After beating Eildon Park in a nail bitter the week before
we qualified for the division 3 Grand Final against Ferntree Gully at their
home ground Wally Tew Reserve. Going in with an unchanged lineup from a
successful Semi Final we felt confident we had the right team to outlast them
and get the job done.
Once again I was lucky enough to call heads, win the toss
and without much hesitation decided to bat first with great conditions for
cricket forecast for the weekend.
We got off to our traditional flyer with the two old boys
Rhys and Morro slapping the ball around before we found ourselves in a bit of a
pickle when they both departed with the score on 29 after just 6 overs. Luckily
we had the perfect man to steady the ship in the ever reliable Sean Reid, although
he did struggle early when he was scoring freely. He and Humphrey Marget got us
back on track and erased memories for the rest of us of a batting collapse
against them just weeks before. When Jack went out for a classy 20 the score
was 3/70 and our young middle order needed to hold strong under immense pressure.
Partnerships of 41, 34, 33, 22 and 31 made sure we never gave them any momentum
with some nice little controlled cameos from Reid 25, Josh 8 and Stuckey 13
exactly what we needed. With the score now 6/190 we were looking to build to a
really impressive score but with 2 stumpings in the space of 3 balls and some
lazy shots we were rolled for 207 in the 68th over. Young gun Callum
O’Connor was a standout for us with the bat as he played the most mature
innings of his fledgling career compiling 81 runs and giving us a competitive
score with our tight bowling attack. An outstanding achievement to post his
highest ever score in the biggest game of his career thus far. We then had half
an hour to bowl at them on day 1 and looking to snare an early wicket to take
some momentum into day 2. The old fox wound back the clock with the pill
declaring “there’s no tomorrow so I’m letting loose” before later realising
that we indeed did have tomorrow to win the game. He bowl his sharpest spell
for the season collecting the first wicket LBW while Jack Marget bowled well
without luck at the other end. End of the day and the score was 207 and them
1/14 off 9 overs needing a further 193 off 80 overs.
Day 2 we started on fire taking a bunch of early wickets
with the score 4/27 and 2 wickets each to Mulder and Marget. A few close
chances and not much luck saw their batsmen build a partnership up until the
tea break where the score was sitting at 4/105 off 52 overs. Some really tight
bowling and the run rate kept getting higher and higher which was going to see
them eventually play some shots and take some risks. The old fox finally got
the crucial breakthrough after a 117 run partnership to see them sitting on
5/144 with 16 overs remaining. A wicket in his next over gave Trav 4 for the
game and the score now 6/150. After 21 overs of pure genius the fox was pretty
much spent so Jack Marget and I had the duties to try and close out the match.
A dangerous partnership of 26 was broken after a sharp stumping by Rhys off my
bowling followed by two catches to the cool and calm Josh Wylde. The score now
9/193 nerves were showing on both sides and with just 15 balls remaining and 14
runs required the hero of the first day Callum O’Connor claimed a sharp run out
and ended the game to the relief of all of us and the Garden Army in the outer.
All the bowlers were fantastic and extremely discipline all day and the lucky
bowlers were Trav with 4/44, I managed 3/40 and Jack took 2/40.
A really enjoyable season came to an end in the best
possible way for our bunch of extremely talented younger guys and committed
older guys. Thanks to all the players throughout the season I was fortunate
enough to lead on the field as you are all part of this success. Great to see
so many young guns pushing for higher honours which makes everyone else perform
better each and every week. Commiserations to Andrew, Greg and the boys on
close Grand Final loses but with such great depth I’m sure the club will be
strong for seasons to come and that chance for further success can’t be far
away. A big thanks to Butchy for coaching all season and the other leaders of
the club for giving me the opportunity to captain such a talented side. These
memories will last forever and I can’t wait to help all sides improve next
One very happy and proud skipper!
3rd XI vs Lysterfield @ Liberty Reserve
The Grand Final saw us travelling out to Liberty reserve to take on top placed Lysterfield. Lysterfield had managed to beat us in a tight game earlier in the season and this was always going to be a good contest. They won the toss and decided to bat first.
The start for us wasn’t a great one as Blair Neil got hold of us early on but wasn’t well supported by Moore who was dismissed early on. Finally Devo got Neil out for 63 and the score was 2/73. Devo bowled fantastically taking 4/20 and was well supported by Curney and Gez who all took regular wickets. We managed to have them eight down at tea and dismissed them shortly after tea for 127. The fielding was fantastic and we never gave up in the field which put us in a strong position.
