After losing the toss at Howell Oval, the Bankstown Sports Bulldogs were sent into bat against a revitalised Penrith side - who were last season’s overall club champions. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs lost early wickets for very few runs. At 2/14 the Dogs were in serious need of a counter-attack - and young tyro Brendan Smith answered his captain’s call with a quick-fire 38. But again, wickets fell in pairs and Bankstown were soon 4/82. With the welcome return of this year’s 1st grade captain Michael Stretton from playing cricket in The Netherlands, stand-in skipper Mitch Brown was free to focus on gaining valuable runs for the team – which he did with his usual aplomb coupled with ferocity of willow. Indeed, Brown belted 51 off just 50 balls and 9 of his shots delivered badly-needed boundaries. But today it was captain Stretton who provided the backbone to the Dogs’ batting. With deft touches coupled with mighty hits, Stretton showed the benefit of playing cricket overseas at the highest club level. Stretton’s stoic approach kept the Dogs barking while wickets continued to fall around him. However, Ben Taylor made a very useful 26 which nudged the total towards 200. Similarly another youngster and in only his 3rd 1st grade game, Ben Le Bas partnered with Stretton to ensure the Dogs made a genuine fist of a difficult day at the crease. Le Bas remained not out on 41 - a real credit to his tenacity and ability to value his wicket. But it was Stretton who took the batting honours today with a majestic 88 which included 10 fours and 2 enormous sixes which had the fielders scampering for the ball. While not batting out the day, captain Stretton would be pleased with the determination at the crease shown by some of his young charges. With a modest total of 279 off 76.1 overs to defend, Bankstown struck early when bowling to already have Penrith struggling to 6/72 (and all their top order back in the pavilion), with two wickets each to Sydney Thunder recruit Nathan McAndrew (2/27) and Ben Taylor (2/5). The Panthers were shell-shocked by the variety and skill of the bowling attack as captain Stretton used four bowlers in short but damaging spells - setting up a great day of challenging cricket next week.
After losing the toss, Joel Brockley’s 2nd grade team were sent into bat at Bankstown Oval in conditions ideal for bowling. Penrith’s decision bore immediate fruit as the Dogs were reeling at 2 wickets for 0 runs. Adding to the Dogs’ woes, only three players scored over 20 - Ethan Leten (24), Matthew Simpson (21) and Luke Docherty (21) - which reflected the Dogs batsmen not being prepared to grind out time at the crease and settle in. While the fantastic Bankstown Oval wicket rewarded good bowling, it also rewarded patient batting. While the bowlers got occasional assistance from the well-paced deck, the batsmen struggled to put a price on their wicket with the Dogs limping to a total of just 92 runs off a measly 31.1 overs - gifting Penrith the opportunity to bat for most of the day and assume the advantage.
Opening the bowling with just-returned Rhys Williams saw some early pressure applied, but Penrith soon got into gear and worked their way past the Dogs’ total for the loss of just 2 wickets. Afternoon tea brought about a change in Bankstown’s fortune with some inspired bowling from Jacob Malcolm who - along with Matt Smith (3/70) - applied constant pressure with his medium-fast bowling and Malcolm ended up with the very well-deserved figures of 4/40. However, Penrith continues to pile on runs despite losing wickets regularly and are still batting at 9/282 - setting up a potential Penrith outright victory next week that will require a lift in determination and application from the Dogs to ensure they remain competitive.
Iain Ridley’s thirds also lost the toss and were sent in to bat at Bill Ball Oval and like other grades, got off to a disastrous start at 2 for 7, then 3 for 24. However, Penrith hadn’t counted on the grit and determination of the wily and experienced Ridley - which rubbed off on a few of the lower order batsmen who worked with Ridley to graft out a decent total of 260. But it was Ridley’s day of willow - wielding the wood with skill and determination for his 169 runs - which included 17 boundaries. Truly a magnificent effort while most others struggled to get into double figures. However, Ridley was ably assisted by Niran Wijewardne (26) who together added 85 runs, and Dayne Heward (14) who together added 49 runs to help lift the Dogs to a competitive total due to their disciplined batting.
At Jensen Oval, the Connor Wilkinson-led 4ths won the toss and batted. Losing early wickets at 2/28 bought Damien Loy to the crease, and along with Cameron Cotter added 125 runs in their partnership before Cotter was caught for 46. Loy followed soon after after his relatively quick-fire 80 off 95 balls. Unfortunately, wickets kept falling regularly which prevented the Dogs from scoring. However, David Lozinski provided a rear guard resistance of 33 to help get the Dogs to 219 - a total that will be difficult to defend without excellent bowling and fielding next week.
Losing the toss and being sent in to bat at Rance Oval, the Alex Kouventaris-led 5ths are struggling, although Isaac Schipp scored a rapid 61 off just 79 balls - as an opener. Unfortunately, only a few other batsmen got starts - Kouventaris 36, Tom Ramage with 27 and Johann Perera 23. But, there were too many groups of wicket falling together to gain any scoreboard momentum. To highlight this, the Dogs lost their last 4 wickets for just 3 runs to scramble to a very modest 183 in the 60th over. In reply, the Dogs have Penrith 2/66, but it will take some bowling and fielding feats to hold back Penrith next week.