By Nick Creely
It was a masterclass of some magnitude.
A knock now etched into Casey-South Melbourne’s history forever.
And it was from a man that’s had such an impact on the club that his legacy at Casey Fields will go beyond just the raw stats, or the ability to wear down an opposition like few others can in the competition.
Luke Wells produced one of the all-time epic Victorian Premier Cricket knocks on Saturday, crunching 290 off 275 balls, and in the process surpassing the record for the highest individual score in club history – a record that was set in 1889/90.
Wells isn’t exactly immune to monster centuries – he’s cracked seven of them at Premier level in just 25 digs, and has 18 first-class centuries for Sussex. His father, Alan, also crunched 46 first class hundreds and eight List A centuries himself.
But it wasn’t all rapid boundaries for 369 minutes of his knock.
It was all about the build, the patience, picking off the bad balls and eventually punishing a tiring bowling group.
After the Swans lost young duo Ash Chandrasinghe and Aaron Fernando early, both caught behind after looking solid – and with the Greenvale Kangaroos bowling some tight lines – Wells, as well as fellow leader Nathan Freitag (57) had to really knuckle down.
The stylish Sussex star was at one point two off 22 balls, but a series of crisp strokes in succession, as well as an expert ability to work the ball into gaps quickly turned things around.
But it was his straight driving that was the feature, and even with the Kangaroos stacking the off-side field in an attempt to try and force him into a false stroke, the ball whizzed along the carpet and straight into the fence at a rapid rate.
At lunch, the Swans managed to claw its way to 2/87, with Wells skipping past the half-century and Freitag sitting comfortably on 21, and looking rock-solid in defense.
The Kangaroos had a few nice moments with the ball straight after the break, but couldn’t break a stand threatening to really take the game away, before Wells once again completely changed the momentum.
Racing into the 70s, Wells crunched one through backward point, nailed a sweet drive into the sightscreen, before latching onto a short ball and sending it to the mid-wicket boundary in three consecutive balls.
And all in different parts of the ground.
From there, it was almost inevitable that Wells would reach the triple figures as he crafted the ball into gaps and made his way to the milestone at a steady rate.
With a punch just wide of mid-off and a quick scamper through the wickets, the leftie brought up his seventh century for the club, but there was a determination for more.
And it came after tea in one of the most dominant patches from a batsman in recent memory.
Wells not only brought devastation to a Kangaroo bowling outfit that just couldn’t find a way to prize him out, but also ensured that the record-books were to be close on hand as the Swans piled up the runs.
In just a shade under a session of play, Wells scored a further 170 runs, sent over a dozen sixes sailing over the rope, and toyed with the opposition as he ticked over for the first double-century in four years in the competition.
The cars parked just outside the ground were also under threat – and not from the strong gusts of wind – but from an avalanche of power hitting.
In the midst of his extraordinary session, Wells passed the club’s all-time record for runs scored in an innings just after 6pm.
From 200 to 290, when Wells finally fell only moments before stumps searching for the triple, he piled on a further nine sixes and five fours as a rate triple-century came within reach. In total, he sent 33 fours and 14 sixes to the rope, a staggering 216 runs in boundaries.
But all good things come to an eventually, and with the score 5/470 at stumps, the damage was well and truly done.
Aside from Freitag – whose 57 off 127 balls was vital in Wells’ build towards the record – Lachie Sperling remains unbeaten overnight, with 59 off 56 next to his name in his 100th game at the level. Michael Wallace also batted well for his 33.
A stunned Swans coach Brian Keogh could barely believe it on Saturday night, describing the knock as one that will be remembered by all for a long period of time.
“It took him 25 balls to get to two – and he was incredibly determined to get a big score today,” Keogh said.
“It was a privilege to be there – it was a privilege to be a part of it as a club. It was a masterclass of the highest order.
“Cricket’s a game where you have ups and downs, and when he has his ups he just shows the class that he is.
“He was incredible.”
Keogh said that there was also plenty of room for celebration from a team’s perspective, with not only Wells breaking some incredible records on the day.
“That’s our highest team score for over 100 years, so its either the third or fourth highest score ever,” he said with pride.
But Keogh heaped praise on Wells, who not only provides plenty on-field, but has been a major contributor to the club’s culture of mateship.
“What I said after the game is that not only is he one hell of a player, but he’s really invested in the club,” he said.
“We’ve talked about mateship, he’s been a leader in that as well.
“It’s not just about him as a player, and in the club and what we’re trying to achieve, we’re just so happy for him.”
Day two will resume on Sunday with the Swans 5/470, and with Sperling and Devin Pollock (13) at the crease. Wells is also expected to play a major role with the ball when the Swans go out and field.