches and captains prepared to play our best cricket each and every week. The target is to play finals and finish in the top five in the Club Championship.

To all our members supporters families have a safe Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Cheers, Gary Whitaker (Director of Men's Cricket)

First Grade

First Grade’s first half-season is largely a story of opportunities lost and opportunities missed. Opportunities lost were due to the weather – rained off defending 375 against UNSW, after posting 0/177 off 37 against Wests, and in both games in our home T20 double header - and most recently the COVID-19 outbreak which prevented us from taking the field this Saturday against Gordon. Opportunities missed include a 1-run defeat to Easts in Round 1 after hauling ourselves back into the contest, and that game against St George which I won’t dwell to avoid any post-traumatic reactions.

But there were also many brilliant performances, which remind us all how good a side this is as well as serving as a warning to anyone writing the Bears off at the halfway point despite us sitting in 13th position. Parramatta were beaten at Bon Andrews off the back of a mountain of runs, while Mac Jenkins and Matt Alexander held their nerve at Coogee Oval to secure a two-wicket victory against Randy Petes after a strong performance by the bowling attack. And then there were two stunning victories in the T20 Cup where we prevailed over eventual conference finalists UNSW and then dismantled a star-studded Manly side, which was very nearly enough to see us through to the finals.

All of the top-order have scored runs, and Tom Jagot sits at the top of the club’s aggregates with 588 including 149* in the win against Parramatta and 141 against St George, as well as a clinical 81 in the T20 victory over Manly. He’s second in the First Grade competition and fourth including T20s. Justin Avendano was unstoppable against UNSW, hitting balls into the adjacent golf course for fun as he compiled 161, the club’s highest score of the season so far. Aiden Bariol has proved a sensational signing not just as wicket-keeper but also thanks to his breakthrough season in the bat at First Grade level with 428 runs so far including hundreds against Parramatta and Gordon. Jack James, Brent Atherton and Tim Reynolds have notched up two fifties each, and Jack would surely have made his second First Grade hundred against Wests had lightning and then rain not intervened when he was on 98*.

Jack has backed up his top-order runs with 14 poles for First Grade, to add to 6 for PGs which make him the club’s top wicket-taker for the season to date. His 4/37 against Sydney, in a match when a game when every other bowler went for at least a run a ball, are his best bowling figures to date in grade cricket. James Campbell has once again led the attack from the front, and his 18 wickets included five before lunch against St George in two astonishing spells that had him 5/6 and the Saints reeling at 6/52.

A run after Christmas will get us back in the mix – we sit two wins outside the six but with a strong quotient.

Second Grade

Second Grade sit 11th on a crowded ladder where 7 points separate eighth from 15th. The season began with a stunning win over Easts, which nearly became 2 from 2 when we had Parra 9 down chasing our 388. Max Papworth top-scored in both games in his new position opening the batting, including 126 against Parramatta, on his way to 298 runs in the first five rounds and a call-up to First Grade. Rob Aitken also made a ton against Parra to add to his vital runs for 1s. Rain got the better of us against UNSW and Wests, meaning draws despite a brilliant backs-to-the-wall hundred from Glenn Aitken against UNSW and a superb 106 for Jordan Vilensky against Wests. Hiccups followed against Sydney and St George, although the recovery from 8/93 to post 167 against St George, thanks to 71 from James Leary, should not be overlooked. The team then secured a massive win against Randy Petes, inspired by an incredible 6/47 for Fraser Noack on Second Grade debut.

Papworth, Vilensky and Glenn Aitken have all scored over 250 runs for 2s, while James Leary’s 188 have come at an average of 47, including tough runs in Rounds 6 and 7 when we’ve been in trouble. With the ball, Sam Alexander and Harrison May have led the way, taking 12 and 11 wickets respectively and being called on for a lot of work – 203 overs between them!

Third Grade

Third Grade sit in second place after five wins and just one loss. After rain saw Round 1 abandoned without a ball bowled, the boys made up for lost time in Rounds 2 and 3, winning by 9 wickets and 139 runs respectively to notch up a pair of bonus points. A team bowling performance dismantled Sydney for 103 before Ben Van der Merwe smashed 66 in reply, and then we dismissed Easts for even fewer  - 84 – to be in the pub by early afternoon! A disappointing loss to St George followed, in a round to forget across the club, but Rounds 5 and 6 showed that to be a blip as Fletcher May rampaged with the bat against Parramatta (72) and Randy Petes (5/36) to secure a pair of victories, one emphatic on DLS and one by just three wickets. Then in Round 7 against UNSW, it was Izaak Merlehan’s turn for the 5-wicket bag as we won by 30 after vital lower-order runs got us over 200.

