Well, I'll tell you what. When our teams stop performing the Kiama Kollapse, I will stop mentioning it. There's a reason why it is a Kiama phrase. It is because of incidents such as occurred to First Grade last weekend.
In a weekend where 4ths suffered another unfortunate defeat, 3rds continue to march on their merry way, and 2nds finally got a weekend off for rain (ironically, having prayed for one for about three years, it was on the one weekend when I wasn't playing anyway...), it was the capitulation of 1st Grade that was the talk of the town.
Let it be fairly stated here that I have not seen one ball of a First Grade match bowled this season. Nor have I been able to attend any training sessions. I am also not privy to the selectors and Grade captains thoughts. Please keep the above information in mind as you read the following.
1st Grade's match against Lake Illawarra at Cavalier Park looked as though it was going to be a result for the good guys early in the afternoon, after the bowlers had done a magnificent job in dismissing their opponents for 115 - especially after Lake had been 1/54. Dale Scifleet bowled what some are regarding as his finest spell of bowling, finishing with 4/9 off 9 overs.
115 runs is still a total that had to be achieved, and sometimes chasing a small total is a difficult thing to do. That said, being 6/19 in the chase pretty much gave the side no chance of victory. Having worked their guts out to achieve such a small victory target, the Kiama bowlers must have been seeing red at now being expected to get the runs as well. In the end, the side were bowled out for just 48. This is the 18th lowest total by a Kiama 1st Grade side in the 60th year of the South Coast District Cricket Association. Not a proud moment to be hanging our cap on. I wasn't at the Grand last Saturday, but I hope our guys were bleeding.
On Sunday, 1sts took on Nowra in the Second Round of the statewide Country Cup knockout. Having racked up 6/183, they rolled Nowra for 120, advancing to the next round. There were two interesting performances in this game - 2nd Grade's John Simon scored 47 not out to pin the middle order together, and 2nd Grade's Matt Unicomb took four wickets with the ball to hasten the end of the match.
Obviously, there is no need for panic here. It is 1st Grade's first defeat for the season. Along with this, the top four sides – Lake Illawarra, Albion Park, Oak Flats and Kiama – have broken away from the bottom four sides by a comfortable margin, and appear to have take control of their season. Kiama have played three of the bottom four sides and defeated them all. They play Shellharbour City this weekend, and a win there will confirm their dominance of those sides.
As I have also mentioned before, there is little pressure being applied by players in 2nd Grade presently. Certainly, there is little to be gained from elevating a player from 2nds who has not been dominating in that Grade themselves.
In all likelihood, 1st Grade will remain unchanged this weekend, barring unavailabilities. And that is how it should be. But one would suspect that some of the players will be warned that another failure would place their position in jeopardy.
John Simon has already done enough to suggest he will handle 1st Grade with a minimum of difficulty. Matt Unicomb, though still young and inexperienced in Grade cricket, has also shown he has plenty of ability with bat and ball, and could even be considered a chance to play in the near future.
While most of the talk in the Club is which bowler will eventually find their way back to 2nds, it is the batsmen who are under-performing, and must surely be beginning to run out of chances.
In the top six, you would expect Dale Scifleet, Matt Meurant and Rob Farrell to be safe in their position (Rob may feel otherwise, having copped some rough treatment on occasions in recent years). Should a change be going to be made, it would be the other three who are under pressure.
Ben Jones began the season with a scintillating 41, followed it up with a duck against Warilla, a patient 15 against Jamberoo, and 1 in last weekend's debacle. Ben has always looked to bat for long periods. As an opener, the job is to see off the new ball and the opening bowlers, in order for the middle order to prosper later on. No one could argue that Ben does not do his damndest to ensure this occurs. More runs would also be an asset.
Jaya Hartgerink last season won the 1st Grade Batting Aggregate, despite being shuffled around the order like the Ace of Spades. As an opener, Jaya averaged 25.78 – in all other positions, from three to six, he averaged 9.50. Most of Jaya's career has been as an opener, and that is where he has enjoyed his successes. This season, he has been batting five, and has 15 runs at 5.00. Whenever I have played with Jaya, he has always been more comfortable at the top of the order, where he knows when he is going in to bat. To me, it is his best position for himself, and for the team. It is certainly not my position to be seen to be influencing selections and captaincy decisions (not that any of our four captains would be), but one wonders if everyone's best interests are being served.
Mitch Gowland is a current NSW Under 17 representative with a brilliant future ahead of him. This season, he has not been able to get going with the bat at all. He has also been taking his Higher School Certificate exams, which is a difficult time in itself. It doesn't disguise the fact that, this season, including Sunday's match, he has played five innings without reaching double figures. Stretch it back into last season, and it comes to eight innings in succession. Mitch has the credits, and deservedly so, but it must be added that if anyone else in the Club had had such a run, it is highly unlikely they would be lining up in 1st Grade this weekend.
From the local paper, I believe that Mitchell was this week chosen to replace Tony McCabe in the South Coast Burns Cup side for the final against Shoalhaven this weekend. While everyone in the Kiama Club will be happy for his selection, it is at least the final proof that representative teams are not chosen on form...
This is not a witch hunt, just a topic of discussion amongst those in the Club in the past few days. As I have said, First Grade are still in a sound position, and a win this weekend will get the same winning feeling back. But we are still a Club, and the selectors started the season by saying that if you perform you will be elevated, and if you underperform, you will be relegated.
It makes for an interesting weekend of cricket coming up.