What a weekend of action in the Quarter Finals of the Victorian Premier Cricket competition last Saturday! As they say, nothing is certain in the Finals and that was the case last Saturday with 3 of the top 4 teams being bundled out in straight sets on their home tracks.
Highlights from last weekend’s Finals matches with the bat included a fighting knock of 100* by Carlton’s Nick Ross in his club’s loss to Fitzroy Doncaster, who had Jack Rudd (70) and Liam Banthorpe (66*) bat well, while Prahran keeper Nick Blaich (54) was the only other batsman to pass 50 for the day in the True Blues’ win over Melbourne University.
With the ball, the standout performance was that of Geelong quick Brody Couch (5/36) in the Cats’ last-gasp win over St Kilda, while Fitzroy Doncaster’s Nick Fletcher (4/64 vs Carlton) was defining in that match and the all-round performance of Dandenong’s James Nanopoulos (10/8/3/7 & 38*) was the critical link in the Panthers upsetting second-placed Melbourne at the Albert Ground.
This weekend’s Semi Finals will see a 9am start time due to the ending of Daylight Savings. This will also be the case for the Final.
In the first Semi Final, Prahran host Fitzroy Doncaster at Toorak Park. The True Blues hold the highest ranking now at this point of the Finals after finishing 3rd in the Home & Away season and after last week’s results going their way, while the Lions will be coming into this battle full of momentum after upsetting the minor premiers in Carlton.
The True Blues have certainly seen a strengthening this season with the willow in comparison to past seasons, with ex-Saint Damon Egan (671 @ 55.92 with 2 centuries) capitalizing on his first season at Toorak Park, while keeper Nick Blaich (489 @ 32.60 with 1 century, 29 catches & 4 stumpings), skipper Jake Hancock (441 @ 49.00) and Lachlan Bangs (370 @ 41.11 with 2 centuries) have all shown form with the willow.
With the ball, the attack has been led by Matt Wilcox (35 @ 11.63), while strong support has been supplied by ex-Frankston Peninsula quick Nick Boland (28 @ 21.71), spinner Blake Parsons (27 @ 21.67) and a former Lion in Andrew Perrin (19 @ 19.21), whilst Victorian rep Will Sutherland also comes into the team for this game.
The Lions meanwhile have played a consistent brand of cricket this season, with each player chipping into each match in some capacity. With the bat, the standout has been opener Jack Rudd (738 @ 52.71 with 3 centuries) who has had a breakout season, while support has been from keeper Liam Banthorpe (396 @ 33.00, 21 catches & 4 stumpings), Lakshmn Shivakumar (364 @ 24.27) and Noah Korkolis (319 @ 22.79).
With the ball, the Lions have shared duties with most wickets shared by Victorian contracted quick Sam Elliott (22 @ 19.36), skipper Ejaaz Alavi (22 @ 22.95) and Nick Fletcher (22 @ 23.32), while Kobe Smith (13 @ 39.08), Charles Simondson (12 @ 29.33) and Harrison Goad (12 @ 32.00) all playing their roles.
The last time these two sides met was in the opening round at Schramms Reserve, where the True Blues won by 6 wickets chasing 215. On paper, whilst the Lions may have the momentum after last weekend, the True Blues have not lost a game since Round 8 and will be hard to dislodge from the favouritism in this battle as they look to make their first Final since their premiership year in 1983/84.
In the second Semi Final, Geelong host Dandenong at the Geelong Cricket Ground. The Cats have finished as the second highest ranked team after last weekend’s results and will be keen to make their 2nd Grand Final in a row (having played in the 2018/19 Final and no Final due to COVID in 2019/20), while the Panthers will be keen to be back again after last making it and winning the title in the 2017/18 season.
The Cats have been dealt a somewhat cruel blow with skipper Eamonn Vines (847 @ 56.47 with 1 century) ruled out of this weekend’s clash after copping a nasty blow against St Kilda in his testicles, requiring surgery as a result. Filling his void at the top of the order will be difficult but with Thomas Jackson (513 @ 36.64), keeper Josh McDonald (492 @ 30.75 with 1 century, 23 catches and 3 stumpings), Hayden Butterworth (444 @ 29.60) and Angus Boyd (375 @ 28.85 with 1 century) all showing some form they may be able to cover this.
With the ball, the pressure will be on the attack led by all-rounder Butterworth (22 @ 25.77) and first year quick Joshua Garner (20 @ 22.95), with state contracted quick Brody Couch (18 @ 18.44) and Dom McGlinchey (18 @ 23.28) needing to fire when it counts.
The Panthers will be coming in on a high on energy but will need to fire with the bat, as a lot of pressure falls on the ‘legendary’ opening pair of Brett Forsyth (578 @ 57.80 with 1 century) and skipper Tom Donnell (414 @ 29.57). After these two, the batting becomes thin in the middle order, with former State contracted batsman Ed Newman (251 @ 35.86 with 1 century) and Comrey Edgeworth (211 @ 21.10) the only other players to pass 200 runs this season.
Where the Panthers strength lies is with the ball, with masterful all-rounder James Nanopoulos (37 @ 12.00) dominating, while quick Adam McMaster (23 @ 18.39), Peter Cassidy (19 @ 24.89) and spinner Suraj Randiv (17 @ 18.29) providing key support.
This match will be a battle to watch, with the Cats the highest scoring side of the season and the Panthers having taken the second most wickets this season on a ground conducive to batting well. The last time these two sides met was at the same venue in Round 12 and the Cats came away with a 7-wicket win chasing 157. I expect things to be tougher this time around and with Vines missing for the hosts, this might be the opening for the Panthers to pull off the upset result on the road.
Congratulations go to the following members within Premier Cricket:
MEN’S PREMIER 1STS
SEMI FINAL – SATURDAY 10 APRIL (9:00am Start – Reserve Day Sunday 11 April)
PRAHRAN V FITZROY DONCASTER at Toorak Park
Umpires D Brigham & C Grant
GEELONG V DANDENONG at Geelong Cricket Ground
Umpires G Azzopardi & M van Eck