Graham Croker

Minor premiers Sydney University will host Bankstown in one of the First Grade Belvidere Cup semi-finals of the Sydney Grade Cricket competition this Saturday and Sunday.

With heavy rain causing the abandonment of their qualifying final with Sydney at Sydney University No.1 Oval at the weekend, the Students moved through to the sudden-death semi-final courtesy of their superior position on the ladder at the end of the competition proper.

Sydney University were 0-19 after 12 overs, with Greg Mail on 10 and Will Hay on 9, when rain caused a halt to proceedings on Saturday. After another long wait in the rain on Sunday, Sydney captain Dominic Thornley decreed that no more cricket was possible and the match was abandoned with a drawn result. Randwick-Petersham will meet St George at Coogee Oval in the other sudden-death semi-final this weekend.

Sydney University Second Grade are also still alive in their competition after their qualifying final with Randwick-Petersham was drawn without a ball being bowled at Kensington Oval at the weekend. Rain caused the abandonment of the match.

But they have North Sydney to thank for keeping them in the hunt after the Bears accounted for Parramatta in the other qualifying final.

Sixth-placed Parramatta made it to the crease late on Saturday and declared on their overnight score of 4-77. Minor premiers North Sydney were staggering at 7-53 in reply before Matthew Burton (13 not out) and Arjun Bagga (13 not out) steered them to 7-99 in a close-fought win. A Parramatta victory would have eliminated fourth-placed Sydney University.

Sydney University Seconds will now meet North Sydney Seconds at North Sydney Oval this weekend, while Gordon will play Randwick-Petersham in the other sudden-death semi-final.

Director of Cricket at Sydney University, Gary Whitaker, said the abandonment of the First Grade match at the weekend was disappointing for both teams, but a blessing in disguise for the Students.

He revealed that all-rounder Ian Moran would not have been able to bowl – due to a bruised foot – but would be 100 per cent fit to lead the attack for this weekend’s semi-final.

With inclement weather forecast for another two days, Whitaker said the two Sydney University teams will train indoors and hopefully get a session on No.2 Oval on Thursday or Friday.

“We had two tough away wins at Manly and Petersham leading into the finals and that should stand us in good stead for the weekend,” he said.

“Hopefully the weather will be kind to us next weekend. Our groundsmen, led by Ray Hunt and Darrell Davidson, have been outstanding again this season.

“They’ve worked really hard during the year to have good wickets prepared week in, week out. There were times when our grounds were playable when other matches were washed out – thanks to our ground staff and their good resources.

“Sydney University Oval and North Sydney Oval are the best grounds in Sydney when it’s wet – so hopefully out two teams will get some cricket in this weekend. It’s cut-throat from here on, so both matches are must-win affairs.”

The coach then raised the interesting issue of further wet weekends. “If it keeps raining and the semi-finals and final are washed out, we would be the First Grade champions,” he said. “That’s the importance of finishing on top of the competition proper.”

But he said that would be a hollow result and the team would prefer to win through their efforts on the park. “There is an outside chance of fast bowler Stuart Clark returning from a foot injury – but that is a long-shot,” Whitaker said. “And Mark Cameron still has soreness in the back – so he’s won’t be back for the semi-final.

“But we had a well-balanced side and it has been a real team effort to reach the stage we have. We also have good depth. Scott Henry is putting on pressure to move up the order to bat at No.3, while in Seconds Liam Robertson, Ben Larkin, leg-spinner Shashi Keshar and wicket-keeper Matthew Morgan all good enough to be playing First Grade.

“It’s difficult to give them all exposure. But we’ve been blessed to have fellows in First Grade like Greg Mail and Ian Moran who bring a professional approach and attitude to training and game day and the younger players have responded to that.

“Having won the Limited Overs and Poidevin-Gray competitions, we’re a realistic chance of taking out the First and Second grade titles.”


Sydney Men’s Grade cricket competition – Qualifying Final

First Grade: Sydney University 0-19 (Greg Mail 10 not out, Will Hay 9 not out) drew with Sydney at Sydney University No.1 Oval. Match abandoned due to inclement weather. Toss: Sydney. Batted first: Sydney University. Semi-finals: Sydney University v Bankstown at Sydney University No.1 Oval. Randwick-Petersham v St George at Coogee Oval. Two winners through to final.

Second Grade: Sydney University drew with Randwick-Petersham. Match abandoned due to inclement weather. North Sydney 7-70 d Parramatta 4(dec)-77. Semi-final: Sydney University v North Sydney at North Sydney Oval.