SANDHURST captain Craig Howard believes his side’s long-awaited BDCA First XI grand final appearance is not a flash in the pan, rather the start of a run of sustained success.
The Dragons proved too good for Golden Square in thrilling fashion last weekend, in a game that went down to the final over.
Enough went against the Dragons that they had excuses to lose – star batsman Nayana Palamandadige didn’t fire, and the vicious winds early on day two made it tough for Sandhurst’s trio of spinners.
But Howard was most proud of his side’s ability to grind out a win, something he said has been a hallmark of their season.
“We’ve had a few times this year where we’ve been in tough situations and we’ve managed to find a way to win,” he said.
“That always leads you well heading into a finals series and especially the big one. You know then that you’re never out of it, especially with a bit of pressure.
“We had to dig deep and managed to do it. It’s very exciting for the club to have both the A-grade and B-grade sides in this weekend.”
Howard crossed from Strathdale to coach the Dragons after the 2013/14 season having won premierships and two BDCA Cricketer of the Year awards along the way.
He has again been vital to the Dragons of 2017/18, with 304 runs at an average of 25 and 26 wickets at an average of 16.88.
Things didn’t immediately turn around after Howard’s arrival, but the past two seasons have been on an upward trajectory.
Landing the signature of Taylor Beard (325 runs at an average of 29, 28 wickets at 23) last year was a key move, and young spinner Sam Sperling (16 wickets at 19) has also been a valuable recruit.
This year the additions of Palamandadige (771 runs at 55), Australian junior representative Todd Murphy (284 runs and 16 wickets) and another top order batsman in Sam de Silva (385 runs at 28) have bolstered the attack further.
But the club is bearing the fruits of promoting junior players from within, with talented opener Darby Semmens, quick Will Keck (4/59 last week) and seamer Nick Gladman also playing an important role for the side heading into this weekend.
“There’s been a lot of people that have had to endure some pretty hard times and we’ve lost a few along the way, but we’ve recruited incredibly well which was something we had struggled to do,” Howard said.
“We’re in a position now where people want to come and play for us which is so important and we have some really good talent coming through.
“To have two sides in there this weekend, we’ve set ourselves up for some success long term.
“Hopefully it won’t be one year up and then down again – our under-18s were terrific this year too – so we don’t want to just have a crack at it this year and fall away for the next 40 years.
“We’ll hopefully set up for an extended run at it for hopefully the next decade, and hopefully that starts with two wins this weekend.”
The BDCA grand final starts at 12pm on Saturday and Sunday at the QEO.
If rain affects the match, it will conclude over Easter.
– Joel Peterson