Round 11 Wrap vs St George

1st Grade UTS North Sydney vs St George at North Sydney Oval

UTS North Sydney 5/192 (J Avendano 89, T Reynolds 38, T Jagot 29) def St George 120 (J Campbell 4/25, O Knight 3/24, R Aitken 2/2, M Alexander 1/34) and 5/199 (J Avendano 2/30, W Graham 1/22, O Knight 1/35, M Alexander 1/40)

The Bears returned to North Sydney Oval for a vital clash with St George over the Australia Day weekend. Norths were strengthened with the return of Captain Justin Avendano whose Sydney Sixers are bound for finals this week, while NSW bowler Trent Copeland was named for the opposition. It was a special day for club legend Robbie Aitken who was named for his 472nd First Grade appearance, equalling the NSW Premier cricket record held by Ken Hall. Robbie had his family on hand to witness this amazing achievement.

After winning the toss, Avendano had no hesitation in sending St George into bat to take advantage of the muggy and overcast conditions. James Campbell (4/25) turned in another stellar performance with the ball claiming two early wickets to have St George on the back foot at 2/7. First change bowler Olly Knight (3/24) had the ball singing in his first spell returning figures of 3/9, with the Saints crashing to 5/38. Campbell came back for his second spell to take two further wickets with St George in deep trouble at 7/82. Milestone man Robbie Aitken was thrown the ball to remove the tail. Aitken combined with Matt Alexander (1/34) to grab the next two wickets to have St George nine down. The final wicket of Mitchell Gray (46), who had offered stout resistance, was claimed by Aitken thanks to a sensational one handed grab by youngster Tim Reynolds, fielding at cover. It was also Aitken’s 600th First Grade wicket as he retuned figures of 2/2 and St George were all out 120 in 39.1 overs.

With the ball still nipping around a little, Ben Bryant and Jack James strode to the cease for the Bears batting innings. Both players absorbed a lot of balls by Trent Copeland (3/36) who bowled 15 overs straight either side of the tea break. Copeland made use of the humid conditions, to claim the first three Bears wickets.

Bryant fell with the score at 14 and James at 37. New batsman Justin Avendano and Tom Jagot (29) took a positive approach as Copeland came to the end of his spell, putting together a 54 run partnership to advance the score to 3/91. After Jagot departed, Avendano was joined by Tim Reynolds (38), with the pair combining for an 88 run stand to pass the St George score. Avendano got into his rhythm fairly quickly hitting 15 boundaries and reaching 89 runs off 115 balls before being caught on the boundary with the score at 179. Reynolds followed suit, also caught with the score at 179 in the next over. Initially, the plan was to bat out the day, but the captain decided with strong support from his bowlers to have a crack at the Saints batsman prior to the end of play. This left Olly Knight and George Lavelle a few overs to whack as many as possible. North Sydney declared at 5/192, with a first innings lead of 72. James Campbell and Will Graham took the new rock for the second time in the day. The St George openers survived four fiery overs to be no wicket for 20. However, things could have been a lot different had the umpires not turned down a confident caught behind and an LBW appeal in Campbell’s second over.

The following day was filled with numerous possibilities – could the Norths bowling unit get a few early ones to bring the outright into play? Would the St George batsman have a go or just block it out? Would we be required to bat again and how many would we need to chase?

Will Graham (1/22) made the first breakthrough in the first over of the day to have St George 1/23. However, the St George batsman were cautious and fought hard to maintain their wickets, letting plenty of balls go. St George drew level with our score in the 16th over of the morning. A couple of overs later, Matt Alexander (1/34), knocked over the remaining opener, so that St George were effectively 2/2. After lunch Jack James (0/25 off 10) and Robbie Aiken (0/14 off 6) bowled in tandem, putting together some tight and probing overs to tempt the batsman into a mistake.

The experienced Stapleton and Bartier resisted the temptation to go after a second innings win, but just when it looked like the outright was out of play, George Lavelle delivered a lightning leg side stumping up to the wickets to Olly Knight to keep the hope alive. Bartier was joined by Gray, with the pair moving the score past 150 and 80 runs ahead by the 52nd over. This left 46 overs to get a result. However, with the wicket flattening out and the chance of an outright fading, Avendano brought himself on bowl, to make something happen or perhaps to signify the end of the game. In an interesting twist, Avendano (2/30) claimed two unexpected wickets providing plenty of entertainment for the punters as the batsman also took advantage of a few loose ones to deposit two big sixes. At the tea break with 57 overs completed in the day and St George 5/199 – a lead of 127 runs, the captains decided to call it a day.

UTS North Sydney walked away with 6 valuable points moving the side one win clear of St George with four rounds remaining. Unfortunately, we dropped one position to 5th on the back of a weaker quotient than Bankstown.

