Merrivale in the box seat after Lynch makes unbeaten 107

A MAIDEN century by Justin Lynch helped Merrivale to an imposing total in the battle for fourth spot on the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one ladder on Saturday.

Lynch’s unbeaten 107 underpinned Merrivale’s 6-224 against Russells Creek at Jetty Flat.

Batting at number three, Lynch rescued the Tigers from a shaky 2-38, first in a 57-run stand with Wil Chapples (24) and then a 91-run stand with teenager Otto Opperman (36).

Lynch, who had only played one game last season and four the previous season, won praise from skipper Michael Walsh.

“It was a hard wicket to bat on. Once you are in on it, you are in but it’s hard to get yourself in,” he said.

“At the start of the day we probably wanted 250 because the ground is quite small and the outfield wasn’t that quick. Russells Creek bowled really well. We’ll take 224.”

Second-placed Dennington looked to have secured a significant advantage in its showdown with reigning premier West Warrnambool for top spot after dismissing the Panthers for 124, their lowest score of the season.

But the Dogs face a nervous week in their quest for the minor premiership after finishing at 3-40, with skipper Dustin Drew and star import Kahinagalage Silva both out. Drew, who won the toss, stunned observers by electing to bowl in the stifling conditions at Dennington Recreation Reserve.

“I thought we would take the punt and send them in and try and put some pressure on them,” he said.

“I thought it was something they wouldn’t expect.

“If you had said we would get them out for 120, we would have taken it.

“It is a pretty tricky score to chase but if we bat time, if we bat to tea, I would say we will win the game.”

He said he was pleased with his side’s performance in the field, coming off its first loss of the season against Allansford last week.

“We had a wake-up call. It was a good wake up call to have,” he said.

Veteran Terry Beks (3-9), his son Shannon (1-14) and Jack Lee (2-20) were good with the ball, while West skipper Ben Dobson top-scored with 39. 

Number 10 Simon Johnson made a crucial 24 before grabbing a wicket.

Sixth-placed Port Fairy claimed a morale-boosting first innings win on the opening day of its match against Nestles at Reid Oval. 

In a stunning performance, Mark Jones (4-9 off 11 overs) and Andrew McCartney (3-7) ripped through Nestles, dismissing last season’s grand finalist for 62. McCartney then opened the innings and was unbeaten on 42 at stumps with the Pirates 1-74.

Jones, who joined the Pirates last year from Heywood, has been a revelation with his medium-pacers. He has taken 25 wickets for the season at an average of 15.84, with Saturday’s performance his second consecutive four-wicket haul.

The first innings win means the Pirates can now chase an outright on Saturday, which could lift them to fifth on the ladder should Russells Creek fail to overcome Merrivale.

Third-placed Woodford set 11th-placed Nirranda 188 for victory after Nick Butters made an impressive 72, less than 24 hours after top-scoring in the WDCA’s agonising defeat in Friday’s Melbourne Country Week grand final.

Nirranda will start on Saturday needing 177 for victory, going to stumps at 0-11.

Bottom side East Warrnambool-YCW has given itself a chance of upsetting eighth-placed Wesley-CBC after dismissing the Beavers for 154 at Walter Oval. Captain Michael Townsend continued his impressive form with 4-34 for the Broncos.

Allansford (1-28) will start favourite on Saturday to run down Brierly-Christ Church’s 146 after making some progress before stumps. The Bulls had youngster Tim Ryan to thank after the opening batsman posted the highest score of his division one career, 56.

grbest@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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