By Marcus Uhe
Buckley Ridges is breathing a sigh of relief after a heart-stopping win over Narre South in DDCA’s Turf 1 competition on Saturday to remain undefeated in the 2023/24 campaign.
James Anson struck the winning runs for Buckley Ridges with a clip off his pads to the boundary in a gritty 10-run final wicket partnership as the boys from Park Oval reached the 167 run target by the skin of their teeth.
The game was over the very next delivery when Lions bowler Alex Cruickshank broke through Anson’s defences in bizarre scenes at Strathaird Reserve.
Buckley’s chase resumed on day two with former skipper Ben Wright and nightwatchman Sanka Dinesh at the crease at 4/64, with 103 more runs required to secure the points.
The two looked comfortable at the crease for the opening half hour as they saw off the strike-bowling pair of Cruickshank and Callan Tout’s respective spells.
Jeevan Mendis was the first new bowler Kyle Hardy turned to and his introduction brought some initial trepidation for the batters as his variations forced extra concentration from the not out pair.
Wright took the attack to Mendis, countering the spin with a series of aggressive slog sweeps to the leg-side boundary.
But his innings ended upon the introduction of Jawed Hussaini, who struck in his opening over when Wright chopped-on to his stumps for 61.
Wright and Dinesh had added 40 for the fifth wicket to take Buckley to a much-safer stage in the chase of 5/104.
Dinesh’s dismissal the next over, however, to a sharp diving return catch from Mendis, meant pressure returned to the visitors, with two new batters at the crease and 62 runs still required.
Experienced pair Ishan Jayarathna and Michael Davies were the veterans required for such a task, as Cruickshank returned to the bowling crease with the Lions looking for the kill.
Both struck a handful of boundaries as the target became further and further within reach, and a game that initially tantalised as a thrilling finish looked set to peter-out to a mundane result.
There were a series of twists left in this tail, however.
Davies became Cruickshank’s second wicket when he was dismissed LBW for 17 at 8/158.
Jayarathna was the next to go as Tout returned to the bowling crease in a final push from the Lions late in the contest.
8/158 at the fall of Jayarathna became 9/158 when Hussain Ali became Cruickshank’s third victim, sparking jubilant scenes from the Lions with an upset in the offing.
The Lions needed one wicket, Buckley Ridges 10 runs, and everyone was on the edge of their seats in the pleasant late Spring sunshine.
Tout and Cruickshank honed in on the stumps with relentless accuracy but Anson and Faridullah Khil’s resolute defence provided the required resistance.
Feet were anchored to the crease and few attacking strokes were played, but the tail-end pair was doing their job.
They survived three maidens in the final six overs with edges and squirts the only scoring shots generating any scoreboard pressure.
Squeezes off inside edges on consecutive deliveries to a vacant square leg region brought a pair of singles with the target now within one shot.
Anson shattered the tension with the game-winning leg glance, to the cheers and applause of his new teammates.
He lost his off stump the very next delivery, but it meant little, having guided his side home.
The experienced Wright’s 61 was crucial on two fronts for Buckley, not only in the runs department but in steadying a rocky ship when it was most required.
Cruickshank finished with 4/36 for the Lions in a spell that included 11 maidens.
Buckley Ridges hosts St Mary’s next week while Narre South heads to Hallam to face the Hawks.