2nd Grade UTS North Sydney vs St George at Hurstville Oval

UTS North Sydney 8/166 (G Aiken 40*, M Jenkins 35*, J Aiken 34) def by St George 7/167 (J Aiken 3/30)

Round 11 saw the North Sydney side head south across the bridge to the picturesque Hurstville Oval for a tough top six clash against St George. 

Unfortunately (and unusually), North Sydney lost the toss and were sent into bat on an uncharacteristic Hurstville wicket that was very soft. It was sure to do a lot early and offer the St George attack plenty of support. It was tough going at the start of the innings. Both openers James Leary (8) and Cameron New (16) absorbed the early pressure as the opposition bowled tight lines. The wicket was proving tacky and low with a very slow outfield making it difficult to score. The run rate was at just two an over until the fall of the first wicket in the 12th over.

With the loss of the first wicket, three quick ones followed, and the Bears slumped to be 4/32 off 18. At this stage Max Papworth was joined by James Aitken, and they combined to start rebuilding the inning. Both batted with determination and grit and pushed the score ahead. Their combination of defense and shot selection was admirable and showed all players how to bat in the conditions. They moved the score to 84 before James was caught at mid off for a well made 34. Unfortunately, Max also fell to a similar dismissal for a score of 17 in the following over.

At 6/85 off 33 overs the Bears were in a difficult position, new batsmen Mac Jenkins and captain Glenn Aitken had a big task ahead of them. Both batted well as they consolidated through the middle overs and then pushed to create a competitive total. As the wicket hardened and the outfield quickened slightly both players pushed the score ahead with quality batting. Both batsmen showed great maturity and composure. Glenn was dismissed in the second last over with a run a ball 40. Mac remained not out 35 and we were able to scrape together 166 runs. It was competitive, but well below par score, even considering the conditions. It provided the bowlers with a total to bowl at and the Bears entered the field with the knowledge that they had won from similar positions this year.

By the time the St George innings commenced the wicket had hardened significantly and the outfield quickened. The wicket was still slow and low and so batting was not going to be easy. Unfortunately, St George got off to a great start going at 4 an over for the first 10, until the ever reliable James Aitken (3/30 off 10) took the first of his three wickets through a chipped catch to the ever reliable Niranjan Naguleswaran at mid off. Mac Jenkins (1/32 off 10) was introduced into the attack and showed his class immediately. He demonstrated great control and craft and unfortunately a dropped chance off his bowling was to prove costly. The lucky batsman went on to score 61 in the close contest. Spin was introduced from both ends and things tightened up. This led to Mac combining with Max Papworth to effect a sharp run out, taking the score to 2/68 off 18. Then Mac dismissed their number four with a catch to James Aitken. The score was 3/83 and the game was back in the balance. However, despite the excellent bowling and fielding, St George consolidated and pushed their total to 3/143. The game seemed to be slipping away. 

Norths decided to push hard one last time and tighten things as much as possible. James Aitken dismissed the set batsmen to an excellent stumping from Max Papworth to give the Bears hope. The Bear bowlers exerted classic “pressure cricket” over the remaining overs and gave it everything they had. Niranjan Naguleswaran (2/28 off 10) and Sam Alexander (1/32 off 8) strangled the opposition and they stumbled before the finish line. Both bowlers continued to impress with their flight, control and spin. The atmosphere was filled with the possibility of a massive choke. However, North Sydney were unable to pull off the impossible and St George passed the total, 7 wickets down in the 46th over. Regardless, the boys can be proud of they way they defended the total and nearly pulled off a miracle win. It was a very competitive match and congratulations go to St George who outplayed us on the day.

3rd Grade UTS North Sydney vs St George at Bon Andrews

UTS North Sydney 186 (J Hardy 60, C Lloyd 33) def by St George 8/187 ( F May 3/45, N Whyte 2/20)

The Bears lost the toss and were sent in under grey skies, but with the deck looking very hard. Loose shots from the top 3 saw us 3/30 before Chris Lloyd joined Jake Hardy for an 85 run stand at over 5 an over. Jake batted beautifully before flashing at one too close to his body for a run-a-ball 60. Lloyd continued to grind it out until edging one for 33. From 5/143 in the 30th over the boys struggled, with a few players getting starts and then getting out. Eventually we were all out 186 in the second last over.

The bowling innings started well with Harrison May (1/52) claiming a wicket 2nd ball before a very tight lbw call off the 4th ball was turned down. That and a dropped catch next over from the same batsman ended up being costly as their number 3 went about swinging wildly but effectively, eventually making 77 off just 61 balls. The bowlers took wickets consistently to kept us in the game. Fletcher May (3/45), Nuwan Whyte (2/20 off 3) and Ahmer Amir (1/19 off 5) combined to reduce the Saints to 7/148 still needing another 39 to win. Jacob Graham (1/23) took another to leave them 8/169, but the Bears couldn’t find the final 2 wickets to win the game.

