Week 23 Wrap vs UNSW and Greater Hunter Coast

Brewer Shield Semi-Final: UTS North Sydney v Greater Hunter Coast at Bon Andrews Oval

UTS North Sydney 184 (49.5 Overs) (S Kuncham 70, S Julien 39) def Greater Hunter Coast 145 (38.4 Overs) (S Kuncham 4/23, I Selems 4/25, S Julien 2/34)

Spoiler alert. The Bears are into the grand final! Bon Andrews was the venue of the Brewer semi-final against Greater Hunter Coast. The first for the North Sydney Brewers Shield team. The ground and wicket looked immaculate for the second place versus third position clash.

Greater Hunter won the toss and sent our girls in to bat on a deck that promised plenty of runs. The opening pair of Liz Buckley and Shiloh Julien opened the account in typically bright fashion. Liz struck several blazing strokes and Shiloh rotated the strike with ease, allowing the Bears to breeze past twenty in the third over. Liz went for another drive against the swinging new ball but unfortunately miscued to cover. That brought Sam Kuncham to the crease and commenced the most productive partnership of the innings. Both players combined deft touch to accumulate singles and power to dispatch the bad ball. The pair passed eighty before Shiloh danced down the track and was neatly stumped for thirty-nine. Sam continued on her way as she watched the Bears middle order batters at the other end start to stumble. The hundred came and went as the total continued to build before Sam was run out for a well-made seventy.

The Bears continued to courageously inch towards a defendable total as the middle order gave way to the lower order. Eva Jenns proved to be the glue that held the latter part of the innings together as she combined with several other players who made handy single digit contributions. A steady trickle of runs kept the total building with a combination of extras, tight singles and well placed edges. The Bears were finally all out in the forty ninth over with Eva run out for 17 important runs. The total being a very defendable 184.

The bowling innings began well for the Bears with an early edge off Sam caught beautifully by Karman Jawanda. That brought the number three to the crease and the run chase began. A productive partnership ensued until Shiloh trapped the other opener LBW. The Bears then had to dig in as the Hunter batters hit the accelerator and began to close in on the total. The bowlers held their nerve and worked hard to build pressure from both ends, ably supported by a number of great saves in the field. This pressure and the immaculate line and length of Sam intersected to produce a much needed wicket. Stumps scattered and partnership broken!

Sam then worked her way through the remaining top order players, finishing with 4 for 23 and capping off a clear player of the match performance. However, with the top order dismissed, there still loomed the prospect of a lower order fight back. Isabel Selems was then asked to charge in for her second spell, with radar very much in tune. She took up where Sam left off and crashed through the lower order, keeping all batters to single digit totals. She too finished with four wickets and the Bears were in sight of victory. This left the spinners to go in for the kill. The tailenders looked all at sea, edging and chipping balls tantalisingly close to fielders at both ends. Shiloh then brought the curtain down upon the Greater Hunter Coast innings, bowling the number eleven batter and sparking scenes of jubilation at the centre of Bon Andrews.

The UTS North Sydney Bears had proved all of the naysayers wrong and booked a well-deserved place in the Brewer Shield grand-final against Sydney. The team had once again come together, and as usual, every player had contributed to the victory. A diving save, a tight over at a key moment, support and encouragement or a match defining contribution with the bat or ball. The fact that there have been different players stamping their mark on different games throughout the competition speaks volumes about the depth of talent, commitment and resilience of our team. The Bears go into the grand final with nothing to lose and plenty to gain, against a Sydney team burdened by the weight of expectations that comes with being the minor premiers. There will certainly be a few nervous people on the southern side of the harbour this week.

1st Grade Round 15: UTS North Sydney vs UNSW at North Sydney Oval

UTS North Sydney 219 (49.2 overs) (D Mares 67, T Reynolds 31, R Aitken 30*) def by UNSW 6/302 (cc) (R Aitken 2/43, F May 2/65)

The First Grade season concluded with being outplayed by a UNSW outfit boasting all of its State players, but there were a few bright moments to end the season despite the heavy defeat. These came predominantly from team’s newest member, Dylan Mares, and the longest standing, Robbie Aitken.