Myself and Ben went out to open the batting together and started brilliantly before a disappointing decision by the umpire saw me out for 7 with the score on 28. Ben followed shortly after with the score on 42 and Gez didn’t last long either. We went into stumps at 3/53, still in a great position to take out the win. Unfortunately the next day we batted very poorly with Dosmanstagram, Curney, Nibby and Porno quickly back in the sheds for not many and when Hawksey and Devo followed not long after we were left at 9/80 needing 48 runs to win with Lamby and Nikhil at the crease. The finish was gripping and both Lamby and Nikhil batted extremely well and kept us in the game. Unfortunately with the score on 113 Lamby was caught to leave us losers on first innings by 14 runs.
I decided to send Lysterfield back in for another bat, much to the joy of their supporters and players, many of which didn’t bring their gear. We needed early wickets and took them at regular intervals. Unfortunately Blair Neil got 43 in quick time to put the result beyond doubt and after Lamby nearly died fielding in close we decided that with 23 overs left and them having 6 wickets left in hand and being 77 runs in front that it was going to be a bridge to far for us and we conceded defeat.
I must say how incredibly proud I am on the team for the season and how hard we fought over the weekend. We never gave up and kept on trying ways to win the game. Special mention to Lamby and Nikhil who were excellent with the bat and nearly stole the game for us. We will be back next year with the goal of going one better and ending what will become a 16 year premiership drought for the 3rd XI. It has been a great privilege to captain the side and I hope that I have been able to help the younger players come through as well as allowing them to enjoy their cricket.
4th XI vs Upper Ferntree Gully @ Knox Gardens Reserve
Well, who would have thought that a promotion to Division 6 and playing against mostly 3s teams from other clubs that we’d be headed to the big dance for the 2nd year in a row. Having beaten Belgrave on their home turf in the semi, we were worthy participants against Upper Ferntree Gully who were fast becoming our arch rivals in this grade.
UFTG won the toss and decided to bat first which we were completely comfortable with. The message to all players going out was to focus on our game, don’t get sucked in to the rubbish their opener in particular would be dishing out and give them absolutely nothing. Rotating the bowlers through 3 over spells, we kept things extremely tight with Dyl getting the 1st wicket just after drinks with the score on 41 from around 20 overs. The boys really enjoyed that wicket and didn’t have to wait long to celebrate another with Dyl again getting the reward with the other opener dismissed soon after with the score on 50 in the 22nd over. There were 2 key batsmen at the crease as we continued to rotate the bowling, eventually introducing spin to the attack. While King was bowling really well and managed to create a few opportunities, typical of our season so far, they did not go to hand. This led to the batsmen acknowledging that they should ride their luck and eventually they hit King out of the attack. Varun was reintroduced and saw the batsmen play and miss or mishit until he managed to get the top scorer from last year’s GF smartly caught by Crookie just before the end with the score on 93. Having bowled and fielded brilliantly all day, as has been the case all year, we still couldn’t get a run of wickets as they ended their 35 over stint at 3/95.
As they have done for most of the season, Scotty and Spencer opened the innings and looked untroubled against the opening bowlers. Scotty, unfortunately became the first victim of the UFTG keeper who was standing up to the stumps to their opening bowler (albeit the slower of the 2) and had Scotty falling out of his crease to be stumped down legside for 9. They knew it was a big wicket as they gave Scotty a send-off that came with a warning from the umpire. Deepak strode to the crease and was looking good before he played around a straight ball to be adjudged LBW for 11. Justin nursing a sore hammy didn’t get the chance to really test it as he was caught at square leg for 1 with the score now 3/37 off 12 overs. Sammy joined Spencer at the crease to hold them at bay and try to restart our innings which they both did magnificently. Not taking a backward step, Spencer played with a maturity beyond his years as he picked off runs with ease with his trademark pull shot in particular used to great effect. Sensing that the game was starting to slip away from them, UFTG re-introduced Yak Goodger to the attack hoping to unsettle the young batsmen which had the opposite effect as Sam attempted a couple of big drives from the first 2 balls that didn’t go according to Sam’s script. Reverting back to a defensive mindset, Sam was unfortunately good enough to get an edge to a short of a length ball that saw him out for a valuable 13 runs in a 48 run partnership from 11 overs with the score now 4/85 in the 24th over. Spencer who was on 44 at the time was joined by Tom and they continued the fightback looking untroubled against everything that was thrown at them. Spencer then brought up a magnificent chanceless 50 that cemented his status as a genuine up and coming all-rounder who plays a big role in big games. In sight of the finish line for day 1, Spencer was extremely unlucky to get an edge that was smartly taken by the keeper standing up at the stumps to be out for 55 with the score now 5/110. Ty joined Tom at the crease and they saw us through to stumps at 120, a lead of 25 but having lost 2 more wickets.