Third Grade’s team bowling stats are truly extraordinary - Merlehan’s 9 Third Grade wickets this season have come at an average of 10 and a strike rate of 17, while Jacob Graham’s 8 have come at 17 and while Fletcher May’s 7 have at 12 (and add to 6 poles for 2s and 4s) and Fraser Noack’s 6 before his promotion to 2s were at an average of 9. Finn Nixon-Tomko has impressed with the bat in his first three games at this level, with his 66* instrumental to the win against Randy Petes. Ben Van der Merwe scored 100 runs at 50 in the first three round before moving up to 2s.

Fourth Grade

The Bears sit at the top of the Fourth Grade ladder at the Christmas break, although there’s no room for complacency with six sides within six points of us and tenth place only eight points behind us. We started the season with a statement of intent, rolling Wests for 67 with the wickets shared around, including an astonishing 3/9 off 5.1 for skipper Pat Lindsay, and knocking them off 4 down to claim a bonus point. Round 2 saw defeat to Sydney in a heartbreaker, but normal service was resumed in Round 3 when we knocked off Easts by 9 wickets with 61 for Chris Spratt after a dominant Kobe Allison 5-fa. Another wobble against St George was followed by a 30-run win against Parramatta and a thrashing of Randy Petes that iced our clean sweep. Round 7 was a brilliant contest against UNSW, with the Bears posting 8/236 and UNSW being 6/72 before an extraordinary recovery to 6/205 before the good guys prevailed.

Despite no tons for 4s yet this season and only one five-wicket haul, six players have posted scores over 50 and seven have taken three-fa, highlighting that it’s been all-round team performances that have underpinned our success. At the top of the batting aggregate with 186 is Baran Kumar, who has been a dominant figure coming into Christmas with 84* against Randy Petes and 71 against UNSW, and Lachlan Stewart’s 154 runs included a match-winning 90 against Parramatta. With the ball, Pat Lindsay and Kobe Allison have 9 wickets each and single-figure averages, while Toby Laybutt’s s 7 have come at 10 apiece.

Fifth Grade

Fifth Grade’s season so far in defence of the David Sherwood Cup is best described as mixed, with three victories (including saving our blushes against St George) and three defeats. However, a strong quotient, thanks to a couple of thumping wins, sees us go into the break in ninth place and we’re only a win below the top six. The first thumping win was against Sydney after posting an impressive 8/279 thanks to Luke Smith and Nick Hay (neither of whom stayed long in 5s) and blowing them away for 98 with 6/18 to Luke Opacic. We got close to taking Easts down despite only posting 119 and then the batsmen dominated again in Round 4 against St George as we made 6/252. John Nevell’s 117 was crucial to our 23-run win and saw him, too, promoted to 4s. In Round 5, with injuries across the club seeing a very different side take the field (including President Rob Lavery suiting up for the Bears for the first time for three years), 80 to Drew Sellers meant we climbed out of a hole at 7/91 to make 192 which was very nearly enough. Randy Petes were blown away for 122 courtesy of Sol Balbi and Brad Wilson, with Michael Oliver’s 63 securing a comfortable victory, but the 5s rollercoaster took another dip in Round 7 when we were bowled out for 131 by UNSW.

Once again, some astonishing bowling averages dominate the stats – Sol Balbi 9 wickets at 11, Luke Opacic 7 at 4 (yes, really!) and Jack Thomas 6 at 7. Thanks to his ton, John Nevell sits top of the batting aggregate with 154, while Oli Jennings has been a solid performer making 124 runs.

Poidevin-Gray Shield

Our PGs have played five of their six pool matches and, along with three other teams in the Sixers Conference, have won four of them. Unfortunately, with the loss in a 50-over game which counts for more points than the T20s, we sit third on the ladder with no guarantee of finals cricket – but a win in January in the 2019-20 Conference Final rematch against Gordon would secure us a home semi.

Our season so far has been bookended by absolute shellackings, over Randy Petes in a T20 and over Mosman in a 50-over fixture that didn’t come close to going the distance. These two matches followed a very similar formula – knock the opposition over very cheaply in a dominant display of bowling and then put on a clinic to knock the runs off one wicket down with plenty of overs to spare. Randy Petes were blown away for just 73 with the spin twins of Mac Jenkins (2/7) and Jack James (2/14) leading a superb team performance with the ball, before a dominant innings by Tim Reynolds (50* including a six when we needed one run to win inside 12 overs!). In the Mosman game, it was again Reynolds with a six to seal the win, but shared the runs with Jack James (33) and Adam Cavenor (54*) after we bowled the Whales out for 135 (Fletcher May 4/37).

