Just after Sydney University had been bowled out for 37 in their first innings, an ibis was attacked on top of the scorer’s shed. Plovers descended from their perch and swarmed the majestic beast. The symbolism wasn’t lost on me. Sydney University’s talisman was under siege and a prophetic reading of the scene was inescapable. While the metaphor would have been more apt if the assailants were Bankstown’s mascot, Bulldogs vs. Ibis is a matchup that could only ever be real in the world of YouTube.
As this natural phenomenon played out, Bankstown were firmly on top in the cricket. After scoring only 82 themselves, they had reduced Sydney Uni to the lowest total ever recorded in a Sydney first grade final. A ring of “Phelpsy” sounded out around the ground in reference to Bankstown’s hero of the moment, Mitchell Phelps, who finished the innings with 6-9. A betting man or woman would have had the Bulldogs taking the Belvidere Cup back to Bankstown.
But the ibis always rises.
The first over of Bankstown’s second innings saw T20 Big Bash and NSW Sheffield Shield player, Sean Abbott, dismiss Bankstown’s Ethan Leten (0) and Daniel Solway (0). At this point the last six wickets in the match had fallen for one run. Abbott went on to take 7-42, leaving him with 10-77 for the match. Bankstown were bowled out for 98, giving them a lead of 143.
It was cricket on fast-forward, with wickets falling every few overs and most of the runs coming from boundaries. With all the talk that cricket has become a batsman’s game due to flatter pitches, better bats, and smaller grounds, this weekend’s final was a type of rapture, in which the gluttony of batsmen was punished and the missionary toil of bowlers was rewarded. The overcast conditions added to the sense of Armageddon.
Against the grain, Uni started well with captain Scott Henry racing to 21 of 17 balls in a 30 run opening stand with Ryan Carters. Both batsmen were then dismissed in consecutive deliveries. Sean Abbott (7) came and went, before Mitchell Phelps was introduced to the fray and immediately picked up from where he left off in the first innings, snaring three wickets to bring Uni to 6-71.
This brought Mark Faraday (36) and fast bowler Tim Ley (48) to the crease. Their 49 run partnership was one of the rare performances to escape the batsmen’s inferno. Ley was particularly impressive, hitting three huge sixes in his knock. As he drove the winning runs, Ley released a barbaric yawp and kept on yawping as he ran to embrace his teammates who formed a circle and yawped with him.
The ibis was nowhere to be seen, but no doubt it was free.