FOUR sides will fight for the last two berths in finals as the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association regular season reaches a dramatic climax.
Allansford, Woodford, Dennington and Wesley-CBC kept their flag hopes alive with victories in round nine matches, which wrapped up on Saturday.
Second-ranked Allansford and third-ranked Woodford are equal with 30 points in the Hopkins conference, behind runaway leader Merrivale.
The story is similar in the Merri conference — second-ranked Dennington and third-ranked Wesley-CBC have 30 points each, behind West Warrnambool.
The scenarios ensure there will be drama aplenty at WDCA grounds on the next two Saturdays — a dream outcome for WDCA officials.
Of the four battling for finals, Woodford had to work the hardest on Saturday, defeating East Warrnambool-YCW by two wickets at Jones Oval.
The Eels started the day in trouble at 3-25 in pursuit of 230, but a stunning century from Nick Butters changed the match.
Butters blasted 117 and shared in a match-defining 156-run stand with night watchman Hank Schlaghecke (24).
The Eels lost wickets regularly after the pair departed but got over the line thanks to Luke Wines (32 not out).
Butters, 20, said he and Schlaghecke wanted to chew up the overs as much as possible on day two.
“A normal two-day game you would only want to be two or three down at tea and we were three down already,” he said.
“We thought we’d hang around and capitalise when they bowled a bad one.
“We were steady from the start.
‘‘They bowled a pretty tight line so we had to get through, not get frustrated if they got a few maidens.”
The century was a second in division one for the right-hander, who has 328 runs at an average of 41 for the season.
His heroics came as Allansford put Brierly-Christ Church to the sword at Uebergang Oval to hold on to second spot.
The Gators resumed at 1-48 chasing 173 and reached the target for the loss of three wickets, before finishing on 7-348.
Sam McCluggage top scored with 81 while Nick Maddison (67) and Matt Brophy (67 not out) also cashed in at the picturesque ground.
In the other Hopkins conference match, Merrivale took the points by beating Russells Creek by 49 runs at Merrivale Recreation Reserve.
The Tigers, who had 7-220 on the board from day one, routed Creek for 171, despite the efforts of Bill Qunlivan who made 53.
In the Merri conference, Wesley-CBC put itself within reach of second spot by recovering from a poor start to beat Nestles.
The Beavers slumped to 5-96 chasing 144 before captain Andrew Cheeseman executed one of the best rescue missions of the season.
Cheeseman made 94 and found willing partners in Jayden Stokie (2) and Matt Hoy (4), who hung around long enough to secure the points.
“I enjoyed batting with them at that crucial stage,” Cheeseman said.
‘‘The pitch wasn’t the easiest to bat on so they did a really good job.
“I think we had a 20-run partnership and a 40-run partnership to get us over the line.
‘‘We haven’t done that throughout the year.”
Dennington remains in second thanks to its 121-run victory against Port Fairy at Avery’s Paddock.
The Dogs took 5-4 at one stage — Terry Beks grabbing three — to dismiss the Pirates for 113 having made 9-234 on day one.
And West Warrnambool was untroubled in defending its massive score against Nirranda at Davidson Oval.
Jed Turland took 5-20 as the Knights were all out for 127, well short of the imposing 341-run target.