FOUR sides are mathematical chances of topping the Hopkins conference and qualifying for the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association (WDCA) one-day cup grand final.
Entering Saturday’s final round of one-day games, Allansford, Brierly-Christ Church, Merrivale and Woodford are fighting for a showdown with West Warrnambool the following day.
Allansford is in the box seat after sealing its third win from four games on Saturday. The Gators claimed a four-run triumph after breaking the hearts of a gallant Russells Creek.
After Gault McCluggage inspired the Gators to 7-192 with an unbeaten 72, Creek took the match into the final over, needing 16 runs. It came up four runs short, despite a quick-fire unbeaten 40 from Ben Boyd at the death.
Centimetres was all that stood between Creek scoring its first win of the season and another heartbreaking loss.
Allansford’s Nick Maddison took a game-changing catch running around the rope to dismiss an in-form Adrian Benson for 21 off spinner Matt Brophy late in the match.
Russells Creek captain Nathan Divall said Maddison took the catch at full stretch above his head on the run before tip-toeing around the rope to stay in the field of play.
“If that goes 20 centimetres further . . . it was a really good catch,” he said.
Divall was pleased with his side’s effort, especially the form of Paul Walker (40), Shanaka Perumpuli (43) and youngsters Jeremy Cook and Bill Quinlivan, who helped build important partnerships.
“We’ve lost in the last over (twice) now and if you win those you are 2-2 and you are in contention,” Divall said.
He said Creek had wanted to restrict Allansford to 180.
Allansford skipper Kyall Timms said he was pleased his side had got the points but its focus was now on defeating Woodford and advancing to the grand final on Sunday.
“It’s a simple fact — if you don’t win this week, you won’t play in the final,” he said.
Brierly-Christ Church is second on the ladder after a workmanlike performance to get the points against East Warrnambool-YCW.
The Bulls made 153 after captain Jason Greer held the innings together with an unbeaten 38, despite East’s bowlers bundling them out with four overs remaining.
In reply, the Broncos struggled to string together partnerships at the top of the order as Bulls paceman Tim Ryan took 4-10 from seven overs.
East’s Tharanga Fernando rallied his side with 65, but Bull Col Pascoe trapped him leg before wicket to end East’s chances as it was dismissed for 101.
Greer was pleased his side got the points but knows it needs to improve to have a shot at making the one-day final.
“If we can win next week, it will go down to net run rate,” he said.
“It’s very tight at the top. The first thing is to win.”
Greer said the Bulls’ batsmen needed to be more selective with their shots.
“Half of it is mental, guys not getting themselves in before trying to play big shots,” he said.
Reigning premier Merrivale claimed victory on the second-last ball of its match against Woodford at Merrivale Recreation Reserve.
Chasing the Eels’ 7-147, Merrivale reached the target with three wickets in hand after Justin Lynch top scored with 42.
Merrivale coach Michael Walsh said it was a tense finish.
“We had wickets in hand,” he said. “In saying that, they bowled well.”
He said the Tigers needed to defeat East Warrnambool-YCW on Saturday to have any chance of sneaking into the final.
Woodford captain John Houston was ruing an ankle injury to Jake McKinnon, which saw the spearhead prematurely finish with 2-2 from 1.5 overs.
“It was one of those things. At that stage of the match we weren’t in a bad position and we thought we would get away with it,” Houston said.
But Merrivale scored 80 off the last 77 balls.
“We should have won the last two weeks. We have probably let ourselves down a little with the ball,” Houston said.