COULD tonight’s EJ Cleary Medal count be a flashback to season’s past?
Two Ballarat Cricket Association greats returned to club firsts action this season – Australian quick Shane Harwood to Brown Hill and all-rounder Carman Mapatuna from Sri Lanka to Napoleons-Sebastopol.
Each is a past EJ Cleary winner, as the BCA firsts’ best and fairest, but each capturing the honour more than 15 years ago.
Mapatuna won it in 1997-98.
Harwood captured it a year earlier.
Mapatuna has been a linchpin for Naps-Sebas this season since making his return in round three.
Consistent all summer, Mapatuna took 21 wickets, and bowled nine maidens with best bowling of 4-11.
His batting has been just as impressive with a tally of 574 runs – on six occasions making more than a half-century at the crease, including five matches in a row from round seven to round 11. He had a highest score of 110 runs against Coronet City in round nine.
When Harwood unleashes, his bowling can be completely devastating.
The Bulls’ star took a combined 37 wickets, including two seven-fors and one six-for.
His best bowling for an innings was 7-20, featuring a double hattrick, and achieved in the second innings against Napoleons-Sebastopol.
Harwood had obliterated Naps-Sebas by taking 6-15 off 8.3 overs in the first innings.
In a season highlight, North Ballarat young gun Ash McCafferty proved leaner, nabbing 6-5 off five overs in the final round against Wendouree.
Naps-Sebas’ Brendan Thomson holds the club firsts’ best bowling effort of 7-16 off nine overs against Coronet City.
In sharp bowling, you cannot look past Eamon Johnson.
The Red Caps quick played 10 matches, like Harwood, and took 39 wickets in total with best bowling of 6-43.
Johnson took wickets in every game he played, consistently three or four, and three five-fors.
He is also a dual EJ Cleary medallist, winner in 2007-08 and tying with Mount Clear batsman Matt Goonan in 2009-10.
Johnson, Mapatuna and Harwood each played in teams that made finals, standouts in teams with wins on the board.
Undefeated Mount Clear should poll well, but its depth might cost the Cleary.
The Mounties have a line-up that serves up a new starring player each week.
Ballarat Cricket Association celebrates 50 EJ Cleary medal winners and 30 Bernie Davey Award winners, for the district division one best and fairest, and will mark this tonight in all-time Cleary and Davey teams.
Champion players for lower grades will also be presented tonight.
East Ballarat export Matt Short, fresh back from world under-19 cup action with Australia, will be guest speaker.