WARRNAMBOOL and District Cricket Association is all but certain to play in the division two grand final at Melbourne Country Week.
The Brett Eldridge-captained side preserved its unbeaten record with a 78-run win against Hamilton and District Cricket Association (HDCA) on day three yesterday.
Three players scored half-centuries as WDCA posted 5-236 off its 50 overs at Werribee’s Chirnside Park.
HDCA was all out for 158 in reply after slumping to 5-105.
WDCA (50.16 points) needs only to beat winless West Gippsland in its final match at Monash University today to book a spot in the final.
Second-ranked Bairnsdale (49.17) is also unbeaten, while Ferntree Gully and District (third, 35.49) and Benalla and District (fourth, 33.85) have 2-1 records.
Eldridge played up the comprehensive victory, highlighting the even spread of contributors with bat and ball.
Opener Dustin Drew made 53 before Nathan Murphy (59 not out) and Jake McKinnon (53 not out) combined for an unbroken 103-run stand for the sixth wicket.
The pair took WDCA from a precarious 5-133 to a defendable 5-236, which allowed the bowlers to take control.
“Each game has been challenging for its own different reason,” Eldridge said.
“Today we knew a lot of the Hamilton guys, we knew how they played.
“We backed our ability. We kept attacking with the intent of taking 10 wickets and bowling them out.”
Eldridge lauded the efforts of McKinnon and Murphy, who won arguably the most decisive period of the match.
The pair batted sensibly and excelled running between the wickets.
“That was a real important time. If we had’ve lost another wicket we would’ve had to bat for survival rather than bat aggressively,” Eldridge said.
“Jake McKinnon missed out a couple of times in the first couple of days but he’s a fantastic cricketer.
“For a young guy, he’s got good experience at higher levels of cricket.
“Between himself and Nathan Murphy, they were just outstanding.”
Hank Schlaghecke (2-19) struck early in the reply to have HDCA 2-6 but it was Nick Butters (2-27) who made the crucial breakthrough mid-innings.
The Woodford all-rounder removed George McDonald to break a 34-run stand for the fifth wicket and from there Eldridge (3-34) cleaned up the tail.
Jonathan Jenkin made 81 not out to be the HDCA’s best batsman.
Eldridge said the ability to win clutch moments in the match “shows the selection panel has made the right choices”.
“Some of the guys might not have been popular at the time but we knew we were picking the right guys for the right situations,” he said.
He said the team would undergo minor changes for today’s match, aware a grand final berth was likely.
“If we do make one change it’ll be Cam Williams might have a rest from the gloves,” he said. “He’s got the biggest job all week and that’s without his batting.
“And we might use bowlers in shorter spells. We won’t take the foot off the accelerator, but we’ll be conscious about how guys are feeling.”