JAMES McKinnon loves to perform in big games.
The multiple Panmure premiership player produced his first century in more than five seasons as he lifted the Bulldogs to 215 on the opening day of the Grassmere Cricket Association (GCA) top-of-the-table clash against Killarney.
After opening the innings, McKinnon was the ninth wicket to fall as he made 102 at Killarney Recreation Reserve.
“It’s been five or six years between drinks,” the 35-year-old said.
“They are always good to get. You play a long time and you can go a long time before you get one.
“In my younger days I was probably a little less cautious, a little bit more free flowing. But with younger players coming into the side, the role changes. You end up being a lot more cautious and conscientious. When you are younger you bat with more flair.”
The change in approach seems to be working for McKinnon, who has scored 460 runs at an average of 46 so far this season, his most productive for years.
McKinnon said the growing rivalry between the Bulldogs and Crabs, which intensified after a controversial one-day final earlier this season won by Panmure was declared null and void because both breached rules, had played no part in his quest for runs.
“You always try and perform your best in the bigger games, whether they be home-and-away or finals,” he said.
“It was quite satisfying to get them. We have a score on the board that Killarney have to chase down.”
He said both sides respected each other but the Bulldogs were keen for a win and to secure top spot.
“There is a good rivalry but off the field it’s no worries,” he said.
“From my point of view I think the bigger (motivation) is we’ve been successful over the last few years and every time a new team comes along to try and challenge you, you want to take it up to them as much as you can.”
While the milestone was pleasing for the veteran, McKinnon said his side’s position in the game was the primary focus.
“We thought at the start of the day 200 would be a good score,” he said.
“It’s probably par, 240 or 250 is always that little bit more daunting.”
He said the Bulldogs’ bowlers had been in good form.
McKinnon said Saturday’s play was typical of a top-two showdown where both sides scrapped hard.
He said Killarney’s opening bowlers Daniel Jones and Brayden Buchanan had been on the spot.
“After 17 overs we were 0-18,” he said. “It was a really tough two-day cricket grind. The game is evenly poised.”
In other matches, third-placed Yambuk is in the box seat to stitch up a finals berth after dismissing bottom side Panmure Pups for 123. At stumps it had wiped 40 from the chase for the loss of one wicket.
Fifth-placed Hawkesdale’s finals hopes are in the balance, despite captain Murray Habel making 56 as the Cats made 189 against a Nick Kermond-inspired Wangoom Roosters bowling line-up. Kermond claimed 5-22 before his side raced to 0-50 from just eight overs.
Fourth-placed Grassmere needs another 131 with 10 wickets in hands to defeat Purnim (156).