Needing to keep things tight and get early wickets, we employed the same tactic as the day before with short 3 over spells for the bowlers. With the wind having changed, we opened with Dyl at the car park end and Varun from the school end. Bailey, the more experienced of the batsmen already had his eye in and took advantage of a few of pitched up deliveries, driving at anything in his range and getting them off to a flying start as they raced to our score after 7 overs. The switch had been made with Sam and Spencer brought into the attack with that man again Spencer getting the initial breakthrough having the young kid caught by Tom with the score 4/123. In came the imposing figure of Yak as you could sense something was about to happen with the UFTG crowd becoming more and more vocal with their quick start but they were shut up pretty quickly as we went nuts on the ground as that man Spencer had Yak caught, again by Tom, with the score now 5/127. Game on! UFTG had lost a couple of key wickets in Lamarca and Goodger but they still had Bailey at the crease and firing with several other batsmen still to come in that could push the score along. Attempting to get the scoreboard moving again, Bailey barbequed his partner with the score on 144. In what was a first for us this season, we were getting a run of wickets so, with Scotty bowling brilliantly at one end, Dyl was brought back into the attack. Scotty is one of the most competitive beasts going around so it was no surprise to see him storming down the wicket with fist raised in triumph yelling “YEEEEEESSS…..COME ON!!” as he finally got his man. Bailey was plumb LBW for 71 with the score now 7/156 and a lead of only 36 with around 12 overs left to bowl. No matter what we tried after that, we couldn’t take the next wicket as they played and missed and french cut their way to another growing partnership. Thinking that taking the pace off might help, the ball was thrown to our season’s leading wicket taker in Tom. Unfortunately the batsmen were set and, despite having the main big hitting batsman back away leaving his stumps exposed to hit the ball on the offside, several times falling just short of the fielder, he was hit out of the attack after 2 overs. Spence came on and between he and Sammy managed to get a runout but the score had climbed to 200, a lead of 80. Some more lusty hitting saw them get to 214 before Scotty took an absolute blinder in slip off Spencer, full stretch to his left and a clean catch as his knuckles hit the turf. Varun cleaned up the last wicket on 219 leaving them a lead of 99.
With a tough target of 100 required off 35 overs, Tom and Ty resumed their innings looking very comfortable with a few runs off the first couple of overs settling their nerves. There were a few maidens that followed, however, both batsmen stuck to their guns as the fielding side became more and more vocal. Ty then unleashed a few beautiful shots that raced away for runs, particularly the 4 off his hip that was as clean a hit as we’d seen all day. Just as he was starting to go, Ty became another unlucky victim of the keeper who, again standing up at the stumps, took a sharp catch off a young pace bowler as Ty got a fair amount of bat on an attempted cut. The 38 run partnership was broken with the score 6/148 leaving us 72 runs to get at 3 per over. Dyl joined his cousin Tom in what was looming as the key pairing with only Ben and the tail to follow. Unfortunately Tom was the next to go after a brilliant knock that cemented his status as a more than capable middle order batsman to go with his wicket taking offspin suggesting that he will be a valuable all-rounder for Knox Gardens in seasons to come. Not bad for what I believe to be his first full season of senior cricket. Ben looked composed from the moment he arrived at the crease, putting on a partnership with Dylan and even hitting a boundary behind square, before he lost his wicket with us around 40 runs short of the target. The killer blow was landed by Yak Goodger with the last ball of his last available over as he had Dyl adjudged LBW. The game was lost an over later as the skipper chipped one straight to mid-on to leave us 38 runs short of the target.
It’s always difficult to take a loss in a Grand Final, particularly for the 2nd year in a row against the same team as last year. Looking back, we did everything right in the field with all bowlers bowling exceptionally well against an extremely strong and deep batting lineup. In hindsight, even the decision to bowl spin on both days was justified as the batsmen became more and more comfortable against pace and we had to try something different to try and take wickets knowing they had the batting depth and calibre to accelerate when needed. It would have been nice to be chasing 60-80 rather than 100 but we lost the game by 38 runs through a combination of (1) us losing the 3 key wickets of Sammy, Spencer and Ty who were set and firing and who I would suggest were extremely unlucky considering the way they went out, and (2) their wicketkeeper’s brilliance, stumping Scotty at the start and backing that up with sharp catches standing up to the stumps. The 3 young men mentioned were good enough to get edges where, against our bowling attack all season (including this game), others haven’t been able to. Spencer and Ty were so unlucky that the ball didn’t go over the keeper’s gloves as you would normally expect to see in this grade of cricket……and would have happened to us if the batsmen had been good enough to get a bat on it!! It really is a game of millimetres!
It was a great season for so many players in the 4s with some fresh (not necessarily young) faces in Justin, Deepak, Raj and Tom (youngest and cutest fresh face of them all) and the return of some serious talent in Crookie and Dylan and a cameo from Monty that will stand the team and club in good stead for years to come. We had an enjoyable season but how could you not enjoy yourself with a great bunch of blokes, plenty of runs and reason to celebrate with 7 tons from 4 blokes, including 3 maiden tons. I could go on but then I’ll be repeating myself in the Season Summary!!