In between, we beat Sutherland by 5 wickets (Broc Hardy 3/26 and that man Reynolds 97*) and Sydney by 4 wickets in a T20 (Jack James 60, Nuwan Whyte 2/24), but came off second best against St George despite posting 275 (Kobe Allison with a brilliant 84 off 52, Reynolds – once again – 75, Aiden Bariol 52). Whether that defeat will cost us is in our hands.

It will surprise nobody that Reynolds sits atop our batting aggregates with 276 at an average of 138, and is just five runs from top spot across all clubs. Bowling honours have been spread more evenly, with Mac Jenkins taking 7 and Jack James and Fletcher May 6 each.

AW Green Shield

The AW Green Shield side only managed to fit in a single fixture before COVID shut the competition down pre-Christmas. The loss to Wests was not the start the squad were hoping for but there was much to learn from the game. With a bit more discipline, the side stands a strong chance of stringing together some wins in the new year.

Brewer Shield

Our Brewer Shield girls go from strength to strength, building on the brilliant first win secured at the end of last season. Although on paper it’s only one win in the first nine rounds, there could easily have been a couple more, and performances have got more impressive by the round, especially with the bat. Our team totals have been (in order) 81, 83, 105, 113, 122 in T20s, and 189, 114 and 223 in 50-over cricket. Ignoring the 114 blip and noting our top scores last season in 40 overs were 152 and 128, this tells a great story of how we’re improving.

Round 4 saw the first ever 50 for a female Bear, by Lucy Warren against Parramatta, a feat equalled the following week by Liz Buckley against NDs. But these feats were eclipsed by Grace Keating in Round 9, who smashed 99 against ladder-leaders Sydney after taking 3/53 earlier in the day. Grace has scored 231 runs at 38.5, putting her 12th on the whole club aggregates and third for Brewer Shield across all clubs.

It’s been tougher with the ball, but both Liz Buckley (4/21) and Ani Uthappa (4/28) took 4-wicket hauls in the tight loss to Gordon. That game showed the girls’ fight – Gordon were 1/118 and 3/173, but we kept them to 9/203 off their 50 overs thanks to Buckley and Uthappa. In reply, we looked out of it at 5/87, but Bianca Lozell (38) and captain Lucy Warren (28) refused to give up and took the total to 171. In the end, we fell 14 runs short, but it showed us we have what it takes to beat teams in the top half of the ladder.

Our win came in a T20 against Campbelltown in Round 6. An early wicket for Lucy Warren, tight bowling all round and two superb run outs thanks to Liz Buckley and Zoey Ridgway restricted the Ghosts to 122. In reply, Caity Thomas played the anchor role with 29* while Grace Keating (who else?) made 25 as the pair put on 50. Once Keating was dismissed, Zoey Ridgway came in and opened her shoulders, scoring 9* off 7 to secure the win with 5 balls to spare.

With 8 rounds to come after Christmas, this young side intends to make further steps up the table and is looking forward to pulling a few surprises on the top sides!

Women’s Third Grade T20

The W3s season is separated into two competitions – T20 before Christmas and 40 overs in the new year. We finished the T20 comp in sixth place out of seven teams, but after posting our first two wins ever in open-age women’s cricket.

The two victories came against Bankstown in Round 5 and Universities in 40-degree heat in Round 7. The Bankstown win was highlighted by a brilliant all-round performance from Anushka Dongre, who took 2/19, effected two run-outs and then made 30* before being forced to retire. But all of our bowlers bowled tightly, and Anushka was ably supported with the bat by Tilly Kingsmill, Lucy Warren and Caity Thomas, before Jasmeet Bedi hit her first ever boundary to secure the victory! Against Universities, we also bowled first and restricted Unis to 3/107 with wickets to Dongre, Urzana Ghadially with a brilliant yorker and a run-out. With the bat, Amy Gibbons was the star of the show making 34 off just 15 balls to secure victory with an amazing 5 overs left. Her innings included three fours and three sixes - in that heat, why run if you don’t have to?!

Anushka Dongre (103 runs at 26) and captain Hetti Blackburn (83 at 41.5) sit inside the top 10 batting aggregates for the competition, while Dongre also took 6 wickets at 22 (and an economy rate of 3.2 – just amazing in a T20 league!). It’s been brilliant also to see Urzana Ghadially and Sherrin Elliot play their first competitive cricket and take 3 wickets at 22 and 3 at 34 respectively, for Jasmeet Bedi to hit her first ever four, and several other players join or return to the Bears. We’re looking forward to the 40-over part of the season and a chance to build longer innings and build pressure over longer in the field.