In his first season of WDCA senior cricket, 2010/11, Anthony Speziale failed to trouble the scorer.

At Rovers-United’s presentation night, the then-shaggy-haired youngster was presented with the “Golliwog” award, to commemorate his six run-free innings’ for the Club.

It is a tribute to the dedication and application of ‘Spaz’ that he has been able to improve his batting, to the extent that he can now be regarded as a genuine all-rounder.

Last Sunday he top-scored with 34 in his side’s sub-standard total of 93. Yesterday he again made a vital contribution, as the Combine reached their highest total in almost two years.

But firstly, let me set the scene for what transpired at the Findlay Oval.

The Hawks won the toss and elected to bat on what was a ‘belter’ of a track. They were in diabolical trouble early against some lively bowling and at 3/13, and then 4/32 were searching for potential heroes to retrieve the situation.

They found them in the form of a couple of old school-mates – Speziale and his skipper Jacob Schonafinger. The going proved to be slow, but at least they laid the ground-work for a rescue operation.

As the overs continued to be soaked up and Beechworth’s pace bowlers began to lose their edge, Wanderers’ captain Brenton Surrey called on slowies Matt Ryan and Josh Newton to effect the break-through. The twin-spin attack probed and flighted, but the Hawk pair were now in full control.

‘Schona’, in particular, began to test the field with some attacking shots and he had contributed the lion’s share towards a 52-run stand when he lifted his head and was bowled by Newton for 43. It was another typical captain’s knock from one of the competition’s most consistent performers.

Seamus Phillips, who had taken 11 overs to get off the mark last week, joined Speziale. The latter had, by now begun to play some shots and was well settled.

Phillips, after a stodgy start, executed with much more freedom, as the score pushed into three figures – heady territory for the Hawks in recent times.

It was an important innings for the youngster, as he finally experienced the euphoria of being able to play with a bit of freedom in senior ranks. Soon he was lofting his drives. He reached the boundary with some fine shots.

‘Spaz’ had been excellent in attacking anything short, or off-line and registered his first WDCA A-Grade half-century, as the total built a bit of momentum. At 66, he pulled a ball from Jack Ryan and was caught low to the ground at deep-square by Matt Ryan.

It had been a terrific knock from Speziale. The word had filtered around town that he was firing and a few supporters ‘flocked’ to the ground to see the lad in full flight. It was a shame to disappoint them, but he trudged off, well-satisfied, as his side were now 6/165.

Proof again of the importance of batting your 75 overs, were the runs on offer in the last bracket of 10, as the Combine added 48, thanks to Phillips’ 48 and an enterprising unbeaten 14 from Adrian Squires, who asked a lot of his large frame in hustling quick singles and adventurous shots.

The Hawks were well satisfied, as they had compiled a competitive 8/213 at stumps. It now prevails upon the bowlers to back up next Saturday.

P.S: Callum Nankervis became the third Rovers-United player, behind Shane Welch and Darren Petersen to become a senior District cricketer, when he made his debut for Essendon on Saturday. Batting at number six, he made a breezy 25.

Shona picture

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