DENNINGTON and Merrivale will face off in a Warrnambool and District Cricket Association grand final for the third time in eight years after both scored tense semi-final triumphs as underdogs yesterday.
A dramatic fightback with the ball late yesterday sealed Merrivale’s eight-run win over reigning premier West Warrnambool and set up a shot at the club’s first division one premiership since the 1998-99 summer.
Dennington qualified for its first grand final in seven years after claiming a 38-run win over Woodford at Jones Oval.
Dennington, which had lost a top-spot play-off in a low-scoring affair by four runs last week, looked down and out when it slumped to 7-103 on Saturday.
But teenager Shannon Beks (21) and Peter Shepherd (35) shared a 53-run partnership as they scrapped to 176 all out.
Having taken the momentum, they then ripped through Woodford’s top order in a devastating opening yesterday leaving the Eels reeling at 5-28.
While Luke Wines (33 not out) led a lower-order fightback, he couldn’t get his side over the line, all out for 138.
Dennington should have won the game much sooner, grassing three catches behind the wicket when it had the Eels eight down.
But Shepherd, at mid-off, took a memorable catch running with the flight of the ball to dismiss number 11 Ross Levett off the bowling of Terry Beks.
Co-coach Dustin Drew was overcome with emotion after the win.
“Just relief,” Drew said.
“I thought yesterday when we were 3-30, we had to work hard.
“I thought the eighth-wicket partnership between Shannon Beks and Peter Shepherd was the difference.
“Shep’s had two hits in the last two games for five runs...I said to the boys during the week it would take a team effort and everyone stood up and did their best.”
Drew said after the start his side got with the bat, “120 or 130” would have been a good score.
“We just hung in and hung in. It didn’t matter what score we got we were never out of the game,” he said.
“To get 176, I thought we were on top.
“We had the momentum this morning.’’
Drew said the win showed his side’s significant improvement.
“All the captains picked their top four at the start of the year and not one had us in the top four.
“It’s pleasing the work we have done has paid off.
“Hopfully this is the start of something with such a young group.”
Woodford coach John Houston said he was pleased with his bowlers, despite Dennington’s last three wickets putting on a match-winning 73 runs. “I thought we bowled really well and Shannon and Shep batted really well, they didn’t give a chance,” he said.
“They got in behind them and then they took us on and that ended up the match-winning partnership.”
Houston said he backed his side to chase down 176.
“The top five was 13, 3, 0, 0 and 3,” he said. “You can’t win matches when your top order is doing that.
“You make it very hard.
“Credit to them they bowled well early and we just needed to get on top.
“When you have a day like (Saturday) you have to work hard through that first hour or two backing up to get some momentum.” Houston said his side, which included nine under the age of 22, was in a good position to challenge next season.
“Three of our side are colts players.
“The world is our oyster at the moment but this is our third opportunity and we need to start taking them.
“Our twos and threes are in the grand final so from a club point of view it’s good but it would have been nice to have all three in.”
In a match dominated by bowlers, Woodford’s Jake McKinnon took 4-33 while Dennington’s Steven Wythe finished with 3-28, Drew 2-20 and Terry Beks 2-26 from 11.3 overs after bowling unchanged from the southern end.