AN inspirational performance from all-rounder Clinton Baker led South West Cricket (SWC) to an historic provincial grade debut win at Melbourne Country Week yesterday.
In a triumphant day for south-west sides, the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association (WDCA) opened its bid to climb back into the top grade with a thrilling win over Traralgon in a division two encounter at Oakleigh, with batsman Cam Williams the hero with a breakthrough century.
Baker was the star of SWC’s 41-run win over Ballarat at Geelong.
He made 56 off 50 balls in a 101-run sixth-wicket stand with Travis Brown (68 off 88 balls) that rescued SWC’s innings from a precarious position of 5-106. SWC finished with 234 from 50 overs.
The 31-year-old then picked up three of the first four Ballarat wickets to leave their more fancied opponent reeling at 4-38 in the 10th over.
After claiming the win, SWC iced their victory with 0-34 off four overs, including an unbeaten 11 off 10 balls by Baker, to gain crucial bonus points.
An ecstatic Baker said he hoped the first-up win meant they belonged in the top grade.
“We are trying to give that message,” he said.
“We’ve been doing it for about four or five years and we’ve had the same blokes and we are gelling pretty well with a few younger blokes.”
Baker said he was pleased to contribute to the win.
“It’s been a good day.
“We had to knuckle down for four or five overs when we were batting and then the runs came pretty freely. They were just bowling to my areas (through cover) and I just kept hitting them past the fielders.”
He enjoyed bowling in the stifling conditions.
“It’s always good to get the new ball down here. You put it in the right areas and hopefully they get themselves out.”
Captain Steven Castle said his side wasn’t getting carried away with the significance of the association’s first win at the highest level in country Victorian cricket.
“If we are not the most supported team down here I would be very surprised,” he said.
“We would have had 30 people supporting us down here and a lot of those are ex-cricketers from the merged associations and they see the significance in what we are doing. But we don’t put a lot of thought into that. It doesn’t get lost on the people supporting us.”
Castle said the performance wasn’t flawless. “We are very happy,” he said. “It was like any game down here, you are never across the line until you get the last wicket.
“Probably 230 on this ground and this pitch was a little bit under par.
“The run rate was good, we weren’t batting badly, we had a few guys get starts and get out and that’s something we will have to talk about.
“Everyone was hitting the ball well.” He said his side was cruising at 2-61 after 12 overs but added just 13 in the next six overs.
“We have to keep ticking the score over. Our aim was to bat the 50 overs and if we bat out 50 overs you will win more than you lose.”
In the field, every time Ballarat looked like mounting a partnership, SWC got a breakthrough. After being 4-38, Ballarat steadied the ship with a 47-run stand before Ben Grinter produced a match-winning run out. The sixth-wicket stand of 57 also threatened to take the game away from SWC before vice-captain Todd Lamont (2-35) got one on the stumps.
Without a 12th man, Ballarat was forced to bat one short after star batsman — captain Matt Goonan — suffered an ankle injury early in the field and took no further part in the match.
Castle and his squad had a recovery wade in Corio Bay before boarding the team bus for Melbourne to prepare for today’s match against Bendigo in Kew.