Lyall’s Preview Qualifying Final v St George & Metro Cup Qualifying Final v Sydney Uni. Blue

It’s finals time! And we have two teams to cheer home over the upcoming weekend. Our 1st Grade side takes on minor premiers St George at Hurstville Oval while our Metro Gold boys venture to St Paul’s at Sydney University to play the students’ Blue team. Both matches are played over next Saturday and Sunday. While Gold’s match starts at 10 am, the 1st Grade clash will start slightly earlier at 9.45 am both days.

1st GRADE: What a topsy-turvy season for our 1st XI. Early in the season they were on fire, sitting comfortably in the top 6 after 8 rounds. During this time, they bolted in with the Kingsgrove Sports Twenty20 Cup for the 4th time. But then the wheels fell off and they lost 5 of the following 7 matches leaving them languishing in 11th place. Only the top 6 contest finals and that was looking very doubtful for the side, particularly as they were 9th with just two matches to play.

In the first of those against UTS North Sydney, it took their best 10th wicket partnership of the season to get home. And while they had an easy win against University of NSW in the last round, their finals chances depended on another match.

The match in question was 6th placed Western Suburbs playing 13th placed Campbelltown-Camden. And as luck would have it, it was the Ghosts who kept the RPC season alive by defeating the Magpies with a 9th wicket partnership of 46 after being 8-143 chasing 188. It just shows that in NSW Premier Cricket, matches are never over until they’re over. That result saw the team finish in 6th place and in the finals.

St George have had a brilliant season. losing just one match in taking out the minor premiership by 13 points. They chalked up 86 points from 14 wins while our 1sts ended with 49 from 8. We played them in round 9, going down 229 to 7-230 at Hurstville after having them 3-18. Had certain close decisions gone our way, it may have been a different result.

Their batting line-up is outstanding and they have hit some huge scores. Can our team beat them? They certainly can! With Jason Sangha rattling up a magnificent century last Sunday and with the likes of big scorers Anthony Sams, Riley Ayre, Camden Hawkins, Alex Ross, Angus McTaggart, Jake Egan and Ben Mitchell in form, Saints will know they have a game on their hands.

The difference between the sides may well be our team’s bowling. Our trundlers have been in great form this summer. Opening bowler McTaggart has taken 52 wickets in all competitions with fast bowlers Jason Ralston chalking up 42 and Connor O’Riordan 36. Spin-bowling skipper, Riley Ayre has 36 and needs just 4 to hit 200 for the club. Throw in Australian under 19 paceman Luke Callanan in his first season with the club, and it is an imposing attack. The match will be a top contest. We need to win to progress to the semi-final.

METRO CUP: After more than 20 seasons of self-administration and working around the edges of other Sydney-based competitions, Cricket NSW very kindly took over the administration of the competition this season. Their formalising of the competition has been a breath of fresh air – players were no longer waiting week-to-week to know where they were playing, and the vast majority of games had at least one standing umpire. The competition grew to 18 teams, making it one of the most difficult seasons to qualify for finals, through the sheer number of teams and nascent talent spread throughout.

At Christmas, Randwick Petersham Gold sat on the precipice – a promising start to the season having been hampered by rain in two-day cricket, followed by two close losses leading to the break, had the team sitting 10th on the ladder. The leadership think-tank used the break to reform their strategies and methods, while taking a more hands-on approach with some of the younger players in the group – after training, the weekend’s upcoming matches were discussed in great detail, with both batters and bowlers getting their plans, while pushing the mantra of: bat time, bowl dry and field with vigour.

The result for the Gold team was a streak of 5 wins in 5 rounds after Xmas – with the clutch match being a gallant defence of 94 against Fairfield-Liverpool. A consummate team performance in the face of difficult odds, this win could very well have been the difference between a finals appearance and an early finish. It was the stand-out performance in a season with some pertinent highs – taking 9-13 to scupper Sydney University Gold for 123 having been 1-110, taking 6-10 against North West Sydney Maroon in 41 degrees at Snape Park and holding an always competitive St George to less than 100 in a must win game.

Having now qualified for the Metro Cup finals for a 4th consecutive season, this time in 4th place, Gold will take on a familiar foe – Sydney University Blue. The Blue version for the students were our Qualifying Final opponents last season, though this time they’ll enjoy the home advantage at St Paul’s Oval. The 2022-23 epic encounter last all 192 overs, as the students batted first and piled on 275 over 105 overs. Luke Takacs and E-Young ‘Pingu’ Khoo batted for two hours to save the draw and get us through to the semis. We had a return fixture in round 5, where a high scoring draw was played out at St Paul’s Oval in the background of our 1st grade’s T20 triumph. The third encounter in the last year between the two teams is due for result!

Gold’s success has been built off the strength in the spin attack, with 3 of the top 20 bowlers for the competition – E-Young Khoo (23 wkts @ 12.87), Sriram Suresh (21 wkts @ 13.48) and Riley Myers (16 @ wkts 16.68) – while the batting has once again been driven by Dr Asif Rasheed (384 runs @ 32) and all-rounders Ashish Bhat (215 runs @ 26.88) and Abhyuday Chauhan (182 runs @ 22.75), with the latter also taking the season’s best figures (6-51) against the very same opposition. The returning Dale ‘Tex’ Walker has hit some powerful cameos. Kaisei Doggett has grown in leaps and bounds across this season, while Nate Cameron has proven indefatigable with the ball. All-in-all, it’s a well-balanced team well interspersed with the exuberance of youth and hardiness of experience. The aim will be to win, so that we don’t have to put our progress in the hands of other teams.

GO THE RANDY PETES!!!

Lyall Gardner OAM

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