U16 Red Grand Final< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
KDCC U16 v < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />West Torrens
One of my earliest memories of cricket was a story about my dad playing cricket at Quandong in far western New South Wales between Broken Hill and Menindee. Sheep and cattle station owners would gather together to socialise and play a game of cricket. Quandong was a corrugated iron pub under the shade of massive river redgums on the banks of Stephens Creek. The tang of the best lemon-squash I’ve ever tasted is still strong. The local land owner would grade the saltbush away from around the cement pitch, baked hard from the years of blistering summers. The story was retold many times as we passed the popular watering hole on our trips to Broken Hill.
The thing about cricket is that once it’s in your blood, it’s there forever. You don’t have to be good, you don’t have to be young, you don’t have to be blessed with much money. What you do need, is the love of being part of something bigger than just yourself. The essence of cricket is team. The contest, the result, the memories… they’re all about the team.
It’s a far cry from the dust and flies of Quandong, but almost half a century later the SACA U16 Red grand final at the beautiful Henley-Grange Oval with its excellent facilities, billiard table outfield and superb flat pitch, I now have another memory that is still embued with the same values that my dad had experienced – the joy and satisfaction of being involved in a contest with a group of people you know and respect.
This summer has been a challenging one for our team. Gary, Peter and I have always believed in the potential of our talented group to reach the finals again after last year’s loss to West Torrens. It is often the case at a club like ours. We are blessed with great depth of numbers and with that, talent. They come to Kensington well resourced, incredibly well supported by their families and for the most part, a team-first ethos. But this particular level of our junior program has its unique challenges with senior promotions and school duties creating the need for a deeper squad than some of our rivals.
So 21 players wore the cap in our struggle to have another crack at West Torrens this season. It was inevitable that they would be there again, theirs was a good team, nurtured in a good program.
As disappointing as the loss to Prospect was, as frustrating as the rain-affected draw against TTG and the unfinished games against Southern Districts, Adelaide and Sturt were, the signs were always there that we were clearly good enough, if only we could put it all together. To self destruct for 100 and then almost pull off a miracle win against West Torrens just before the finals was a pointer to our ability to match them. We just had to get there.
The semi final win against TTG confirmed that we could score enough runs under real pressure to be competitive. That was a real confidence boost for some of our batters who had struggled to meet their potential for much of the season.
In deference to the President, the Junior Coordinator, the Senior Coach, the collective wisdom of almost a hundred and forty years of Test cricket and the gut instinct of the game-day coach, the well discussed and thoughtful plan to throw West Torrens a curve ball and put them into bat if we won the toss would prove a decisive factor on the first day of the grand final.
Chocolate maker Haighs had launched a new product during the summer – a peanut brittle bar based on the performance of our U16 Red batting. But we were damn sure we weren’t going to buy any from the Henley-Grange canteen. So win the toss and bowl we did!
The pitch may have been a road, but if your bowlers execute that well that the best batting team in the competition (they lost 25 less wickets than us during the season) can’t score, then it really doesn’t matter. Every bowler tasted success, with stand out performances from John Bliss 2-23 and Adam (Faulkner) Clements 3-11. Let me just say that again to make sure you heard it correctly… Adam (Faulkner) Clements 12 overs, 6 maidens, 3 wickets for 11 runs. He bowled 5 maidens in a row. In the end, Adam’s contribution was 72 balls bowled, 66 of them dots! He may be a quiet achiever, but he is a giant when it comes to doing his job in our team.
Another significant bowling choice was to unleash the wiley old head on the young shoulders of Lloyd Pope at the very top of their batting order. For those of you who remember the one sided battles between South African batsman Darryl Cullinan and Shane Warne, you will appreciate the logic of bringing our sheik of tweak on against a superb junior opening batsman (Aiden Blackman) who has struggled against Lloydy’s fizz. And he deserves to be anointed Pope after strangling West Torrens in the first session. He finished with the superb return of 16 overs, 6 maidens, 1 for 30. Legspin at its absolute best. For those of us on the side who had seen the shutdown plan hatched and executed so destructively, it was the most incredible irony that it was Hamish Porter, our other “legspert” who bowled his own exquisite spell of 7 overs for just 20, who was the one to clean bowl their premier batsman for 49. Between them, the spin duo had made a significant contribution to the plan.
