Yesterday, I watched one of the most remarkable cricket matches ever played by a Sutherland team in the 4th Grade semi-final at Glenn McGrath Oval. On Saturday, we sent Sydney Uni in to bat and they responded with 4/315 off 77 overs before declaring, leaving us 17 overs to negotiate at the end of the first day. At one stage, Uni were 1/231. A makeshift opening partnership of Pat Driscoll (who normally bats at no.11 and had only batted three times in 4ths this season, the last time on 9 Jan) and Tavish Humphreys-Jones (who last played 4ths on 23 Jan) took to the crease with the sole aim to survive for 17 overs. They almost made it, with Tavish being run out in a mix-up shortly before stumps. Pat did his job perfectly, remaining not out on 8 off 56 balls. The other not out batsman was AWG captain Tom Straker (who had only batted four times in 4ths this season, the last time at no.9 on 16 Jan).
The equation on Sunday was to either score 292 runs off a minimum of 96 overs or bat the day out for a draw, in order to advance to next weekend’s final. Pat was caught behind off the first ball of the day and, a few overs later, three wickets fell in one over to leave us reeling at 5/25. Tom was playing a resolute innings at the other end, playing straight and not taking any risks. At 11.16am in the 12th over of the day, the sixth wicket fell at 31 and captain James Hawksworth strode to the crease with a seemingly impossible task of steering his team through at least another 85 overs for a draw. Tom fell for 25 off 73 balls with the score on 70 and shortly after, the eighth wicket fell at 76. Zac Philipson joined James in the middle with 12 minutes remaining till lunch. I was at home at the time. When I saw the score, I thought I’d better get back to GMO quickly as the match mightn’t last much past the lunch break!
James and Zac started after lunch with a fierce determination to stay at the crease for as long as possible. They played straight and only played attacking shots to bad balls. Gradually the overs ticked by and two hours later, they were still there when the teams trudged off for afternoon tea. Play resumed at 3.30pm and on they went. It was now apparent that Uni were going to bowl more than 96 overs in the day if the match went the distance. Zac brought up his maiden grade half-century and was finally out lbw at 4.53pm for a fine 51 off 195 balls (7 fours and 1 six). He and James had put on 137 off 390 balls for the 9th wicket – a new partnership record for 4th Grade.
Luke Ritchie joined James in the middle with a nerve-wracking 37 minutes still to go. Soon after, James brought up a magnificent century to the wild delight of the crowd that had steadily been building throughout the afternoon as word spread of the heroics that were unfolding. As each over passed, every ball was now being applauded! Finally, Luke blocked out the 105th over of the day and the match was drawn in scenes of great jubilation from players and supporters alike – Sutherland 9/231 off 122 overs!! As we placed higher on the ladder (both teams finished on 65 points but our quotient of 1.6377 narrowly pipped Uni on 1.4934), a draw was as good as a win to take us into the final.
James Hawksworth had just played what is most likely the greatest captain’s knock under pressure by a Sutherland player in our 56-year history. He batted from 11.17am to 5.32pm – five hours 15 minutes – and faced 282 balls (hitting 17 fours). He was at the crease for 93.5 overs. When the eighth wicket fell, we could only afford to lose one more wicket for 77.5 overs – and we did! A measure of the concentration by James and Zac is that they played 238 and 175 dot balls respectively!
And so we head to Hurstville Oval on the Easter weekend to take on the minor premiers St.George in the local derby. There will be no playing for a draw this time!