Ryan Carters’ epic three days of concentration and grit helped Sydney University to win the 2016-17 Sydney First Grade cricket competition, writes Graham Croker.

Carters has enjoyed some great times on the cricket field in his 26 years, but March 31 and April 1 and 2, 2017, will be forever etched in his memory.

Carters was on the ground for all but 17 minutes of the three-day Sydney Premier grade cricket final which Sydney University won with a nail-biting draw.

His stoic, unbeaten 110 helped Sydney University to their ninth title in Sydney’s Premier cricket competition, now the Belvidere Cup, since the competition began in the 1893-94 season.

The NSW squad member batted for eight hours and 46 minutes to force a draw against Bankstown at Bankstown Memorial Oval in the Friday, Saturday and Sunday encounters. As minor premiers, the Students finished ahead of Bankstown in the competition proper, meaning the hosts had to win the contest to claim the trophy.

And they held sway for most of the three days after winning the toss and electing to bat. Bankstown reached 6-312 at stumps on Friday, with Philip Wells (95), Kerrod White (83) and Mitch Brown (62) the main contributors.

Number three Wells and No.4 Brown put on a 149-run stand after Bankstown had lost openers Luke Reece (9) and Daniel Solway (15) with just 25 on the board. Wells also shared a 46-run stand with White before being run out five short of a fourth century for the season.

Skipper Jarrad Burke held the key to Bankstown’s fortunes when play resumed on day two and he didn’t disappoint. Burke became the first No.6 to post a century in the final of the Belvidere Cup with his unbeaten 100 coming off 156 balls, including 12 picket rattlers. He put on a 90-run stand with Michael Stretton (61 not out) before declaring at 6-441, leaving plenty of time to roll the Students.

Sydney University lost skipper Nick Larkin for three, but opener Ed Cowan and No.3 Carters came to the rescue with a 109-run stand before Cowan departed for 95.

The Steve Waugh Medallist for 2016-17, with 959 runs at 73.76 for NSW, was the sparkling touch, hitting 11 boundaries in his 100-ball stay. His first 60 came off just 40 balls. And he became the fourth player to pass 8000 runs for SUCC.

The Students lost Damien Mortimer (33) and Greg Mail (8) late on day two, going to stumps at a precarious 4-185.

Day three belonged to Carters, who watched the wickets of Ashton May (1) and Liam Robertson (0) fall as the Students slumped to 6-185. But he found willing allies in No.8 Thomas Rogers and No.9 Tim Ley. Carters and Rogers put on a 97-run stand, with the No.8 posting a patient 56 in a 125-ball occupation. It was his first half century for the club.

Ley (31 not out off 100 deliveries) and Carters then sealed the deal with an unbroken 66-run stand to secure a draw and the title. Having played one of the great Belvidere Cup innings, which included seven boundaries and a pair of sixes, Carters was duly awarded the Benaud Medal as Player of the Final.

Sydney University Director of Cricket Gary Whitaker is still shaking his head at Carters’ powers of concentration. “He was on the ground for all but 17 minutes of the match, concentrating on every ball as our wicketkeeper for a day-and a-half and then coming in at No.3 and facing 431 balls over 526 minutes. It was an astonishing effort,” Whitaker said.

Indeed, of the 1,644 balls bowled in the match (272 overs plus eight no-balls and four wides), he was on the ground for 1,634 as a keeper and then as a batsman. “The final was a riveting affair,” Whitaker said. “The pressure to hold on for the draw was massive. Ed Cowan’s 95 gave us momentum and Tom Rogers and Tim Ley were excellent at the end.

“Our captain Nick Larkin had a big season with the bat – four centuries including a double hundred, over 1,000 runs and an average of 63. We also had young Devlin Malone who took 55 wickets with his leg-spinners in his first full season of First Grade. “It’s our fourth premiership in seven years; I couldn’t be happier.”

Indeed, it was SUCC’s 15th trophy in Whitaker’s seven years at the club, including four Second Grade, two Third Grade and two Fourth Grade titles, a limited overs title and a Poidevin-Gray title.

“We came second in the Club Championship, missing out by 15 points,” Whitaker said. “We had one round washed out when every other club got on and that cost us points. The last six weeks of the competition were subject to rain, which made it difficult gaining momentum and vital points.

“We’ve been in a buoyant position for a while with a really good playing group, including plenty of youngsters coming through the ranks. They’re a happy group and they play for each other. I couldn’t be happier being part of this club.

“It’s not easy to win premierships; it’s a very tough competition, right through the grades, so everything has to align. I’m grateful for the support of SUSF and the Cricket Club for making everything that much easier. It might be noted that 12 of the 17 players who played First Grade during the season are, or have been, Sports Scholars in the Elite Athlete Program.”

And the burning question for all SUCC followers: Why was the final played at Bankstown Memorial Oval and not Sydney University Oval (the top team through to the final usually plays host).

“The Sydney Cricket Association made that decision because the outfield on Bankstown Memorial Oval was deemed to have a better chance of drying than Sydney University Oval should rain interrupt play during the three days,” Whitaker said.

And then there’s Greg Mail. The former NSW player announced his retirement after the Students had claimed the 2016-17 crown. His record 15,242 runs in First Grade (including 10,247) for Sydney University will take some beating, as will his record 43 First Grade centuries (including 30 for the Students). What a wonderful career.