Victoria Country go back-to-back

Champs: Victoria Country retain the championship shield. photographs supplied





THE Australian Country Cricket Championships came to a close in Canberra, as Victoria walked away as deserved champions once again.

When we last published, Victoria was 4-0, sitting on top of the table with only two games remaining, with the title seemingly in their hands.

Following those two games, although losing to Western Australia, enough was already done to seal the championship.

In Round 5, Victoria had the bye, thus receiving a well-deserved day off, before consecutive days of cricket to complete the tournament.

For Victoria’s Round 6 fixture, it was a top-of-the-table clash when it faced WA.

Captain Lee Stockdale, from Traralgon District Cricket Association club, Ex Students, was rested and Jordan Moran took the captaincy role for the day.

WA won the toss and elected to bowl, a decision that some teams were made to regret in the past.

Victoria’s Brayden Stepien and Cameron Williams put on a 57-run stand for the opening wicket, until the former was dismissed for a quick-fire 46 from 26, an innings that included nine boundaries.

Williams continued to knock them around, sticking around to see another three batting partners, until his innings was bought to an end via LBW for 62, when the score stood at 4/150.

Stratford’s Jack Rietschel made a steady 33 not out from 40 deliveries, while Sale’s Jack Wrigglesworth only made six runs during his short stint at the crease.

Victoria ended its 50-over allotment with a score of 8/240, a score that would need plenty of defending considering WA’s attack.

Victoria had WA on the ropes early at 2/20, as the tournament leaders put the pressure on.

Rietschel was the best of the local bowlers, taking the breakthrough wicket of Julian Crudeli for 59, via LBW.

WA’s fourth and fifth-wicket partnerships were practically enough to get the job done, as Victoria struggled to break the strong partnerships.

Rietschel grabbed another scalp, finishing with figures of 2/51 from his 10 overs, while Wrigglesworth was expensive from his 5.4 overs, going for 43 runs.

WA chased Victoria’s total with a little over two overs remaining, an innings that included three half-centuries.

While Victoria took a hit to its record, they were still one point ahead of WA and four points clear of Queensland in third, still untouchable.

With the championship sealed, the Victorians played one last game against Australian Capital Territory, closing out the championships with a gutsy win.

ACT won the toss and chose to bat, posting a decent total of 6/280 from its 50 overs.

Jack Sanson top-scored for the ACT with 77 from 95, including 10 boundaries, four other batsmen chipped in with an innings of 25 or more.

Stockdale, back in the squad, took 2/49 from his 10 overs – the best figures for Victoria.

Rietschel was unable to take a wicket yet only went for 34 from his 10 overs, while he also took a catch in the field off the bowling of Stockdale.

With the bat, Stepien was quick off the mark once again, racing to 34 from 15 before his dismissal.

With the score at 3/54, things weren’t looking so certain for Victoria, but a monster fourth-wicket partnership from Nathan Walsh and Jake Toohey put the odds back in favour of Victoria, as they scored 116 not out and 69 respectively.

After Toohey’s dismissal, the score stood at 4/205, but the win was still in doubt as the tail dropped easily.

The presence of Walsh helped Victoria, as he brought up his ton with the chase still alive.

Rietschel and Stockdale were welcomed to the crease for short stays, making two and 11 respectively.

The winning runs were hit in the final over with three balls remaining, Victoria ending the championships on the highest note possible.

Stockdale finished the championships with the second-most wickets for Victoria, ranking sixth overall for wickets taken with eight scalps, at an average of 16.25 runs per wicket.

Wrigglesworth was not too far behind, with seven wickets at an average of 16, while Rietschel finished with six wickets at an average of 26.67.

Cameron Wheeler took the most wickets for Victoria with 10, and was one of one two people to take a five-wicket haul throughout the tournament.

With the bat, Stockdale scored 79 runs with an average of 39.5, outdone by a few Victorian teammates. He was especially outdone by Walsh, who scored the most runs throughout the entire tournament, 340 to be exact – 20 more than the next best.

He was the only player to score two centuries, while averaging 85 runs per innings; to put into context how crazy that is, the next best average was 69.75, by ACT’s Sanson.

The Vics have now gone back-to-back at the, following their 2020 triumph.

Players will now return to their respective clubs to finish the seasons, chasing more glory in 2023.

Back-to-back: The Victoria Country side formally awarded with their medals.