STUNNING individual performances from Tim Rand, Haydn Pascoe and Chris Mansell have steered Griffith into the next round of the SCG Country Shield after a nailbiting 16-run win over Leeton yesterday.
In stifling conditions at Exies Oval, Rand (51) and Pascoe (68) combined for a second-wicket stand worth 121 runs before Mansell returned to his brilliant best, bagging five crucial wickets just as Leeton looked ready to mount an unlikely comeback.
Needing 218 to win, the visitors were in the box seat for an upset win after Steve Weckert’s half-century and some textbook power-hitting from Jarrod Day and Mark Burns.
But Mansell (5-32) and young Coro paceman Alex Flood (2-34) stuck to the plan and were rewarded with the key wickets.
Skipper Marc Tucker admitted it was perhaps a little too close for comfort, but he said he always had faith in his side.
“I was (worried), it did look like we were in trouble, but they were only sloggers,” he said.
“Eventually they were going to get themselves out - it was just a matter of when. We had to bowl stump to stump and hope they’d miss one.
“Burns came out and hit a few big sixes. But to those guys you’ve got to bowl on target because they’ll get themselves out, and that’s what we did.”
Mansell was agonisingly close to a hat-trick after clean-bowling Day (49) and Billy Dickenson (0) in consecutive balls, but ended up with his five-for with the last wicket of the match.
“He hasn’t gotten a wicket for Exies yet but he’s come out and gotten five today,” Tucker said.
“It’s a brilliant effort from him but all the bowlers stuck in on a bloody hot day.
“I thought Floody bowled really well there at the end, too.
“They weren’t getting much at all out of the pitch. It was hard work.”
But the platform was laid earlier in the day by the batsmen, after Leeton won the toss and surprisingly chose to bowl first.
Griffith quickly got over the loss of opener Phil Burge (0) in the third over thanks to Pascoe, who looked calm and assured at the crease alongside Rand.
“We were only one down after 35 overs on only 110, so it was really good to get that far, I thought,” Tucker said.
“We couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, Timmy and Haydn set it up for us and that allowed everyone else to go for the big shots later on.
“The pitch was a bit up and down so it was real hard to bat on. And they were bowling really well, so it was a great all-round effort from our batters to do what they’ve done.”
The Coro skipper clubbed six boundaries in his excellent innings but eventually was trapped in front by Weckert (2-40) for 68.
Rand was next to go, dismissed in the same fashion, and then for a mad four-over spell the wickets kept coming - Tom Spry (10), Tucker (13) and Jamie Winkler (2) were all out cheaply.
Fortunately for the home side, some late heroics from Alastair Burge (36 not out) and young gun Connor Matheson (26 not out) allowed Griffith to head into the innings break confident of victory.
The pair started together at 6-156 and cut loose, smashing eight boundaries between them to propel Griffith to 6-217 at the end of the 50 overs.
“That was pretty important - we only won by 16 runs,” Tucker said.
Griffith’s next SCG Country Shield clash isn’t until November, which gives Tucker and the selection panel ample time to see how they can improve what was billed as the city’s best representative side in years - and for local cricketers to put their hands up.
“There’s definitely spots available for whoever’s scoring runs and getting wickets,” he said.
“It’d be good if Plum and Jarrod Cahill could get back into the side, but we’ve enjoyed having the young boys in the side - they had good games and they’re looking alright at the moment.
“We’ll see how we’re going in a few weeks.”