4th Grade UTS North Sydney vs St George at Harold Fraser Oval

UTS North Sydney 5/201 (I Merlehan 88*, F Nixon-Tomko 50, J Holmes 29) def St George 200 (I Merlehan 3/19, FJ Noack 3/40, S Vohra 2/50)

The 4th Grade Bears travelled down to Kogarah to meet the 6th placed St George outfit. Harold Fraser Oval, complete with new pavilion, carpeted change rooms, a lift to the viewing pavilion, belter of a wicket and a test standard outfield excited the young team keen to record a victory and contribute to the club championship points.

Upon winning the toss, veteran St George Skipper Stephen Wark had no hesitation in electing to bat, and after a slow start the St George openers amassed 34 for the opening wicket. The conditions did not offer much for the Bears opening attack of Robson and Savage, as both bowled tightly without luck. With the shine off the ball, Izaak Merlehan was thrown the ball to send down some of his offies and, as he commonly does, he claimed a wicket in his first over. In tandem with Fraser Noack (3-40) Izaak (3-19) put the brakes on the St George innings, minimising run scoring opportunities and creating opportunities. St George faltered to 6-71 around the 27th over mark.

Through the first 30 overs, the Bears bowlers maintained for the most part their line and length and they were supported in the field. However,  following a drinks break and some changes in the bowling and most likely a general thought that the game was ours, the attack offered up some boundary deliveries and the standard of ground fielding and throwing was very poor. Conceding some 130 runs in the final 20 overs was demoralising and should be a wake up to some that this game requires concentration, determination and pride in the collective fielding effort.

Requiring 201 to win on a fast outfield with a flat batting track would require application and at 2-31 the Bears began to falter. However, a resolute effort from opener Finn Nixon-Tomko (50) and Jake Holmes (29) took the score through to 3-76 when Jake was adjudged caught behind . To the crease strode Izaak Merlehan, who launched a blistering shot over deep mid-wicket to the get off the mark and signal his intention to assert himself with bat in hand. Izaak (88 not out off 67 balls) was brilliant to watch as he sent the spinners to all ends of the ground. This match was won on the back of Izaak’s assault and Finn’s occupation of the crease… 6 points recorded… all that was required was a solid effort with the Bears song… led by Tim Robson… the Bears ensured the Saints knew who won.

There is great potential in this playing group… just a little more application, self-reflection and a desire to simulate match situations at training are the difference between 16th on the ladder and the top 4.

5th Grade UTS North Sydney vs St George @ Tunks Park

UTS North Sydney 160 (B Revai 32, A Nigul 25) tied St George 9/160 (B Revai 3/33)

5s hosted 3rd place St George at Tunks, keen to extend our lead in the 5th Grade standings.

Inclement weather on Friday had the deck looking a little green, however, after a Bernie haircut, the Bears were happy to bat first after being inserted by the Saints.

We got off to a strong start with Adi Nigul (25) and Luke Smith (23) advancing the score to 57 before they fell in quick succession to the St George change bowlers. Those same bowlers then ripped the heart out of the Bears middle order with Norths slumping to 6-88, unable to cope with the movement being extracted out of the pitch.  Ben Revai showed great resolve, batting intelligently to score 32* and advance our final score to 160.

With the deck flattening out, 160 was probably 20-30 short of par, so the Bears would have to bowl well.  A decent start had the Saints 1-21, however a partnership formed for the 2nd wicket, and the Bears had to hang in the contest, building pressure and limiting the 4 balls. Eventually, the pressure told as Aki Rana induced a loose shot from the Saints opener, then Cooper Goddard struck with two brilliant run outs and then Liam Hodge with a sharp stumping off Revai.

Even though the Saints were always ahead of the game needing less than 6 an over with wickets in hand, the Bears never gave up and somehow 7 runs were needed off the last over with 4 wickets in hand.  

The first ball was struck for two, reducing the equation to 5 off 5.  The next ball there was a run out by Abbott and Revai with the Saints attempting a 2nd - 4 off 4 with 3 wickets in hand. The 3rd ball of the over was swung high to deep midwicket. Abzy Shaikh stood calmly under it and pouched the catch - 4 off 3 with 2 wickets in hand. The 4th ball of the over ball was also hit in the air - straight to Will Abbott! A team hat-trick, Revai (3/33 off 10) on a hat-trick and 4 off 2 with the number 11 striding out.  

Perhaps the Bears were in front? For the first time in the day since the opening stand of our innings? Could we pull off another Houdini escape? The second to last ball was hit for 2 meaning 1 to tie and 2 to win. 

The last ball was hit firmly down the ground. But straight to mid-off. A run was completed. But only one. A tie at Tunks International Sports Park! 

After some supervision of the books, the result was confirmed. The Bears live to fight another day, however know full well we will need to be more focused to taste glory later in the season. 

Video and images courtesy of Tony Johnson, David James and team captains