Swans get serious as Premier Cricket reaches pointy end

Luke Shelton will lead his Swans into battle against Prahran on Saturday as the Victorian Premier Cricket finals begin. 307623 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Marcus Uhe

Casey South Melbourne captain Luke Shelton says his side’s experience in big games will hold the Swans in good stead as they embark on another finals campaign in Victorian Premier Cricket.

A draw at home against Footscray on Saturday in the final round of the home-and-away season was enough for the Swans to secure fourth place on the table and the crucial double-chance.

Footscray ‘batted-on’ on Saturday morning to reach 311, with Casey South Melbourne reaching 7/277 in 81 overs by the close of play.

Yash Pednekar made 69 in his return to the side since injuring his hand in December to top the batting card for the Swans; Devin Pollock the next best on 46.

Pednekar and Ashley Chandrasinghe resumed their union at the top of the order that brought so much success earlier in the season and added 82 runs for the first wicket before Chandrasinghe fell for 39.

Each of the Swans batters made starts but only Pednekar raised his bat for a half-century.

At 4/240, a successful chase was on the cards, but three quick wickets forced a change in approach.

Knowing that other results had panned-out favourably, the home side played defensively in order to protect their remaining wickets, knowing a draw would lock them into the four.

The Swans will now face Prahran at the neutral venue of Walter Galt Reserve, the home ground of Kingston Hawthorn, due to Prahran’s home ground being unavailable as it undergoes construction.

The prospect of facing the premier side in the home-and-away series doesn’t faze Shelton, with his squad adopting an ‘anywhere, anyone’ mentality.

“I think it’s a bit like how we think about the finals series; I don’t really care about who we play or where we play, because I know that you’ve got to win these games to get what you want, which is a premiership,” Shelton said.

“They’ve (Prahran) essentially been doing that for the last two seasons; going away every week, playing cricket and finding a way to win.

“It’s a really good effort from them and I’m sure they’re very proud.

“There’s not really too many secrets to their line-up and it’s pretty similar to ours.”

Shelton’s side easily won the only contest between the two this season in round nine, but being a T20 contest, there’s not too much either team can gleam from the result ahead of the two-day clash this weekend.

The pressure will be on the Swans who, as the lower-ranked team, must win the clash in order to progress to the preliminary finals, as a draw will see the higher-ranked Prahran benefit.

Pressure isn’t a new phenomenon for the Swans, however, who are just two seasons removed from a grand final appearance in 2021/22, when they also finished fourth.

“There’s probably only two or three guys in (this) side that weren’t a part of our grand final loss a couple of years ago,” Shelton said.

“We’ve been there and done that as a group, collectively, and a lot of those guys have been and done it, whether it’s at Casey or other sides or States in the past.

“There’s enough experience there for sure and that’s where you’ve got to rely on those guys as well; there’s probably a few guys that haven’t experienced as much finals cricket as some of the other guys, so it’s on the guys that have that experience to make it as easy as possible for everyone else and give them a step in the right direction.

“We need Nathan Lambden to continue his good form, we need Chand (Chandrasinghe) to keep doing what he’s been doing and all those guys that have been in really good form.

“If they can carry it through then I think it gives a really good blueprint for the rest of the group to just jump on their backs and follow.

“The good players always seem to rise to the occasion when finals come and it’s that time of year when you want do everything right, lead from the front from a player, leadership, coaching point of view, because you want your good players playing well.”

Jackson Fry has returned from a hand injury he suffered against Northcote in round 16, while Devlin Webb’s selection is in doubt as he battles leg injuries that have held him out of the side since round 15.

In other club news, exciting batting talent Harrish Kannan has departed the club to play cricket in New Zealand.