The glittering jewel in the crown of the weekend was the continuing form of Club Captain/Coach Matt Meurant. His 4/13 off four overs, and 60 not out to anchor the run chase against The Rail, was yet another important all-round contribution which has been the hallmark of his cricket in 2006.
For the last half of 2005-06, and the first half of 2006-07, Matt has been Kiama's most consistent player, scoring runs and taking wickets with monotonous regularity, and that in a side that has taken some fair pastings in the 2006 calendar year. Having come into our Club cold at the beginning of last season, and having not played in recent times, Matt not only had to get to know the players in the Club and their nuances, he had to perform himself. Having won the John Watts Medal last season, and been the major contributor this season, one would say that he has succeeded.
I often get asked “How does Matt go? Can he play?” It may seem like a strange question, but it is a fact that few people in our competition really know who Matt is. With only one season under his belt in our competition, opposing teams are still trying to work out if Matt is a threat to them, or merely another interloper who will fail to make a mark on the South Coast.
For those that have not been paying attention... the answer is “Yes, he can play” and “Yes, he is a threat”.
Matt's start to the season – 205 runs at 102.50 and 10 wickets at 6.60 – is an indication of how seriously he is taking his role. It is obvious he is still not happy with the way our Club trains, something that will not come as a shock to anyone in Kiama. Despite this, Matt has taken the reigns himself, and led by example with runs and wickets. He has also been happy to entrust responsibility in the younger members of his squad – Matt Unicomb, Andrew Ross and Jordan Inwood.
If it wasn't obvious to people before, it should be crystal clear now that Kiama has a player of immense ability leading our Club, one whose influence will be felt on every match this season. Hopefully Matt will have a few more people following him over the top to charge at the enemy during the course of the season.
The other star of the weekend was an unlikely one. Andy Sheehy has played all of his cricket for our Club almost exclusively in 3rd Grade, and almost exclusively as a batsman. Over the course of the past three seasons, he has scored 393 runs at an average of 10.34, with a highest score of 34. Not exceedingly spectacular, by any means. I have not brought this up in order to embarrass Andy (there are plenty who have done a lot less), but merely to enhance what is a quite remarkable story.
With a player shortage last weekend, and 3rd Grade in the middle of a bye, Andy was picked to make his debut in 2nd Grade. Opening the batting and chasing down 163 runs is a daunting task on your debut, especially on an unfamiliar turf wicket. However, his partnership with Nathan Barr reached 167 and remained unbroken as 2nds won the match against The Rail by 10 wickets in one ball under 30 overs. It was only the third time since 1946 that Kiama 2nd Grade had won a one day match by 10 wickets. The partnership is in the top ten 2nd Grade partnerships for Kiama for ALL wickets, not just the 1st wicket.
Andy's contribution? Well, he finished on 60 not out, and who knows what may have happened had Kiama batted first? It was just Andy's third half century in Grade cricket, and ranks as the highest score on debut in 2nd Grade for Kiama since 1969.
What is it that brought about this amazing feat? How do you post the type of scores that Andy has done for the past couple of seasons, only to excel at his first opportunity at a higher Grade? I guess if we knew the answer to that, we'd all be better players. Certainly Nathan Barr, Andy's partner on the weekend, would probably like to know. Barrie has spent the past couple of seasons smashing most 2nd Grade bowling attacks (last weekend was no different, finishing on 86 not out), but as yet has been unable to translate that to consistent and big runs in 1st Grade. His 2nd Grade stats of 1349 runs at 22.11 dwarf his 1st Grade figures of 376 runs at 12.97. He is still only young and has the chance to fix that, but he probably wouldn't mind the extended opportunities that some other batsmen have received in 1st Grade in recent seasons.
Two excellent victories over The Rail for 1st and 2nd Grades have put both teams firmly in the top four, and established that both will be contenders for higher honours this season if they can continue to produce efforts like those last weekend. With good players still to return in the coming weeks, everything augers well in the lead up to the New Year break.