A POWERFUL half-century from Diggers opener Pat Whittard has steered his side to a nailbiting 12-run victory over stablemates Exies in Saturday’s day-night clash at Exies Oval.
Whittard’s 51 – the highest total posted by anyone across the opening weekend of first grade matches in Griffith – was enough to excuse a worrying middle order collapse from Diggers as they started the new season with a valuable victory.
He was just one of three Diggers batsmen to reach double figures – the only others were former skipper Nathan Smith and Tom Harper, who both scored 17 runs each.
New captain Jarrod Cahill admitted Diggers would have struggled if not for Whittard’s important half-ton.
“When you get that good a start you really don’t need that good an innings later on, although it does set it up if the other blokes score as well,” he said.
“He’s just in really good form, playing good shots and punishing the bad balls.
“There weren’t too many boundaries – he was mainly just picking the gaps as they presented themselves. It was a really good innings.”
Despite Whittard’s efforts, Diggers went on to post a mediocre total of 135, with the majority of the side’s batsman failing to fly the flag.
That was in no small part due to a solid debut from Exies spinner Adam Connell, who overcame a nervy start to grab 3-30 in his first outing in Griffith.
“He looked dodgy to start with – I think his first four balls were full tosses,” Cahill said.
“But once he started landing them the boys were in a bit of trouble.”
Cahill himself admitted to some nerves in his debut game as skipper, particularly after Diggers’ unspectacular innings gave Exies a more-than-achievable target for victory.
But veteran paceman Glen Faganello saved the day with 4-32, including the key wickets of opener Phil Burge (3), Alastair Burge (13), Andy Arnold (19) and Jamie Winkler (4).
“He’s still got it, the old fella. He puts it on the spot and still sends it down with a fair bit of pace,” Cahill said.
“When I realised we only had 135 I was thinking it was going to be tough for us to hold them down because they’ve got so many good batsmen.
“But we got a pretty good start – the first 10 overs they didn’t get too many runs.”
Exies, however, still kept plugging along and were 7-114 – only 21 runs short of the required total – with the powerful Chris Mansell at the crease, and the pressure ramping up on Cahill and Diggers.
“I didn’t know what to do – I just asked one of the older fellas who to bowl,” the skipper said.
“A lot of the boys helped me out – I was pretty nervous, it was my first game as captain.
“I asked Nathan Smith and Fags to help me out a bit and they did that, which was good.
“They said to put Hoppy on, young Jason Hampel.”
It proved a masterstroke. Hampel’s two-over cameo was all Diggers needed to clean up the tail as he clean-bowled Mansell (19), Warren Bock (0) and Connell (0) to secure victory.
“He’s handy,” Cahill said.
“We bowled him in Twenty/20 a fair bit. He doesn’t bowl too often in the other forms because some days he can put it on the spot, but others he gets smashed around.”