SOUTH West Cricket’s representative team is one win away from progressing to Melbourne Country Week’s highest level after scraping into today’s division two grand final by .77 of a bonus point — the equivalent of four wickets.
SWC was cruising to victory against Kyabram (175) yesterday at 4-114 with 27 overs remaining before a thunderstorm washed out the match at Melton.
Unable to get back on, SWC had to endure a nerve-racking 90-minute wait for other games to finish before discovering it had snuck into the grand final after top side Bairnsdale and Ferntree Gully drew, also because of rain.
While SWC was ruing the rain at its ground, the heavens also opened at Dandenong where third-placed Ferntree Gully was just one wicket away from clinching the match against Bairnsdale and a spot in the grand final.
SWC captain Steven Castle was delighted his side had qualified for the final — effectively by the bonus points it gained (five wickets) in a second innings of its first match on Monday against Hamilton.
“It’s smiles all round,” Castle said just seconds after being told his side had qualified for the grand final.
“We haven’t really
spoken about what it means but obviously this is what you play for, to get the opportunity to progress to division one. Tomorrow (Friday) we are going to get that opportunity.
“If we play to our best, we are capable of doing it.”
He said Bairnsdale’s 9-140 chasing Ferntree Gully’s 217 yesterday showed how on the day any side could beat another with SWC to meet Bairnsdale at Camberwell today.
Castle said the storm which hit Melton had surprised everyone.
“It felt like we got about an inch in 10 minutes.
“Then it became a case of hoping it got out to Dandenong.”
He was pleased with his bowlers for restricting Kyabram to 175 off just 45.1 overs. Off-spinner Stephen O’Neill picked up 2-9 while teenager Fraser Lucas snared 2-35. In the chase, despite losing regular wickets, opener Simon Baker was in control, unbeaten on 54 when the rain came, with Todd Lamont 25 not out.
Earlier Warrnambool and District Cricket Association finished its week strongly with an emphatic win over Hamilton District Cricket Association at Geelong.
Set 177 for victory, the WDCA finished with 222, bowled out in the 47th over.
Vice-captain Brett Eldridge completed a consistent carnival, making 74 off 102 balls including one six and eight fours while opener Dustin Drew made 56 off 55 balls made up of 13 boundaries and four singles, to be the leading run-scorer for his side for the week.
The victory was set up by some tight bowling on a flat pitch and fast outfield at Kardinia Park with Woodford teenager Jake McKinnon finishing with 4-19 off five overs.
His first over went for 10 runs but he hit back with some brilliant fast-medium bowling, picking up 3-0 in seven balls at one stage as Hamilton capitulated late trying to lift the run rate.Captain Ben Boyd was again superb with the ball, taking 1-11 off nine overs while Eldridge’s status as a leading all-rounder in country Victoria was confirmed with 2-33.
Boyd said he was pleased with the finish to the week — two consecutive victories — and highlighted how close his side was to making the grand final, finishing fourth.
“The main thing was to win the last two games,” he said. “As the boys said, we got beaten on the third-last ball on Monday and with 10 balls to go on Tuesday so that shows we weren’t far away.
“You never know what could have happened with the results, if Bairnsdale had won and South West had got beaten it would have come down to bonus points.”
Boyd said the WDCA had unearthed some players with the talent to become mainstays of the side in years to come.
“We found ourselves a couple of good young bowlers in Hank Schlaghecke and Jake McKinnon and we found a spinner in Matt Brophy.
“I thought Broph bowled really well today.
“He bowled the nine overs and kept it tight and the wickets fell at the other end.”
He said he hoped the experience given to a number of batsmen would help build them into better players in the domestic competition and at representative level.
Earlier, Hamilton’s innings was underpinned by a 57-run stand for the second wicket by Kristan Hopwood (33) and captain Hamish Bailey (23).
A 45-run stand between Brad Falkenberg (33 off 32 balls) and Zac Smith (18) gave their side some hope of defending the total.
But Drew and Eldridge, who shared an 83-run stand for the second wicket, pushed the momentum their way before Eldridge and Nathan Murphy put on 55 for the third wicket to all but ice the game. The WDCA achieved its victory target with four wickets down in the 43rd over before finishing with 222.
In other matches, Colac and District will play Yarra Valley in its division three grand final after finishing on top for one loss.