The most challenging conditions of the season so far greeted the teams competing in Round 5 of the Northam Cricket Association 40 over season. Early forecasts for Saturday suggested temperatures may reach 41 degrees.
At Bert Hawke 1 in Northam, reigning premiers Balladong hosted Ferals. Balladong won the toss and chose to bat first. Ferals broke the opening partnership in the 5th over through a piece of individual brilliance in the field. Michael Ferguson dived to his right at mid-wicket to almost hold a difficult chance. He quickly gathered and fired the ball to the bowler, who removed the bails, to find the batsmen short of his crease.
After getting a start, Cody Gorbig chipped a catch back to the bowler in the 11th over to leave Balladong at 2 for 28. This saw the arrival of the dangerous Richard Dewar to the middle, and he began to accumulate runs, reaching 11. However, Max Smith, the youngest player on the ground, produced an astonishing first over. His first ball was deemed a no-ball as he bowled from outside the return crease. His next 5 deliveries landed in areas that Dewar respected. The final delivery pitched short and sat up invitingly. Dewar swung hard but did not connect and the ball landed on the top of leg stump. Soon after, it was a well-earned drink for Ferals, who had restricted Balladong to 3 for 66 after 20 overs. Although the sun remained behind cloud and a steady breeze blew, conditions were increasingly draining.
Defiant opening batsman and captain Scott Romasz was finally dismissed for 20 when play resumed. Jermaine Davis Jr. threatened but was given out for 19 and Glen Podmore looked assured before a mix-up saw him run out for 17. Unusually, Jermaine Davis Sr. strode to the crease with Balladong 6 wickets down for 101 in the 25th over. He batted cleverly with the remaining batsmen and compiled a mostly risk-free 33 not out to lift Balladong to 162 from 39.4 overs. Young left arm spinner Fletcher Page, extracting turn and bounce, drew a top edge from Davis Sr. which fell safely at square leg.
The Ferals side, full of young cricketers who are unaccustomed to 40 over cricket, performed admirably in the gruelling temperatures. They chased hard and executed their skills repeatedly to support the bowlers. The pick of whom was Max Smith, who claimed 2 more in his final over, to finish with 3 wickets for 8 runs from 2.4 overs.
Ferals began brightly with the bat reaching 26 before Davis Jr. struck in the 6th over with an unplayable delivery. It drew this writer forward before seaming away and clipping the top of off stump. Wickets fell with regularity after the initial breakthrough despite the efforts of Xavier Dawson, who stonewalled the bowling until he was eventually run out. After top scoring with the bat, Davis Sr. also produced the best bowling of the day, finishing with 3 for 4 from 3 overs. Other multiple wicket-takers were Podmore (2 for 0 from 1) and Dewar (2 for 26 from 7).
The other game of Round 5 was a close contest played out at Toodyay Town Oval where Toodyay hosted Bakers Hill. Toodyay won the toss and elected to bat. After a second wicket partnership of 39 saw Toodyay to 1 for 56, Matt Turner removed both batsmen in quick succession, including eventual top-scorer Aaron Waters for 30.
Scott McCallum then held the Toodyay innings together as wickets fell around him. He compiled an invaluable 27 not out to help Toodyay reach 123 from 30.6 overs. Hayden Bishop cleaned up the Toodyay tail to spin his way to 4 for 9 from 4.6 overs. Other multiple wicket-takers were Jamie McPherson (2 for 22 from 7) and Turner (2 for 29 from 6).
Bakers were off to a disastrous start, losing their first wicket before scoring. After reaching 17, 3 more wickets fell without adding to the total. Suddenly, the target of 124 to win, looked a long way away. The Bakers tail wagged and victory was in reach. It was snuffed out when Colin MacTaggart, top-scorer on 23, was the last batsman dismissed, 10 runs shy of the target.
Aaron Waters was the pick of the Toodyay bowlers with 3 for 15 from 7 overs. Other multiple wicket-takers were Dylan Borrett (2 for 18 from 6.3), Andrew Ryall (2 for 19 from 6), and Steve McCormick (2 for 29 from 6).
The conclusion of Round 5 is revealing as all sides have played each other once. Balladong sit atop the ladder, undefeated with 4 wins, while Grass Valley are placed second with 3 wins. It is a battle for third place as Bakers, Ferals, and Toodyay have 1 win each, separated by points. All sides play each other once more before finals in the jostle for position.