It was Aitken who played a big role in saving the UNSW innings from the 330 it looked destined to be, breaking the opening stand of 117 between Matt Gilkes and Jack Attenborough in just the 17th over. By the time he took his second wicket and the team’s third, he had figures of 2/15 off 4.3 overs – remarkable given what had gone before! For the second week in a row, it was the Bears spinners who stepped up, with Sam Alexander getting the other key wicket of Attenborough and Mac Jenkins bowling his 10 overs for just 36.

After a comeback of sorts from the Bears, UNSW accelerated again towards the end of the innings with their wicketkeeper, Thomas Byrnes, making an aggressive 45 off 25 to see them just past 300.

So now to Mares. After debuting in Round 9, Dylan has looked at home in First Grade and made several starts (and had a bit of bad luck with run-outs), so his maiden 50 at this level was well earned. It was particularly pleasing to bring it up against an attack including Chris Tremain, and in very confident fashion. He and Tim Reynolds shared an opening stand of 72 which gave the Bears hope (and was our largest for as long as this author can remember), before Avendano replaced Reynolds at the crease. It was great to see Justin back in action and, despite not being fully fit, he reminded us what we’ve been missing with a run-a-ball 24 including two trademark sixes.

Unfortunately from 1/107 it was a familiar tale for the Bears, collapsing to 7/152, with Mares the sixth out for a very well-made 67. From here, Aitken (who else?) took up the mantle, and on the way brought up his 11,720th First Grade run to become seventh on the all-time list. Aitken found a willing accomplice in Fletcher May, who made 24 off 30 in a stand of 44, before a cameo of 16 from Sam Alexander, who might argue that his two bombs were the highlight of his season. I’d still argue in favour of the 10 of 175 balls against Easts though!

The inevitable happened and the Bears were bundled out for 219 to lose by 83 runs, and left to lick their wounds over the off-season after a season that promised much before Christmas but fizzled out. But 2023-24 will bring a clean slate and new opportunities to demonstrate that our rightful place is much higher than 15th on the ladder.

2nd Grade Round 15: UTS North Sydney v UNSW at David Phillips South

UTS North Sydney 9/165 (49 Overs) (G Aitken) def UNSW 164 (48.4 Overs) (J Aitken 4//43, I Merlehan 2/26, H May 2/29)

3rd Grade Round 15: UTS North Sydney v UNSW at Bon Andrews Oval

UTS North Sydney 8/261cc ( F Nixon Tomko 107, O Jago Lewis 55) def UNSW 172 (42.3 Overs) (R Alexander 3/32, P Lindsay 2/21, J Graham 2/30, B Wilson 2/34)

The Bears arrived at Bon Andrews for Round 15 with the equation clear - win and make finals. A slightly tacky wicket greeted both teams and when UNSW won the toss and elected to bowl without hesitation, the skippers nerves started to jangle.

Cam New (18) and Finn Nixon-Tomko started brightly taking the score to 45 before a double wicket breakthrough had the Bears wobbling slightly.

Hamish Reynolds (14) and then Ray Alexander (19) steadied the ship with Finn, advancing the score to 3-130.

Enter Oscar Jago-Lewis. For the 2nd week in a row OJL took apart an attack in a match winning hand. He struck 55 off 34 balls with 5 fours and 3 sixes and took the Bears from looking at a score of around 200 to 250+.

Jacob Graham (21*) joined Finn and took the score to 6-255 when Finn was dismissed for a wonderful 107 off 149. It was Finn’s maiden grade hundred and came at a crucial time for the side. His knock was chanceless and featured some lovely cutting and sweeping. Finn is hitting form at the business end of the season after his 82 vs Blacktown a week earlier.

