My second game for the season in the Academy Gold colours was to be against Warilla at beautiful Bonaira Street Oval. This game also saw the somewhat questionable withdrawal of the captain when the word 'wicket-keeper' was mentioned to him, and thus the reigns fell to be shared between Koks and Peters on the day.
The first duty was done with aplomb, by winning the toss and batting. Winning the toss is something that I have had a great deal of success with as a captain in the past - winning games is another story altogether.
The boys did well, moving along to a comfortable 2 for 100 after 25 overs when the drinks break was taken. Stand-in keeper/opening bat Reece Conley had made a good 10 before pre-empting his next shot and losing his off stump out of the ground. Carlin Simon had again looked great before he too decided to push too hard ad was also bowled for 11. In the final couple of overs before drinks, the Warilla side did what all Warilla sides before them seemed to do - argue with each other, and a fiery tirade full of colourful language during the drinks break spoke volumes. If the Academy boys could consolidate in the early overs then a big score looked in the offing.
This of course immediately broke down with the dismissal of Koks, Grant Case and Peters within four overs, and at 5/113 the innings was in the balance. Jake Lee followed soon after for an entertaining 5, and at 6/130 with some 17 overs of the innings remaining the Warilla side were all mates again and looking to close in for the kill.
12 year old Matt Price had come to the crease at the fall of Grant's wicket, and had then been bowled by a full ball that was well over waist height, and had been correctly called a no ball. The fact that Matt is about 120cm tall made it a tough call, but a correct one. However, from this point, in his first game of Grade cricket, Warilla could not budge him. He played straight and true, and his defensive shots were coming right out of the middle of the bat. When they strayed on his pads, he flicked them around the corner for ones and two's. If they were short and wide of off stump, he cut correctly. For the 21 overs he was at the crease, he didn't look like being dismissed - except when he replayed his shots after the ball had been delivered. He then often moved out of his crease, only for an instant, but it was enough for him to be almost run out four or five times. I can tell you that he was giving the square leg umpire at one end a heart attack on a number of occasions. Supporting him on this venture was Frei Ulfsson, who may well have ridden his luck a number of times (he was dropped off sitters at least three times), but continued to bat well, and then became aggressive at the end of the innings. Matt's 24 not out, and Frei's 31 not out mean that they put on an unbeaten partnership of 60 runs for the seventh wicket, and enabled the Academy boys to reach 6/190 from their allotted 50 overs. Frei pushed his batting average for the season to 60.00, as he has only been dismissed once so far, and Matt was congratulated by most of the Warilla players as he came off the ground. Warilla dropped over ten catches, which added to their misery.
The message to the guys was pretty clear on our way out to the field - be keen, be aware, no negativity, and take all our catches. Who was to know that everything would be achieved so well?
Frei and Grant opened up proceedings, and both were immediately on a perfect line and length, both beating the bat consistently. After three overs the batsmen were obviously over being ties down, and the Warilla opener Kellow launched two big sixes straight down the ground off Grant. Co-captains Koks and Peters conferred at 1st and 2nd slip, and pondered putting a man on the boundary. We then agreed that "let's see how Grant comes back". The next ball sliced the off stump out of the ground, relieving all of us of any further decision making on the subject.
With the bowling quite superb in line, length and pace, the Warilla batsmen just crumbled, and some terrific catches helped lift everyone. Matt Panecasio took a scorcher at square leg, Gary Koks a screamer at first slip, and Reece Conley a one-handed gem as keeper. These three catches in particular would have dampened the mood of the Warilla side, given the number of chances they grassed. Frei was relieved after his mandatory six overs produced the figures of 2/9. Without doubt it is the best I've seen him bowl, and his improvement is gladdening. At the other end, toiling into the wind, Grant had claimed yet another five wicket haul, moving the ball both ways in the air and troubling all of the batsmen.
More humour was to come, with Teixiera coming to the crease. before he was even halfway there, Reece is demonstrating "we need a guy at cow corner and one straight on the boundary!!" With Grant in control, I said "OK, well, let's see how he goes first". Before you know it, Grant has been hoisted over long on for six. I turned to Reece and said "OK skipper, where do you want 'em?". It could well have been an interesting exercise in getting him out cheaply, but that problem was solved by young Matt Panecasio, who came on from the Kendall's end to replace Frei, and quickly ripped through the three remaining wickets to finish with 3/3 from 11 deliveries, and smashing a bail with his final delivery. Warilla had been demolished for 55 in just 14.5 overs, and the Academy boys had won by 135 runs.