STUNNING performances from the three Peruzzi brothers have blasted Leagues Club to its first Griffith District Cricket Association victory in nearly two years.
Winless in all forms of the game last season, the Panthers are off to a dream start after easing to a 33-run triumph over Hanwood Oval on Saturday afternoon.
Leagues looked on course for defeat at 8-86 in the first innings – until Mathew Peruzzi turned the match on its head, smashing 53 off just 36 balls in a 67-run unbeaten last wicket partnership with brother Luke, who held up the other end with a patient 12.
Then in the second innings it was Daniel’s turn to steal the spotlight as he tore through a shellshocked Hanwood, taking 6-17 and making light work of the middle order as the Panthers skipped away to an unlikely win.
Even better was that it was accomplished with star signing Paul Plummer, who controversially switched from champions Coro in the pre-season, off on his honeymoon, and injured batsman Connor Matheson on the sidelines.
New coach Jeff McKenna said the victory was proof the Panthers - who have long been Griffith cricket’s cellar dwellars - are finally on the up.
“It was vitally important we played well without Plum, because it would be very tempting to say, ‘we’ve got Plum now, he can win us the game’,” he said.
“Now they realise they can win without him. It was virtually the same team as last year - Plum’s just an addition. He’s not the team, he’s only just a little bit of cricket.
“They can’t rely on him, they can win games by themselves. He can do it for them once or twice a year but they need to do the bulk of the work themselves, and they did it. They can do it.”
While Luke didn’t put up the same calibre of numbers as his brothers on Saturday, he was just as vital to the win.
Not only did his sturdy batting at No.11 allow Matt the opportunity to hit three boundaries and one six, he also claimed the key wicket of Hanwood’s Brandon Hicken (38).
Hicken’s partnership with opener Brad Hornery (29) had Hanwood on track to chase down the required total after some early hiccups, but Raj Singh removed the latter and Luke swooped for the wicket of the former, leaving the home side in dire straits.
“As in any game of cricket, if you go into the field with the momentum it takes something special to reverse it,” McKenna said.
“They were always under the pump on a very slow outfield and once they got behind the run rate, our bowlers and our good, athletic fielders were just able to strangle them.
“They were setting themselves for the run chase, you could see it, but those wickets changed it. It put a lot of pressure on Mick Crosato (31 not out), who basically had to do it by himself.”
Daniel Peruzzi needed less than six overs to clean up the rest, nabbing Hanwood captain Dean Catanzariti (18) after earlier dismissing first drop Chris Hicken (13).
“He’s perfect in those conditions - he gives nothing away, swings the ball both ways and makes it very hard for them to keep the run rate up,” McKenna said.
McKenna said the partnership between Luke and Matt Peruzzi wasn’t “tail-end slogging”.
“It was real cricket. They batted sensibly, him and his brother - they found the gaps for the singles and Matt punished them for the loose balls,” he said.
“Leagues Club may lack a couple of superstars but they’ve got 11 guys who can bat and eight different options for bowling.
“They’re in a situation where they could be under the pump late in the innings, but a guy like Matt can come in and do that.
“These guys have played a lot of rep cricket. They’ve been in all these situations before and nothing daunts them anymore.”