CATS win thriller to book GF berth


JUST like life, the semi-finals of the Latrobe Valley and District Cricket League proved to be cruel to some yet so kind to others.
Of the four games across the two divisions, one stood out for its grandstand finish.
CATS won through to the grand final after a nerve-killing four run win in Premier A.
The match against Morwell came down to the very last over of the day, where it became ecstasy for one and agony for the other.
Unfortunately somebody had to lose, and in the finish, it was a run-out with three balls to spare that sealed the Tigers fate.
More on that later, for now, let’s set the scene for what may well go down as one of the most epic finals ever played in Gippsland cricket.
CATS skipper Ben Julin called correctly at the coin toss and elected to bat first at Keegan Street Reserve.
Tinashe Panyangara wasted no time getting his innings underway, and raced to a half century off just 38 balls.
Morwell wrestled the ascendancy back, and had CATS precariously placed at 3/71.
Nathan Harrup and Josh Keyhoe then built a partnership of 58 for the fourth wicket, before
Keyhoe was dismissed for a busy 33 off 43 balls.
Younger brother Dylan chipped in with a vital 30 off 34 ball batting at number eight, as Harrup
batted with the rest of the lower order to see himself to a score of 47 and CATS to 8/221 from their allotted overs.
Wickets were shared in the Morwell camp. Sam Mooney took 3/30 and Brendan Brincat and Mark Cukier each picked up two.
The Tigers started shakily in reply, slipping to 3/36, but the experienced head of Cukier at the
top of the order proved a calming influence, as he combined with Blake Mills to drag Morwell
out of trouble.
The pair put on 100 for the fourth wicket. Cukier was the first to go, making 55, and Mills followed against the run of play some time later for a well-made 61.
At this stage Morwell was 5/165, however Sam Hoch was able to provide CATS with an opening by taking the key wicket of Brincat and then Rob Semmler to leave the Tigers 7/185 and the contest on a knife’s edge.
Who would you rather be?
CATS used a variety of bowlers to deliver chop-out overs in the lead-up to bringing opening quicks Panyangara and Cal Stewart back on for the last six to try and blast out the tail.
CATS recruited these players to win finals and that is exactly what they did as the equation became five to win off the last two overs with three wickets in hand.
Stewart delivered the penultimate over, and with a game plan consisting of ‘nose or toes’, went for the latter. Stewart nailed six yorkers and took two wickets, one bowled and one leg before, to close with a double wicket maiden.
The equation: five off six with one wicket in hand. Should CATS have given a single to the new batsman to keep him on strike for the last over?
Keeping in mind a tie would see Morwell through to the grand final as the higher ranked team.
All was to be revealed in a few balls time.
With the white four piece in the hands of Panyangara, the former Zimbabwean Test player delivered three dot balls to start.
Five off three.
The Morwell batsmen set off for a run on the fourth ball, and turned to come back for the second, but Josh Keyhoe, with ice in his veins, steadied in the outfield and delivered a perfect bounce throw into Panyangara who took the stumps to see the run-out completed and Morwell bowled out for 217.
Four runs was the difference. Four measly runs.
And people say cricket is boring.
CHURCHILL did as most people expected in the other Premier A semi-final.
The Cobras had too much fire power for Raiders, and won by six wickets at Ted Summerton Reserve.
Raiders batted first after winning the toss, and closed at 9/185.
A 70-run partnership for the second wicket between Mick Higgins and Liam Maynard
highlighted the innings, but no other pair was able to make much of an impression.
After Maynard left for 54 the score was 4/124, which became 8/158 some time later.
Madura Perera made 32 and Chris Stanlake 27 off 24 balls.
Ric Velardi led the bowling effort for Churchill, nabbing 4/29, while fellow spinner Matt Harvey
grabbed 2/31.
The Cobras were never really in a great deal of trouble in reply, despite losing a few wickets.
Brendan Mason got a good look at the wicket he will be batting on this week, and ended up scoring 86 from 89 balls.
Mason hit 11 fours in his knock, which included some extraordinarily timed baseball-style shots over mid-wicket off the bowling of Perera.
Those who know cricket will know the distinct ‘cracking’ sound the ball makes when it has been perfectly timed off the bat, almost like a shotgun.
You could tell from this sound how well Mason was hitting them toward the end.
John Keighran provided a good foil, making 27 not out from 31 balls as Churchill passed the required total in the 39th over.
TRAFALGAR won a low scoring semi-final against Centrals in A Grade.
The Lions made three changes to the team that played Trafalgar the week prior, while the Ships took an unchanged line-up into the match.
Trafalgar elected to bowl first at Burrage Reserve, Newborough, sticking to a formula that had served them well in matches against Centrals during the regular season.
Jackson Noonan struck in his first over, and from there all bowlers were able to hit good areas to create chances.
A diving catch down the leg side from wicket-keeper Col Parnall gave the Ships even more of a spark, as Centrals collapsed to be all out for 104 inside 40 overs.
Noonan took 3/34 while Aiden George added to his championship points with 4/19.
The Trafalgar ship was in a fierce storm early as it set about chasing the runs, falling to 2/15.
The hull needed urgent repairing to keep it afloat when Rhys Holdsworth was dismissed for a golden duck after getting an inside edge onto his pad and seeing the ball balloon to first slip.
If there is one thing Holdsworth doesn’t do it is make ducks, let alone first ballers. Before last
Saturday he had only been dismissed without troubling the scorers twice in 164 A Grade games for Trafalgar.
Funny things really do happen in finals.
As he trudged off into the Burrage change-rooms and past those waiting to bat, Holdsworth
said “over to you blokes now”.
Having been sledged all season for having a long tail, if ever there was a time for the Ships to prove a point it was now.
Fortunately for Trafalgar, Aydan Connolly and Riley White were up to the task, and put on a vital 45 for the fourth wicket.
Birthday boy Connolly pressed on and got to 36 and took the team total to 4/93.
Connolly’s dismissal triggered a few brain freezes as Trafalgar tried to get the game over and done with, only to lose 3/6.
Somewhat fittingly, the captain of the entire ship in club president Daniel Heathcote made sure of the result with a trademark flick reminiscent of VVS Laxman to see Trafalgar into the grand final.
Marc Fenech took 3/20 for Centrals and Lachlan Patterson 2/13.
MOE was too strong for Traralgon West.
The Lions won by eight wickets at Yinnar Turf, a ground they will be playing on in the grand final.
The Eagles won the toss and chose to bat in what was their first A Grade finals match in close to 20 years.
Traralgon West looked primed to put up a decent total when they got to 1/89, however, it became a case of one wicket becoming multiple wickets.
Sean Spiteri got the breakthrough the Lions were after, and from there the Eagles fell from 2/89 to 6/99.
Spiteri and Robert Blunt tore through the middle and lower order, with the former taking three of the top six and the latter busting the game open with four.
Blunt was rewarded for consistency, with his first wicket coming halfway through his 10 over spell, followed by another seven balls later and two more within three balls of each other in his last over.
The wickets weren’t cheap one-day poles hit to fielders in the deep either – three were bowled and one was caught behind.
Traralgon West took their innings to the last over and ended on 174.
Rami Zafar top scored on 49, with his innings featuring two sixes, and Brenton Howe ended
not out on 48.
Blunt took 4/22 and Spiteri 3/20.
Noah Kane then did his job with the bat, making 46, which included a maximum, in a partnership of 74 with Andrew Philip.
Philip scored 84 not out and Spiteri completed a good all-round game with an unbeaten 29 to see the Lions past the finishing post with seven-and-a-half overs to spare.