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Round 3 Day 1 v North West Sydney

 

Coming off the back of an impressive win against Georges River, the Epping bulls arrived at North Epping Oval brimming with confidence for their first home two-day match for the season against a new look Norwest Hurricanes. With a bit of rain around and a late start to play imminent, the young bulls passed the time with an intense match of Ted Ball, featuring a few classic blow ups from the usually mild mannered fast bowler, Hugh Fisher. With the clearing of the rain came the coin toss, which was lost by the Epping Bulls captain Michael McKeough, resulting in Norwest sending the Bulls in to bat on a pitch that was green, yet hard. This result prompted the comment “I would have batted anyway” from the Bulls skipper. Keishav Muralietharan and Michael McKeough opened the batting for Epping, both coming off highly contrasting last innings, scoring 0 and 117 respectively. A young bowling line up, a quick outfield and a ball that lost its shine quickly due to the wetness of the outfield presented a big opportunity to the two openers to get Epping off to a great start, this was an opportunity that was not missed. Epping’s opening bats piled on the runs for an opening partnership of 128, before Keishav was bowled for 70 (featuring 13 fours), which drew a prompt shake of the head from ‘batting expert’ Hugh Fisher.

 

Mckeough was joined at the crease by Nic Wilson, who sent a scare through the Bulls camp, nearly spooning one straight to mid-off early in his innings. The bulls skipper continued his stellar run of form, looking at ease out in the middle before falling agonisingly short of back to back tons, caught for 93, an innings which featured 19 fours! Tim Hood then waltzed to the crease, in his first game back since fracturing his cheekbone, getting off the mark with a boundary to ease the nerves. Wilson and Hood combined for a quickfire partnership of 51, which featured a glorious 6 from the number 3, before he was dismissed just two runs short of his half century, however the disappointment of being bowled for 48 quickly faded as Nic realised he had been dismissed “just in time” for the world’s richest horse race – ‘The Everest’. Wilson’s dismissal brought Cameron Court to the crease, who joined with Tim Hood for a further 16 runs before Hood was dismissed for 38, an innings which featured only boundaries! (8 fours and 1 six). Mitch Horrocks then joined Court at the crease with the possibility of a declaration looming. This possibility prompted some magnificent attacking play from both batsmen, joining for a partnership of 90 before the declaration was signalled from the Bulls skipper with the score at 4/356.

 

Epping were given 17 overs at Norwest before the close of play, with Epping hoping to snare 3 or 4 wickets before stumps. Hugh Fisher proceeded to take a spectacular catch off his own bowling, the ball after having an LBW decision turned to get Epping off to a great start, piling the pressure on the Norwest top order. However, a questionable call from the two umpires who deemed it was too dark for the quick bowlers to bowl resulted in the pressure being taken off Norwest, and the day petered out to a close with Norwest on 1/50 off 17 overs. Epping will return next week with the hope of wrapping the match up quickly, and hopefully opening up the possibility of going for the 10 points.

 

 

Round 2 Day 2 v Georges River

 

The Bulls entered week 2 in a commanding position after a strong first week down at Bexley, with Macca and Tones resumed at the crease needing only 29 runs to secure first innings points. Macca continued on from where he left off, dispatching fast bowlers Vella and Scott over cover multiple times. Tones was a bit more circumspect in his approach but together they managed to knock off the required runs within the first half hour of the day. With the first innings points in the bag the Bulls started to search for quick runs in order to build the lead. After a partnership of 90 Macca decided he had enough of Tones’ inability to form a logical sentence and called him through for a quick single that was never on. In the process of being run out Azize also tore his hamstring putting him out for a few weeks. The search for quick runs resulted in a steady flow of wickets, with Rocks and Boc departing quickly. Macca continued to build on the lead and towards his hundred, finally bringing it up with a long hop that he dispatched to the mid wicket boundary. He was dismissed for 117 after a true captain’s knock, his season tally after two rounds already better than his last three seasons in first grade. Karl and the Pom then continued where Macca left off with a few massive dingers and some smart running between the wickets. The Bulls had a lead of 117 when they declared at 8/251.

 

With 47 overs left on a flat deck, it would be a difficult task to get the 10 points especially with only 10 men in the field. Fish and Steffo started off well, troubling the openers especially the chatty Curtis Cheney who was determined to continue taking us on, with both bat and mouth. After hacking Hugh just over mid-on and claiming he would continue to hit boundaries, he then bunted the next one straight to mid-off cueing a massive celebration from the Bulls. River then built a solid partnership after tea before Karlos managed to knock the two set batsman over with a great over, giving us a sniff of the 10. However, another 40 run partnership put us out of any real chance at securing the outright. Two late wickets including, unfortunately, one to Nic Wilson left us with 4 wickets to get and no runs to play with. So the Bulls had to settle for 6 well earned points at Bexley in a truly dominant performance with both bat and ball, against one of the better teams over the past few years. 