Win the toss and bowl first didn’t sound so bad at tea when you have the best batting team in the competition 3-58 off 35 overs. Will Loffler 1-34 off 11; James Du Preez 1-11 off 6 and Harrison Rahaley 1-25 off 9 all played their part in an outstanding bowling effort to restrict West Torrens to 10-169 on day 1. We had bowled 17 maidens in the 69 overs. The bowlers had worked as a team, putting pressure on over after over, end to end. And although a couple of dropped catches helped West Torrens get their total a little higher than what it may have been, the 6 catches we did take (2 from Hamish, singles to Tom, Adam, Will and Harrison) meant that we were chasing a total that was well within our capabilities if the batsmen batted to their potential.
170 runs off 420 balls sounded possible. But cricket can be a cruel game.
The plans for this game had been extensive. The thought process behind every decision was analysed, considered and then thrown out for discussion. In the end, the co-captains Harrison and James had to make their call. To the outside it may have looked like throwing Hamish the opening bat role was setting him up to fail. On the contrary, he has opened for his school team and has become a technically sound defender with the strength to pierce the field with his driving. His role was to see off as much of the opening spell as he could. Dent the full on assault which we knew they would launch at us. We had to preserve wickets early to have any chance of winning. Along with Wessel van Wyke, he met the brief by staying out in the middle for the first 8 overs. We had lost 3 wickets by that stage in our loss to West Torrens a month earlier.
Every run was going to be crucial in our chase, and even though Wessel (11), Harrison (15), James (2) and Tom (8) didn’t contribute significantly to the scorebook, their contributions were invaluable because they provided the time and resistance to the West Torrens attack for 3 others to build the total. They played their part to perfection.
In any run chase you need to have partnerships and Euan Fletcher provided the foundation upon which our batting line-up could build a total around. Although he had threatened a significant score for some time, Euan would be the first to admit he hadn’t met his potential this season. Often players are asked to bat or bowl in positions that are not entirely comfortable to them, and having been asked to open the batting for our team’s balance for some of this season, Euan needed this innings as a number 5 as much as we needed him to score it. And boy, didn’t he deliver! 53 golden runs in a man-of-the-match performance to add to our chase in partnerships with Tom and Sean.
After a masterful performance behind the stumps (a lot of it standing up) the day before, Sean McCullum did what keepers do in these post-Gillchrist days… he batted, and batted and batted. In the other significant partnership that got us within sight of victory, Sean (33*) and Will (the Finisher) Loffler (26) piled on 43 vital runs to steer the total to the brink. Loffy’s little gem at the end typified his (Brendan McCullum-like) approach to batting – swing hard, swing often and catch him if you can! One day I hope people pay to see him play. Excitement machine!
Victory with 3 wickets and 6 overs to spare. Who would have thought?
Thanks to Lewys Evans for his efforts as our 13th man during the grand final, and to Sam Barnett for sharing the moment with the boys, even though it must have been tough watching the action from the sidelines due to illness.
Peter and I are grateful to the entire U16 squad (including those U14 boys who have played their part) for the respectful way they have gone about their work. There have been a few moments that some have trodden a bit too close to the cliff with their exuberance, but learning respect for the game is an ongoing process, one that comes easier to some than others.
The parents of this group have been phenomenal in their support of the program, always offering their assistance. It may be expected that people will help, but at our club, and definitely in our team, it is always very much appreciated.
For me personally, from a young lad of 7 on a sheep station throwing a ball against the brick bbq and practising my shots by myself (no neighbours for 20km, no boys my age for 60) to being able to assist Peter and the boys to achieve their mission to win that cup, it has been a long journey, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. Thanks for the invitation to join the team Peter. As corny as it sounds, mission accomplished.
Finally, as cruel as cricket can be, it has great balance. The chance to experience the ultimate thrill of winning a grand final makes some of the disappointments along the way more bearable.
It has been a challenging summer that has felt like a rollercoaster sometimes. But life can be like that. And the important thing is to learn from lows but don’t get carried away with the highs because the game will always remind you that you are only as good as your last performance.
But after this performance, I venture to say that our U16 Red team is pretty damn good!