St.George sent us in at Hurstville Oval on a tacky pitch on Saturday morning after the start of play was delayed by 30 minutes. It was slow going against their medium-paced but accurate attack. Their reading of the pitch resulted in the opening bowler starting the final without a slip, a policy that didn’t change throughout his opening spell of 30 overs. Early wickets saw us on 3/3 after 12 overs. Luke Hawksworth and Liam Hehir steadied things and took us to lunch on 3/37 off 31 overs. After lunch, the score meandered to 4/45 off 44 overs and 5/61 off 55 overs, when Luke was dismissed for 35 off 138 balls, an indication of how difficult batting was. At tea, we were 5/70 off 64 overs. After tea, we were 6/71 off 69 overs, 7/87 in the 77th and 8/102 in the 82nd after the second new ball had been taken.
At this stage, Dominic Michalak decided enough was enough. He attacked the bowling at both ends, moving from 14 off 33 balls to 52 off 58 balls before he was caught in the deep off his 59th ball. He hit 8 fours and put on 50 off 44 balls for the 9th wicket with Luke Ritchie. Luke scored 21 off 25 balls, with 2 fours. Once again, the 9th wicket partnership was the crucial one in our innings, as the momentum swung slightly our way. We finished all out for 161 in the 92nd over. St.George had three overs to face and finished the day on 0/2. If we had been all out shortly after the 8th wicket fell, they would have had about 40 minutes to bat and things might have been quite different.
On Sunday morning, it was important for us to get off to a good start to be able to apply similar pressure to the St.George line-up. Pat Driscoll promptly delivered just about the perfect over for the first over of day two in a final: . W W . . W !! Three wickets in five balls and St.George’s fate was just about sealed. Our pace attack of Philipson, Straker, Driscoll and Ritchie bowled with much more fire that the medium pacers we had struggled against on a tacky pitch on Saturday. Tom Straker took wickets with the last ball of his first over of the day and then the first ball of his next, to have St.George reeling at 5/23 in the 17th and himself be on a hat-trick. He took his third wicket in his third over of the day and they were 6/25 off 19. A fourth wicket in the final over of his spell had them 7/38 in the 25th and Tom had figures for the day of 6-1-7-4. At lunch, it was 7/53 off 30 overs.
Luke Ritchie struck in the second over after lunch and then Tom took the final two wickets to finish with the remarkable figures of 14-5-12-6. St.George were all out 45 minutes after lunch for 57 off 41 overs and the celebrations began! The umpires awarded the David Givney Medal for Player of the Final to Tom Straker, our AWG captain this season who had only turned 16 two weeks before the final. His 6-12 is the second-best bowling performance for Sutherland in a winning 4th Grade final (our 10th overall), behind Paul Lennon’s 9-19 in 1965-66.
When we were 8/76 at 12.18pm on day two of the semi-final, it would have been a brave man to predict that we would go on to be premiers. When we were 8/102 in the 82nd over on day one of the final, it still looked a long way off. After playing 11 limited overs matches, two one day non-limited overs matches and only one two-day match during the competition rounds, we had only four 9th wicket partnerships in those matches for a total of 45 runs. The last time we required a 9th wicket partnership was on 9 January. The partnership of 137 off 390 balls in the semi-final between James Hawksworth and Zac Philipson in the semi-final was extraordinary and saved the match. The partnership of 50 off 44 balls between Dominic Michalak and Luke Ritchie was at the other end of the scale in terms of run-rate, but no less significant in the context of the match. It changed the direction of the final and ultimately the result.
James Hawksworth finished the competition with 436 runs at an average of 72.67, the leading average and second-best aggregate. Tom Straker took 37 wickets at 11.65, the leading aggregate in the competition. Zac Philipson had the second-best aggregate with 33 wickets at 12.76, while Pat Driscoll was equal 11th on the aggregate list with 22 wickets at 14.86.
Tom had the equal fifth-best aggregate across all five grades:
Smith Raval (Blacktown 1sts/2nds) 48 wickets at 17.29
Henry Clark (Sydney Uni 2nds) 45 wickets at 12.53
Ben Joy (Sydney Uni 1sts) 41 wickets at 17.00
Ryan Hadley (Manly 1sts) 39 wickets at 21.13
Tom Straker (Sutherland 4ths) 37 wickets at 11.65
James Shepherd (West Subs 2nds) 37 wickets at 15.23
It has been a very different season to what we consider normal. The lower grades started at the end of October, there were no catered afternoon teas, umpires carried the match ball onto the field in a plastic bag and did not hold bowlers’ caps, players were not allowed to use saliva or sweat to shine the ball, everyone had to supply their own drink bottle and food and at times the social distancing rules prevented all 11 players from being in the dressing room at the same time. In spite of all this, the season was completed with only one COVID-related disruption (the abandonment of day two of round 8). In this different world in which we find ourselves, it has still been an enjoyable season and everyone involved in administration, umpiring and playing should feel satisfied that we made it to the end!