YOU know a batsman is having a good season when he can tell you how far behind the competition’s leading run-maker he is.
Tharanga Fernando is in the midst of one of his best seasons in Australia and his adopted club East Warrnambool-YCW is reaping the rewards.
The Sri Lankan has made 143 runs in four trips to the crease, including knocks of 69 and 65 the last two matches before Christmas.
He is 18 behind Wesley-CBC skipper Andrew Cheeseman (161). West Warrnambool’s English import Karl Turner has made 156.
The solid start, which follows encouraging form in the Twenty20 tournament, has helped avenge a disappointing first campaign with East.
Fernando, 32, had a delayed start and only played six matches, for 48 runs, as the top-grade newcomer finished second-last.
But he is one of the form batsmen of the competition almost 12 months on, helping ease the burden on captain Mick Townsend.
So what has changed? For one, Fernando is back opening the innings, as he did for Dennington six years ago.
“I was opening for Dennington and this time I’m opening for East Warrnambool. That’s better for me,” he said.
“Last year I batted everywhere — number four, number five, sometimes opener.”
A better pre-season has also made a difference.
“Last year I came a little bit late. I only played six games, I couldn’t practise much.”
Fernando played first-class cricket with Moors Sports Club in Colombo before joining Dennington ahead of the 2007-08 season.
He spent two seasons with the Dogs, making 424 runs in his second campaign — including a blazing 152 against Merrivale.
But the highs came with the lows. Fernando edged a ball into his face against Allansford in early 2009, which ended his season.
He required an operation, with doctors inserting a “special plastic plate” into the back of his eye socket.
“After that I couldn’t play any more. I missed the last three matches and I went home,” he said.
Time will tell whether Fernando can replicate his numbers from 2008-09 but the signs so far have been positive.
He has been the standout batsman at East and his off-spinners have conceded just 1.14 runs an over — the best in the WDCA.
Importantly, he believes East is capable of winning more matches in the second half of the season.
The Broncos are fifth in the Hopkins conference and start day one of a two-day match against Merrivale at Jones Oval today. “I think we’re getting better, some boys are getting in form. We have a really good bowling attack but I think we need to improve the batting side,” he said.
In other Hopkins conference matches, resurgent Brierly-Christ Church meets Russells Creek at Brierly. Woodford plays Allansford at Jack Keane Oval while the Eels and Gators will again face off in the WDCA Twenty20 final on Wednesday.
In the Merri conference, ladder-leader West Warrnambool travels to play Nestles at Reid Oval, Dennington hosts Nirranda at Dennington and Port Fairy welcomes Wesley-CBC to Avery’s Paddock.