Both Dolphins' cricket squads had exciting wins against old rivals in the latest round of the Manning River District Cricket Association comp in what was a pleasing return to form, especially for the 3rd grade squad.
The 2nd grade clash at Wingham was one the locals were facing with some trepidation given a depleted bowling crew, but all those given the cherry responded with a fine bowling effort after the batters had done their job in setting a solid target.
Batting first, skipper Ryan Clark was able to maintain his good form until he was out for 29 in a solid opening partnership with classy batter Sam Hull.
Hull upped the ante after some disappointing recent dismissals in the stop-start season and was rewarded for his hard work at training.
His 85 off just 94 balls showed his capabilities and he will build on that.
After losing Liam Simpson for a few, Hull had excellent support from recent 3rd grade run machine, Joel Elliott, who stepped up with a fine 32 in a decisive partnership.
Up-and-comer Landon Blissett, still overcoming a shoulder operation, looked good for his dozen before Andrew O'Brien (22) helped Blake Clark steady the innings as the overs ran out.
Clark scored a very aggressive 42 off only 18 balls to follow up his bowling heroics last week.
The Dolphins would have taken the 6/247 total if offered early and did well to get it.
Most of the home team's bowlers copped a bit of stick at times but Mitch Niven with 2/34 off eight was the pick.
The renowned aggressive batting of the Wingham 2nd grade squad was on show early as Jake Mullen scored 34 off the first 38 but when they lost him and then Tom Martin (34 - a fine effort stepping up from 3rd grade), followed quickly by Niven, the Dolphins had their tails flipping.
When Tim Rees (28) was run out by the athletic Blissett, the home side was teetering at 5/109 and then soon after 6 for 113.
Craig Watson took on the bowling for a fine 51 from just 38 balls and with Corey Armstong (17), had the home side back in the match.
The Dolphins' bowlers held their nerve during the onslaught and some judicious bowling changes by captain Clark saw the visitors knock over their 2018/19 nemesis for 199 in 33 overs.
Will Elliott (2/24) matched his brother in stepping up from 3rd grade to take the new ball and grab the early breakthroughs.
He was later supported by the talented leggy Will Clark (4/79) who, while getting whacked a bit, showed he is a player of enormous potential and took key wickets.
The erstwhile sensational net bowling of Simpson finally had its time to shine as he grabbed 3/15 to help his side home.
Skipper Clark was thrilled with his young guys.
"The blokes stepping up from thirds have done really well and are having a huge dip," he said.
"They are the ones at training and working and they've made the most of their opportunity."
The Dolphins know they have to continually search for their best combinations but with everyone having a go, and some who are untried still waiting, they can look forward to the bowling group developing to match the batting strength they possess.
The Dolphins' 3rd grade squad, previously sans wins, had a fantastic result at South Street turf against table-topping Bulahdelah to put to bed the horrors of their last match there when dismissed for under 20.
The wicket was in good nick as the skipper, Warwick Chapman, had put in hours in prepping it.
Given that, the home side still found their lack of experience on the grass a bit troubling but at least they knuckled down and stuck it out.
The slow, low score of 6/88 off their 40 overs wasn't something to have any Dolphin trilling out victory sounds but they'd battled well against a quality bowling group.
As with all clubs and players, having players of any age getting on the turf strips should be a priority if possible. It's where the real test between bat and ball can help develop a player's game.
Alan Thomas (20 off 78) and Chris Perrin (16 off 49) withheld the accuracy a long time while other bats, despite not being able to score well, kept the opposition in the field and helped get a target to bowl at.
Bulahdelah's bowling group all had figures they'd want every week.
Cooper Bramston (2/15 off eight) was well supported by all, but Luke Ayres (1/7 off eight) was well into Mr Grinch mode as the season approached and such miserly numbers were to be applauded.
Thomas backed up his batting with a first ball grabbing of Todd Harris and when Noel Matheson, an absolute run machine, was gone for 16, the Dolphins had a sniff.
With Seb Strong (1/20) supporting the opening spell, the stage was set for a ding dong battle.
When Ayres was well run out by Tim Steinmetz, the locals quickly grabbed two more wickets and at 6/51 were starting to think they could pull off something special.
Ross Metcalfe and John Barry were the only other batsmen to spend any significant time at the crease as the bowling of experienced Al May (1/25 off 8) and the destructive Chris Perrin (5/12 off 8) caused the Premiers to crumble.
A late flurry by the talented Geoff Matheson (11 off 10) was not enough as Bulahdelah was all out for 79 in just 26 overs.
The home squads know they have much to do to continue success in what is two very even comps, with a sprinkling of former higher grade players in all clubs and grades making each game a good challenge.
Next week sees 2nd grade have a bye while 3rd grade will be hoping for a solid effort against the very experienced United.
The South Street Oval will see a different battle with Mid North Coast (MNC) South, The Mudskippers, taking on the rampant and very strong Tamworth in the third round of the Doug Walters Cup, a NSW 50s veterans comp.
Captained by the experienced former Great Lakes champion, Paul Rosenbaum, the match is pivotal in the battle for the new trophy.
Both sides are going for three from three and after Tamworth won the inaugural Gloucester pre-season 50s event, they are coming across the range as favourites.
MNC selectors are already eyeing off performances as they plan to send two squads to the State titles in Orange in February, and any number of players on show this Sunday will be in the reckoning.
It should be a great game.
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