DEFENDING premier Merrivale is protesting against its semi-final defeat and a Warrnambool and District Cricket Association board member has quit in a dramatic start to grand final week.
For the second consecutive week, the association is being challenged over its handling of a match, with a tribunal hearing likely to be hastily-scheduled tonight to avoid taking the gloss off tomorrow night’s cricketer of the year dinner and the grand final build-up.
In a stunning series of developments, long-time cricket administrator Justin Balmer has severed ties with the association and Merrivale is seeking to have its semi-final loss to Dennington declared null and void, which would allow it progress to the grand final at the expense of the Dogs.
The latest controversy stems from a confusing weekend, where players, umpires and officials spent more time reading rule books than there was play after rain threw the division one semi-finals into chaos.
Merrivale is challenging the association’s match committee ruling to reduce its match from a two-day affair to a one-day game.
Balmer, who was a member of the match committee, yesterday told The Standard his involvement with cricket was over after 25 years.
“I resigned in disgust at the decision and the process that took place,” he said.
He declined to comment further. Rain prevented play for more than three hours in the game against Dennington until about 4.30pm on Saturday. Dennington raced to 1-90 off 19 overs before stumps were called but shortly after 9.30am on Sunday the clubs and ground curators were informed by email the match would revert to a one-day game. That meant Dennington had to start again.
Had the game continued as a two-day fixture, Merrivale, by virtue of finishing higher on the ladder, would have advanced to the grand final in the event of a rain-reduced game without a result. Instead, rain reduced the 45-over a side game to 38 overs each and the Tigers were dismissed on the seventh-last ball of the match, ending their quest for back-to-back premierships.
Merrivale president Simon Fleming said the Tigers had a committee meeting on Sunday night, where they decided to challenge the result.
“We are disputing their decision to revert a two-day semi-final into the one-day format,” Fleming said.
“Our beef is not with the Dennington Cricket Club. To be honest, with what went on, the game was played in remarkably good spirits and that’s a credit to the two teams and the umpires who were caught in the middle.
“Our issue is with the ongoing mis-administration of the WDCA executive.”
Fleming said Merrivale’s decision to take the matter to a tribunal hearing revolved around the match committee’s decision.
“We believe the match committee has interpreted the rules incorrectly,” he said.