The Deniliquin and Nathalia contest is poised on a knife’s edge following day one of the all-important Murray Valley Cricket Association Premier Division clash, played at Deniliquin’s Memorial Park on Saturday.
The Rhinos batsmen battled their way to 4/55 to end the day’s play after knocking Nathalia over for 112 in overcast conditions and with a slow outfield that made every run so vital.
Both sides had their heroes — spinner Anthony Bradley and paceman Andrew Hogan taking four wickets apiece for the home side and star allrounder Luke Carter taking his side’s four wickets to keep the Purples in the match.
But it was veteran offspinner Bradley’s marathon 18-over spell that was arguably the performance of the day, claiming the key scalps of Carter and the dangerous Quinn brothers, Ash and Luke.
Deniliquin coach John Arthur said it was an intense day’s cricket played between two highly competitive sides.
‘‘The match was just so tight all day,’’ Arthur said.
‘‘With a slow outfield and overcast conditions, it was always going to be low scoring and you could feel the pressure of every run.
‘‘I thought our guys did an excellent job in the field. All our bowlers contributed and we were tidy in the field, with only one real chance going to ground.
‘‘Obviously Hoges (Hogan) and Wriggler (Bradley) with four wickets each were important.’’
Nathalia won the toss and elected to bat but were soon in trouble.
In his first over young paceman Dylan Rotherham caught the edge of Liam Evans’ bat off consecutive deliveries — the first was dropped between third slip and gully in what was a tough chance but the second offering was happily accepted by wicketkeeper Jonty Tubb.
Hogan followed up with the wicket of Scott Morris, bowling the young talent as he tried to work the ball to the leg side.
In his next over Hogan bowled the dangerous Brodie Ross and the Purples were struggling at 3/21.
Carter joined opener Tom Nihill at the crease and the pair went about repairing the Nathalia innings.
The ominous partnership had delivered a patient 22 runs from a dozen overs when Bradley struck in his fourth over, getting a fine edge behind off Carter (9).
Young paceman Liam Pitts had also been introduced into the attack and he backed up his spinner with the important wicket of Nihill (23), who was removed by a fine diving catch from Boddie Arthur at backward point.
‘‘While Luke Carter’s wicket was a big one for us, we were also happy to see the back of Tom Nihill who was batting well,’’ coach Arthur said.
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‘‘It was one of those days where someone who bats for a long time could have been the difference and Tom had been out there for more than 20 overs and was looking very solid.’’
Ash Quinn joined brother Luke at the crease and the pair had put on 25 runs when Bradley claimed his second scalp, having the former caught in first slip by Brad Todd for eight.
Luke lifted the tempo, smashing consecutive sixes over mid-on in Bradley’s 12th over, but the spinner would have the last laugh. The last ball of the over saw Quinn hammer the ball hard and straight with Bradley accepting a sharp caught and bowled chance.
Quinn departed for an innings-high 37 and the Purples were 7/95.
The Rhinos cleaned up the tail in a little over 10 overs with Bradley (4/40) taking another wicket and Hogan another two (4/29). Nathalia was bowled out for 112 shortly after the tea break.
In reply, Carter got one back on Bradley by trapping the opener in front for a duck in the second over.
Arthur joined Germano at the crease and the pair put on 14 runs before Carter had the latter caught behind for 10 in the 10th over.
Zeniffe Fowler didn’t last long, becoming Carter’s third scalp in his next over, caught behind for three.
Arthur and Hogan steadied the ship for the Rhinos and looked like they would bat the day out before the Nathalia paceman struck again in his 10th over — Arthur lunging forward to a Carter delivery and bowled at almost yorker length for 12.
Hogan (15 no.) and Todd (6 n.o) didn’t give any chances in the final nine overs of the day, seeing the Rhinos to 4/55 off 28 overs.
Coach Arthur said the stage is now set for a tremendous day’s play this Saturday.
‘‘This is second (Nathalia) versus third (Rhinos) and it’s going to be a tight game, really competitive cricket,’’ Arthur said.
‘‘Both sides have plenty to play for with top spot still a chance and a home final on the line.
‘‘I’d encourage locals to get along to the game on Saturday and support their home side and see some top cricket.’’