Souths batsmen come out firing

Century maker: Caleb McNeill pulls away for runs during his unbeaten century for South Tamworth on Saturday. Photo: Peter Hardin 151016PHD150
Century maker: Caleb McNeill pulls away for runs during his unbeaten century for South Tamworth on Saturday. Photo: Peter Hardin 151016PHD150

It was a runs feast at Riverside 2 on Saturday with South Tamworth’s Caleb McNeill and Chris Massey both hitting centuries and City skipper Brad Smith falling just 10 short of a second consecutive ton.

Souths finished up with the points, but not before a valiant chase from City, who led by Smith (90) and Tom Fitzgerald (73no) finished 6-275 in reply to their 2-286.

That was a lot closer than Souths skipper Josh Crowe had anticipated, although there wasn’t a lot in the wicket for the bowlers. It was flat and any balls that pierced the field just ran away.

It didn’t help either that they were down a couple of strike bowlers, with Troy Osborne unavailable and Tom O’Neill baling hay and a late withdrawal on Saturday morning.

James McGowan got the call-up for him to make his first grade debut, and acquitted himself well. Crowe even gave him the final over, which City headed into needing 23.

“He bowled well,” Crowe said.

“And being that bit taller he hit that back of a length.” 

Earlier McNeill carried his bat to notch his first century in first grade.

After cracking a four off the first ball of the final over, it looked like he might finish stranded on 99 but he scrambled through for a single off the final ball to bring up a deserved ton.

“He was good. He put the ball away when it was there and treated the good balls as he needed to,” Crowe said.

Massey was up the other end of him for a fair part of his innings with the two putting on 151 for the second wicket as Massey similarly cracked his first century – in any grade.

It was a blistering knock with Massey facing just 73 balls and smacking 14 fours and four sixes.

“I was starting to see it alright after the first few overs,” he said. 

“I just tried to hit the gaps mainly.”

He had three times been out in the 90s, most recently for 99 two seasons ago, but breezed through on Saturday, hitting successive sixes to jump from 85 to 97. He than ran through for a quick three to reach triple figures.

His celebrations were cut short though with Dan Lawrence picking him up the next ball.

“I went to chip it over the slips but didn’t get it high enough,” he said.

That brought Ryan Meppem to the crease. He picked up where he left off the previous week belting an unbeaten 54 off 32, and sharing an unbroken 103-run stand with McNeill.

First with Massey and McNeill, and then McNeill and Meppem, Souths really picked up the pace in the second half of their innings.

“We were only 101 at drinks and Caleb and I were fairly well in at that stage so we thought we’d step it up,” Massey said.

They regularly scored at over 10 an over.

Massey also rolled the arm over, picking up 2-30 to pip McNeill for the three points.

“It was nice to pick up a couple to finish off a good game,” he said.

He hasn’t done a lot of bowling in recent years. He only bowled in a couple of games last year towards the end of the season.

Meppem also chimed in with two wickets.