By Marcus Uhe and Jonty Ralphsmith
The eyes of the Dandenong District Cricket Association (DDCA) will descend on the heart of Dandenong on Sunday for the finals of the DDCA’s Men’s T20 competition.
Four sides remain, with two semi-finals to determine the two grand finalists later in the afternoon at Shepley Oval.
Giant killers St Mary’s will go toe-to-toe with Turf 2 bolter Heinz Southern Districts (HSD), while North Dandenong will tackle reigning back-to-back Turf 1 champions, Springvale South, in the semi finals.
ST MARY’S v HSD – 11am Shepley Oval.
St Mary’s credentials are as strong as anyone’s remaining in the competition, having upset last year’s T20 champions Berwick’s in the quarter-finals last month.
Saveen Nanayakkara was the key to the result, and has claims to being the tournament’s star player to date, having excelled with both bat and ball.
After taking 1/22 in his four overs of finger spin, in a chase of 154, Nanayyakara smashed 89 off just 47 deliveries, with seven fours and seven sixes, as the Saints raced to the total in just 14 overs.
It followed an impressive performance in the group stage to seal their progression against Hallam Kalora Park, when his 54 and 0/25 helped better the Hawks in a must-win game, to go with 3/20 against Lyndale in the other group game.
Saints president Troy Cashman described his innings against Berwick as “unbelievable”.
“We were all sitting there thinking he was about to go out, but he kept going,” Cashman said.
“When they put a man out, he hit it over his head most of the time.
“He was ramping (Brendan) Rose (Berwick’s marquee) for a couple of big sixes, which made us laugh.”
St Mary’s has endured plenty this season; winless in Turf cricket and destined for Turf 2, while suffering a robbery back in October and only receiving access to the club’s brand new social rooms in recent days, despite a grand opening in September.
Cashman said a win would lift the spirits at the club, with the playing group to take plenty of encouragement from the Berwick upset.
“It would be awesome,” Cashman said.
“It would give them a bit of belief.
“I think it would be really good and good motivation and encouragement for next season.
“There’s a fair bit of confidence with our T20 (game), and we bowl okay, we’ve got a few spinners that do well.”
The last remaining side not from Turf 1, HSD, navigated a tricky quarterfinal after two straight forward group matches.
Following a 10-wicket win over Hampton Park and 84-run win over Cranbourne, the Cobras needed to navigate a Brad Hodge strengthened Titans lineup.
While they have yet to completely click so far in this season’s T20 competition, the HSD lineup is tremendously strong.
Triyan De Silva and Jett Kearney can turn a match with the bat, while players like Brent Patterson, Liam Jansen and Anuda Akmeemana add sturdiness to the lineup.
Pace bowling all rounder Jackson Philpin is coming off a player of the match performance against Berwick Springs, contributing in both disciplines, while Ryan Patterson’s return will further strengthen the well-balanced lineup.
SPRINGVALE SOUTH v NORTH DANDENONG – 11am Wilson Oval.
If there’s a few white-round rocks floating down the Dandenong Creek on Sunday, don’t check the weather forecast – the chances are that it won’t be hail.
The tiny confides of Wilson Oval will play host to the clash of the two Turf 1 sides, both chock-full of talent and with eyes on the prize.
Springvale South know what it takes to win, having done plenty of it over the years, and will be confident of their mental strength, should the game reach a gripping conclusion.
They’ve arguably had the toughest run of sides, and yet have reached the semi finals with relative ease.
They’ve lost just nine wickets in three matches, the final two wins seeing them reel in meagre totals after tight bowling performances.
While Pakenham’s Dale Tormey is unavailable as their marquee, few players boast the pedigree of Dandenong skipper Brett Forsyth, who will comfortably slot into the top order.
How North Dandenong handles Jarryd Straker will be a key storyline of the game.
In a recent one-day clash between the two sides, Maroons star Jawid Khan came down the pitch and looked to hit the Turf 1 leading wicket taker out of the attack early in Starker’s opening over, only to be caught on the long-on boundary.
The short square boundaries will no doubt bring the sweep shot into play, but underestimate Straker at your peril – there’s not many that take him on and live to tell the tale.
The finger spinner took 2/15 off four against Buckley Ridges in the group game and backed that performance up with 3/16 against Narre South in the first final, bringing his stellar form from Turf 1 into the shortest form.
North Dandenong benefited from a forfeit victory against Keysborough in the group stages and then comfortably outmatched Turf 3 sides Doveton North and Fountain Gate in the other contests.
With a squad that thrives on aggressive intent with the bat and playing with reckless abandon, the Maroons’ power hitting could match or even better what the Bloods can offer.
It will be the bowling where the Bloods have a clear advantage, with North Dandenong lacking a premiere strike bowler.
Much will fall to the team enigmas in Imran Laghmani and Tahsinullah Sultani in the middle overs, so too Jawid Khan, with spinning all-rounder Muhammad Dawa Khan unavailable for selection.
The Maroons are a true boom-or-bust side, with Springvale South offering more stability and winning credentials over the years, making them hard to tip against.
Tips: Expect HSD to struggle without their marquee name in Hinds against St Mary’s, while Springvale South should handle North Dandenong, and add another trophy to a burgeoning cabinet at Alex Nelson Reserve by taking out the title.
The grand final will be played at Shepley Oval at 3pm.