A veteran continued his dominance and a youngster emerged, as Footscray opened 2019 with a commanding 128-run one-day win over Kingston Hawthorn in Premier Cricket at Merv Hughes Oval on Saturday.
The experience of Dean Russ was once again crucial for the Bulldogs. He smashed a third century of the summer, his 107 off 134 balls guiding his side to 4-266 off its 50 overs.
The teenager turning heads for the Bulldogs was left-arm orthodox spinner Siddesh Dixit, who wreaked havoc with 5-30 off his maximum 10 overs to have Kingston Hawthorn all out for 138 in its run chase.
Wins across all four grades were the perfect way to usher in the new year for the Bulldogs and coach Stan Nell.
“Everybody came back in a positive mind and they worked really hard at training,” he said. “I was extremely pleased with their work during the week and the result that we got on the weekend.”
After starting the season on fire, Russ had a relatively quiet end to 2018.
The opener proved it was just a blip as he dispatched the Kingston Hawthorn attack to all points of the compass.
Russ has produced these kinds of match-winning knocks so often that Nell has run out of superlatives to describe them.
“What more can I say about him?” Nell asked. “I think I’ve said everything that I could about him. I’ll let his performances speak for themselves.”
It has been a transition summer for Footscray, which has blooded a lot of younger players into the first XI.
Performances such as that of Dixit make the exercise worthwhile for the Bulldogs and show how bright the futures are for some of these pups.
Dixit has been taken under the wing of Bulldogs captain Dylan Kight and is starting to emerge as a genuine spinning option.
“He’s only 19 and he’s a terrific young player,” Nell said.
“He’s really aggressive on the field, which we love because we really want competitors.
“He’s been terrific all year with the white ball and I think he’s going to be a very good white ball bowler.
“He’s still young in terms of spin and has got five or six years of development ahead of him in terms of developing a repertoire of balls to bowl in the longer version of cricket.
“I must give credit to Dylan Kight, who has been looking after him and mentoring him in his games in the ones.”
The other keys for the Bulldogs were Matthew Underwood (46) and Travis Dean (68), with both featuring in 100-plus run partnerships with Russ.
Hamish Winter-Irving was crucial with the new ball, taking 3-25 off 10 overs.
Nine points out of the top eight, Footscray is still in with a chance of featuring in the finals.
The Bulldogs will just about need to make every post a winner from now on, starting with a trip to rivals Essendon for a one-day game at Windy Hill on Saturday.
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