Sunbury United confident in return to form

Sunbury vice captain Ryan Billinghurst dives for the crease. (Supplied)

Oliver Lees

Sunbury United captain-coach Upul Fernando is confident his side can play a strong brand of cricket in the Gisborne and District Cricket Association McIntyre Cup this season, despite the loss of their star batsman.

The Bees will be without Dilan Chandima in their top order following the opener’s move to Darley.

Last season Chandima earned the association’s top honour, the Sullivan Medal, after averaging 122 with the bat across the season.

Sunbury put together a consistent overall performance last year, finishing second with eight wins, two losses and two draws.

The season ended with a grand final loss to Bacchus Marsh, who managed to chase down the Bees total of 123 runs in 35 overs.

Speaking before their first match of the season against East Sunbury, Fernando said he expected to challenge for the premiership once again.

“Obviously we’ll miss Dilan, it’s a big loss for any club to lose 850 to 900 runs, so we’ve got to find someone to chip in and make some of those runs,” he said.

“Because it’s one-day cricket, it’s all about having game-changers, because one innings can change the whole game.

“We trust the whole lineup. Everybody is keen to move forward after what happened last year.”

Sunbury has also been bolstered by some new additions to the lineup.

The club picked up left-handed spinner Senura Perera from Tarneit and batsman Sammika Ryan from St Andrews.

Fernando said Ryan will slot in at number three in the batting order to help fill the void left by Chandima, while Fernando himself will move from fifth to fourth in the order.

Ryan Billinghurst will continue as the club’s vice captain.

He said he expects young bowler Cooper Boyes to be selected more frequently in the top side too, after putting together some impressive scattered performances last season.

“He might be the first change, he’s a very accurate wicket-to-wicket bowler,” Fernando said.

“He’s played really well and was unfortunate not to get a regular game last year.”

The GDCA has welcomed three more sides to the competition for the 2021-22 season, with Rupertswood, the Sunbury Kangaroos and Wallan all promoted.

The top division will play a mixture of two-day and one-day matches while the lower divisions will play an entire season of one-day matches.

Fernando said he welcomed the return of a 10-team structured division.

“That’s what we need, we need more teams to have different opponents, otherwise we’re going up against the same teams again and again,” he said.

“With the lockdown, we’ve had about three weeks of full training. But as you know, when you get into a game situation and put the whites on, it’s a whole different feeling.

“All the clubs are playing with new players coming through and also plenty of experience players that have been playing at this level for years.

“We are ready to take that challenge, moving one week at a time.”