By Russell Bennett
There’s really only one way to describe how Saturday’s WGCA Premier clash between Emerald and Cardinia ended – 8.2 overs of sheer mayhem.
Alex Nooy is just 23 and is in his first season as the Bulls’ coach and Premier grade captain, but he knows for the rest of his career he’ll never achieve anything quite like what he did late on Saturday afternoon at Chandler Reserve.
Cardinia has consistently been one of the top grade’s pace-setters for well over a decade, but a slow start to the 2017/18 season has the Bulls scrambling to make up ground.
Round 5 against the struggling Bombers presented Nooy and his men with the opportunity to claim an all-important, yet rare, outright win – the very round after Kooweerup inflicted the same result on them.
After rolling through the Bombers for just 82 in 36 overs on day one, the Bulls reached 6/176 and declared overnight.
But Emerald is a proud club and the Bombers were never just going to roll over. They were much more stoic in their second dig – reaching 200 in 55 overs.
That set the Bulls 107 to claim outright points in 22 overs at a shade under five runs an over, but what happened next had to be seen to be believed.
The Bulls reached their target in just 8.2 overs for the loss of only one wicket, and at 1/109 at the close of play Nooy was unbeaten on 103.
“We were down and out (in the finals race),” Nooy explained to the Gazette after his astonishing knock.
“If we didn’t get the 20 points, even the win wouldn’t have been enough.
“Clyde is still a win in front of us but as I said to the boys after the game this just brought us right back in that pack of (positions) three, four and five – Upper Beac, Clyde, Pakenham and us.”
Nooy explained his overnight first innings declaration – saying his side couldn’t afford to lose any overs in a changeover.
“I didn’t want us to go out to bat, lose three overs once we declared, and then lose another three if we were lucky enough to bowl them out,” he said.
“I always thought they were going to make more than the 90 runs we were in front by but then we’d know the amount of runs we’d need to score off how many overs.
“It worked out to be 107 for us to win (outright) and it was eight minutes to 5pm so we got two overs in that eight minutes, and then 20 after ruled the book at 5.”
Nooy praised Emerald’s second innings batting, admitting he questioned at one point whether an outright win would be realistically achievable.
“I certainly had all sorts of thoughts running through my mind; not negative ones necessarily but wondering if we were going to bowl them out,” he said.
“They put up a real fight.
“To our boys’ credit, they bowled their areas and I don’t think we dropped a catch either which obviously helps.”
Nooy opened the innings late on Saturday with just 91 runs to his name in six previous hits – including just two in the first dig against the Bombers. By his own admission, he was far from in form.
“Being a new captain-coach I’ve wanted to lead from the front and set an example but it hadn’t worked out so far,” he said.
“That’s probably the knock I needed for the team to respond to things that I say to them.”
Nooy belted 10 sixes and nine fours, to go along with five singles and a two.
Right from the outset, he had his eye on Chandler Reserve’s shorter square of the wicket boundaries.
But he’s not a noted big hitter – far from it. It was a fact not lost on his team mates, either.
“Trav Wheller ran out a bottle of water when I was on maybe 70 and I’d hit seven sixes and he said ‘you’ve just tripled your sixes for your whole career!’,” Nooy said.
“I definitely had a bit of a chuckle at that.”
And he’s the first to acknowledge he’ll never play another knock like it.
“People can’t believe I made a hundred off eight overs,” he said.
“I know, and everyone else knows, I won’t be doing this again.”
But the outright win was always priority number one. After surviving an early chance – an edge between keeper and first slip – Nooy chanced his arm. He knew his side had plenty of batting to come if he lost his wicket.
“Even though we were scoring quickly it really wasn’t the thought process (during the second innings),” Nooy said.
“It was just that we were 1/45 when BJ (Ben Parrott) went out for five in the third or fourth over and after that I thought we had Ricky (Campbell), Aidan (Nooy), and Patty Nolen – some real hitters still in the sheds – so I may as well just keep going. “Brad Reiner (1*) came out and joined me (at 1/45) and I thought if he and I could get the runs then good, but if not we still had plenty of batsmen to come and plenty of time left.”
As it turns out, Nooy scored 63 of the final 64 runs of the game. Incredible.