 

 

Round 2 Day 1 v Georges River

 

 Coming off a disappointing loss the week before, the theme of Captain McKeough’s pre-game chat was intensity and commitment for the team. Whether that be with bat, ball in hand or in the field, every Bulls 1’s player knew they needed to increase their desire to win in order to defeat a notoriously strong Georges River outfit at Bexley Oval. Losing the toss and being sent into field looked ominous, with a flat deck and uncomfortably windy conditions playing into the batsmen’s hands. Chris Steffan, however, had other ideas, knocking over three GR top order bats in his opening spell. Whilst Steffo typically leaves his best tallies for the post-match fines meetings, today he accompanied this consistent act of charity with a bag of four wickets, two of which came in consecutive balls, with the dangerous Vella caught by Karl Stuart at point, followed next ball by a beautiful low catch by Nic Wilson at first slip, removing the GR captain for a golden.

 

The GR innings started with some fortunate hacking from Cheney, before being removed by Fisher courtesy of a catch by recently recalled Cam Court at Mid-on. Steffo then claimed his three wickets, leaving GR reeling four down at drinks. The wickets would continue to crumble, with Stuart and Ben O’Connell seeing just reward for tight bowling with a wicket each, and a smart bit of fielding by Keishav Muralietharan resulting in a simple run out to leave GR 7-106 at tea. A brief post-tea partnership was ended by Fisher, claiming his second, before Steffo returned to bag his fourth and the pom Jimmy Harrop claimed his maiden Australian scalp - the GR No.11, bowled underneath his bat. GR all out 134. A fantastic turnaround in the field and with the ball for the young bulls outfit.

 

With 32 overs left in the day, the Bulls knew they could bite off a significant chunk of the run chase today. Things got off to a rocky start, with Keishav out fourth ball of the innings, caught at Mid-off. Nic Wilson arrived at the crease, and before long he and Captain McKeough had settled the nerves and the team had raced to 1-50. Wilson was then out adjudged LBW for 26, before Cam Court was out caught at Mid-on for 1. At the other end Macca was flying, crushing the GR bowlers to all parts to keep the run-chase on track. Anthony Azize, batting at five, stayed with the flowing Captain until the close of play, finishing the day 12*, with Macca at 62* and the bulls 3-107. Just 28 more runs needed next week! A comprehensive display with bat and ball leaves the bulls in a commanding position after week 1. 

 

 

Round 1 v Burwood

 

Saturday the 23rd of September, the day all shires cricketers have had pencilled into their diaries for months finally arrived. Our skipper Michael McKeough may not have got off to a good start tossing the coin but that form didn’t show in his return to the top of the order alongside Keishav Muralietharan. The new opening stand got off to a positive start falling just short of their 50 run stand when McKeough was trapped in front by Seymour. Nic Wilson joined Muralietharan supporting him well until he was caught behind for 44. Wilson fell shortly after where Tim Hood and under 24’s captain Anthony Azize steadied the ship to get the 1’s to a very solid 3-140 at the 35 over mark. Hood, making his return to first grade after years away from the game showed he hasn’t missed a beat raising the bat for his very mature half century. Unfortunately Hood fell shortly after leaving Azize to continue on getting the Bulls to a very competitive score however Azize fell after a solid knock. Some resistance from Karl Stuart got the Bulls to 199 however too many wickets falling and lack of rotating the strike in the finals overs was the downfall. The defence was going to have to be clinical…

 

Full of positive vibes the Bulls went out to defend the modest score. Early on Chris Steffan and Hugh Fisher bowled some good areas however the aggressive mindset from the Burwood wicketkeeper-batsman proved to work on a flat wicket getting the Briars to a very positive start at 0-59 after 9 overs when he was finally dismissed by Karl Stuart with some consistent bowling. The debutant and now token Pom, Jimmy Hulton-Harrop came on to bowl his leg spin and proved the most positive aspect of the Bulls defence with a very tidy spell of 8 overs for 39 runs. Very positive signs shown for the remainder of the season.

 

All in all Burwood were simply too good on the day, however there are many positives to take away from round one which will be built on for the rest of the season in aspiration to play finals cricket.