By Nick Creely
Despite losing their fourth consecutive match in the opening month of the Victorian Premier Cricket season, Casey-South Melbourne coach Prabath Nissanka remains confident that the lessons learnt will hold them in good stead as they look to put some points on the board.
In the Swans’ match with region rivals Dandenong at Shepley Oval on Saturday, they weren’t bereft of effort; they were simply outclassed by the most in-form side in the competition.
The game was played squarely in the court of Dandy as soon as Lachie Sperling and his Swans won the toss and elected to bat.
In need of a strong start, the Swans got the exact opposite – and perhaps with very little luck from the umpires.
Kasun Suriaratchie (0) fell in the opening moments caught behind off Darren Pattinson (4/19), but appeared to have clearly missed the ball, while only a few overs later, skipper Sperling (5) middled a ball into his pad but was swiftly given LBW off left arm quick Jak Jowett (1/46).
The two early wickets meant the Swans couldn’t get any momentum with their batting, as Pattinson wound back the clock in a stellar white ball spell that left the visitors hanging by a thread at 5/37.
As they did last week, Chris Benedek (23) steadied the ship while Dylan Hadfield (43) played the aggressor and it worked a treat, lifting the score just above 100 with a decent launching pad for the remaining 20 overs.
Hadfield in particular struck the ball sweetly with a series of cracking cover shots bringing the Swans back into the contest, while Benedek showed poise as the Panthers hardly put a foot wrong.
But impressive left arm spinner Akshat Buch (2/24) ignited the flame once more with a clever quicker ball that saw Jacques Augstin stump Benedek before slowing one up and forcing Hadfield to spoon a ball to Donnell at cover – it changed the game.
Brendan Rose (30 not out) and Leigh Diston (14) then lifted late with some smart shot selection, lifting the Swans to 9/155 off their 50 overs – a competitive, yet under-par score that would have had the Panthers licking their lips.
It didn’t take long for legendary openers Tom Donnell and Brett Forsyth (35) to take the fizz out of the contest, with Donnell cracking an early lofted drive straight to the boundary before the pair brought up their customary 50 run partnership in less than an hour.
The skipper eventually fell for 56 but it simply didn’t matter with Ed Newman (40) once again showing his abundance of class by playing a crafty knock before LJ Edwards (12 not out) and James Nanopoulos (8 not out) eventually saw the home side to victory in the 32nd over and with only three wickets down.
Nathan Lambden (1/36) and Suriaratchie (1/10) were the only two to take wickets for the Swans.
“There are some positives – even though we lost too many early wickets, we managed to score 150 which isn’t good enough, but still we were able to build after losing five wickets, so we can take that away from the game,” Nissanka said.
“We still couldn’t convert our starts into big scores, and that’s something we are lacking – for any team this can happen, but the good teams overcome these situations – if you score 25 or 30 runs it doesn’t help anyone.
“Once you’ve done the hard work, you have to convert them to good scores then that will take us to 200 or 220, so that’s something I want them to analyse and overcome.”
Nissanka also said that the lack of runs on the scoreboard is making it hard for his bowlers to come up with plans to win, but backed his side in to find a way to break out of a slump that threatens to derail its season completely.
“They (bowlers) need to improve as well – the situation we have faced so far this season, we have scored three low scores, so when you’re bowling to a small total, the problem is you have to always take wickets, and when you overdo things, it’s not going to help,” he said.
“We will learn from these games, and figure out a way to get us back into winning positions.”
Round 5 will see the Swans host Geelong at Casey Fields, in what is a winnable game.