The innings was closed at 8-261 and the Bears were feeling confident of closing the deal in the afternoon. However, Bumblebees came out swinging going at 7 an over which put the Bears firmly on their heals. Brad Wilson (2/32) managed to remove both openers and these were crucial breakthroughs as the Bears were able to squeeze the run rate with the middle order. Jacob Graham (2-30) dismissed both the #3 and #4 to reduce to UNSW 4-86 and the Bear were on top of the contest.

A solid 5th wicket partnership gave UNSW some belief however a sharp runout from Finn Nixon-Tomko and Oscar Jago-Lewis gave the Bears the control they never let up. Ray Alexander (3-32 off 8) and Pat Lindsay (2-21 off 8.3) cleaned up the tail to close out the W and 4th place on the ladder.

A qualifying final vs Manly at Grahams Reserve awaits 3rd grade who are pumped to give a good account of themselves in Finals Cricket.

4th Grade Round 15: UTS North Sydney v UNSW at Alexandria Park

UTS North Sydney 91 (27.4 Overs) (M Cole 32) def by UNSW 2/92 (18.1 Overs)

Last round for finals could not have gone much worse for the Bears, turning up to an interesting oval to finish the season at, the Bears were sent in on a green wicket with weed tufts and cracks on a length outside off stump.

Instantly the UNSW skippers decision was vindicated with 4 early wickets, Ahmer Amir and Matt Cole showed some resistance both scoring over 20, with Cole striking three bombs back to back to back. However the batting was appalling with poor shot selection across the board, a symptom of “its one day cricket we have to score quickly”.

With only 91 to defend, the UNSW batting lineup made short work of the low total with the short boundaries, the game finished inside 50 overs played on the day.

The Bears have already forgotten about this match and have turned their attention to a Semi Final clash with local rivals Gordon at Chatswood Oval, all to play for this week as the Bears look to go all the way.

5th Grade Round 15: UTS North Sydney v UNSW at Tunks International Sports Park

UTS North Sydney 122 (47.4 Overs) (E Omar 39) def by UNSW 6/123 (38.4 Overs) (R Lavery 2/15, T Cole 2/22, R Adabala 2/31)

A perfect day at Tunks International Sports Park was the stage for 5s final round showdown with UNSW. A win would see the Bears wrap up a minor premiership. A loss would leave the door ajar for Manly to pip the good guys at the post.

The Bees’ skipper called correctly at the toss and wisely chose to bowl first on a Tunks pitch with a little bit of morning moisture under the surface. Wickets in hand were going to be all-important in order to take advantage when the pitch flattened, however the Bears had already fallen to 3/23 by the conclusion of the 10th over. The situation only got worse as 3 more wickets fell to leave the team floundering at 6/46.

Eesa Omar was then joined by James Denslow and the pair got their heads over the ball and fought hard to add 47 for the seventh wicket. James was unlucky to get an absolute gazunder and Eesa was beaten shortly thereafter, as UNSW’s Jayavarapu bowled a disciplined late-innings spell. The tail held in to bat most of the overs however 122 looked well short of par on a pretty even pitch.

Tom Cole and Eesa took the all-important new ball and beat the bat more than a few times. Tom was ultimately rewarded for an excellent spell, claiming two early wickets. James and Shiv Vohra bowled with discipline, however the Bees’ middle order defended wisely against good balls and took full toll of poor balls to motor to 2/70.

As has been the case often this season, Ravi Adabala’s introduction produced greater uncertainty in the minds of the batters. He claimed his first wicket with James Denslow taking an unabashed screamer of a catch and also got rid of the well-set Siu LBW. Lavery produced some uncharacteristic turn at the other end and also claimed a brace amongst some less disciplined offerings.

Tom Cole came back and, along with Ravi, applied strong pressure on the UNSW lower order, however a missed half-chance and some lucky plays-and-misses saw the Bees survive to claim the victory.

A frustrating way to cede the top spot on the table and better performances in the running and fielding departments will be required to go deep in the finals.

Media courtesy of Tony Johnson, Malcolm Trees, MTV Photo Sydney, Jeff Williamson, Greg Buckley, Adam Cavenor and UTS North Sydney members.