Third Grade Semi-Final Wrap

Third Grade Semi Final: Eastern Suburbs vs UTS North Sydney at Waverley Oval

Eastern Suburbs 338 (B Wilson 6/87) def UTS North Sydney 236 (B van der Merwe 71, F Nixon-Tomko 32, F May 26*)

After a washout in last weekend’s Qualifying Final against Bankstown, the Third Grade Bears progressed to the Semi Final by virtue of finishing third in the regular season. We arrived at Waverley ready and raring to go, buoyed by the return of both the sun in the sky and Ben van der Merwe in the XI following his wedding and honeymoon – congratulations, Ben!

Jacob Graham lost the toss, but we weren’t too perturbed at being asked to bowl first, and delighted when Brad Wilson’s third ball cannoned into middle and off to have the Dolphins 1/2. One became two in the 12th over with a sharp catch to van der Merwe at third slip, making it 2/24 and Wilson 2/4 off 6 having not given an inch.

Easts rebuilt after the early barrage with a partnership of 46 for the third wicket before young Jonah Trope played all around one from Izaak Merlehan just after lunch. This brought skipper and experienced campaigner, Mark Morley, to the crease. Morley was positive from the off, picking up the run rate that had been sitting at 2.5 an over. He had a running battle with Merlehan (1/49), who forced two false shots that frustratingly flew over fielders, but also launched two big sixes over the leg side. At the other end, Wilson had been brought back into the attack after lunch after just four overs out of it. He was rewarded in the ninth over of his spell with the wicket of the watchful opener, Konstas, who edged to first slip where Chris Lloyd took an excellent low catch. 

Easts were 4/136, which rapidly became 5/137 when Fraser Noack got in on the action smashing one into the new man’s off stump, and the Bears were rampant. Even more so with another wicket to Fletcher May (1/74)on 174, and then after tea when Morley hit one from Wilson down the throat of Luke Smith and had to depart for 83 at better than a run a ball. Easts were 7/205 with the danger man gone, but nobody had banked on the way the tail would wag. The eighth wicket added 20 before Wilson jubilantly claimed his 5-wicket bag with another clean bowled, but it took another 31 runs before Noack (2/90) found the edge of the number 9 to bring the last pair together on 9/256.

By this stage, we were in the 88th over and our four-man attack was tiring. The new man, appropriately named Newman, seemed to want a bowl tonight and set about some big shots. Not for the first time in the day, the luck just didn’t go in our favour as most flew away from fielders, although he did also survive a tough chancewhen on just 5. He finished the day 26* and the Dolphins 9/294, with our frontline bowlers having sent down 24, 27, 22 and 18 overs respectively.

Day 2 began frustratingly, with more aerial balls from Newman and him reaching his first ever Premier Cricket50, as his partner, Hayman, steadfastly defended at the other end. Finally, just before drinks in the 113th over (and his 32nd), Brad Wilson forced the false shot from Newman and skipper Jacob Graham pouched the catch at mid-off, Wilson finishing with superb figures of 6/87 for his toils. After a last-wicket partnership of 82, the Bears needed 339 to win off 79 overs. A tough chase, but the pitch was good and the outfield only getting quicker.

Openers Finn Nixon-Tomko and Graham saw us through to lunch on a solid 0/24, with Nixon-Tomko having played a couple of beautiful cover drives. After lunch, both batsmen progressed to 24 with the score on 53 before Graham was unlucky to play one on from left-arm spinner Ned Patterson. This brought van der Merwe to the crease, and he signalled his intent with three fours in his first eight balls, including two in an over that sailed over Patterson’s head. Nixon-Tomko perished, caught at mid-on off Patterson for 32, and van der Merwe was joined by Luke Smith. Unfortunately, the partnership lasted just six overs, but Chris Lloyd provided solid company up until tea. Ben brought up a classy and chanceless 50 off 56 balls and went into the break at 64*. He had said at lunchtime that we needed to be 150 by tea and only 2 or 3 down, and so it was – 3/159 with 180 needed at exactly a run a ball. We weren’t favourites, but we certainly weren’t down and out, and van der Merwe’s knock was making the Easts faithful in the stand (and scorers’ room) a little nervous.

After tea and a tight lbw call that sent Lloyd back for 23, things began to unravel, with the required run rate climbing so more risks were needed. Van der Merwe’s outstanding knock of 71 off 84 (with 2 sixes and eight fours) ended with a catch at mid-on, leaving the Bears 5/177 with just 24 overs to get 162. Three more wickets fell cheaply to the leg-spinner, Konstas, leaving the fast bowlers at 9, 10 and 11 with far too much to do. May (26*) and Noack (15) saw us to 230, with May reminding Konstas the game wasn’t done by taking 10 off an over, but the young Easts spinners had the last laugh when we were bowled out for 236 in the 71st over.

It was a much more competitive game than the final scoreline suggests, with the Bears on top for much of Day 1 and well in the game until after tea on Day 2, and having done the club proud. They finish an outstanding season with nine wins, and hungry to go at least one better in 2021-22.

Images courtesy of Tony Johnson