Last day decides first final





PREMIER A is like Ashes cricket – there’s no such thing as a dead-rubber.

The penultimate day of the regular season in the Latrobe Valley District Cricket League’s top-flight competition carried with it no shortage of subplots.

While finals positions look all but set in stone, there is likely to still be some shuffling of positions inside the top four.

With this in mind, semi-final match-ups won’t be known until the completion of the round, the same completion that will determine just which side is relegation for next season.

WHO wants the minor premiership?

Morwell and Churchill are locked in a battle for top-spot at Keegan Street.

The Cobras took the opportunity to bat first after winning the toss, and scratched out a score of 180.

Most of the Churchill lower order batted around John Keighran, who top-scored with 82 from 128 balls coming in at five.

Before that, opener Ben Kearns negotiated some tricky periods, making 43, along with Steve Warr, who dented the Tigers efforts, making 23 off 89 balls.

Warr and Keighran combined for a 53-run partnership for the fourth wicket, before the dismissal of Warr meant Keighran needed to go at it alone.

He did so, with two of his three sixes coming at a time Churchill needed to break the shackles.

The Cobras were in a steady position at 3/109, but Morwell was able to get back into the contest by striking at semi-regular intervals, and had the visitors 7/149 by the 60th over.

Spin played a key part in the Tigers’ turnaround – the last seven wickets to fall were taken by slow bowlers Greg Harvey and Mark Cukier.

Harvey nabbed 4/54 off 23 overs, and Cukier 3/25 off 17.2.

Their efforts backed-up the work of seamer Brendan Brincat, who took two of the first three wickets to fall.

Brincat finished with very tidy figures of 2/27 off 13 with five maidens.

The home side had 16 overs to negotiate before stumps, and got through virtually unscathed, losing just one wicket.

Morwell will resume Day 2 at 1/28, needing a further 153 to win.

A win will not only get the Tigers the minor premiership, but also a number of advantages that go with it.

Perhaps most crucially is the first choice of venue for the semi-final.

Morwell already has the LVDCL Senior Club Championship sewn up, and might just be out to prove why they are deserving of that title over the next few weeks.

HAVE Latrobe got another block-a-thon in them?

Or are they going to go for the win?

The Sharks need a further 213 runs against CATS in order to do so.

A win will be enough to see Latrobe avoid relegation – although they do have the option of batting out for a draw, which will lead to the same result, as they currently have a one-point lead over CATS on the ladder.

CATS meanwhile really only has one option – to go for a first innings win to stay in Prem A.

A first innings win will take them to 34 points, ensuring they will finish the regular season no higher than fifth.

Mathematically, there is a still a very remote (impossible really) chance CATS can play finals if it wins outright.

However, for that to happen, they would not only need to take 19 wickets in a day, but rely on Moe defeating Raiders.

Given Raiders are 37 runs away from first innings points with nine wickets in hand, you can all but put a red line through the Lions prevailing.

As it so played out, Latrobe elected to bowl first at John Black Oval.

While on paper the decision backfired, (the home side declared with 250 on the board) it probably signalled the Sharks’ intentions that they were playing for a draw right from the start.

By bowling first, they immediately took time away that CATS had to knock them over.

Ironically, this game of cat (pun intended) and mouse saw CATS make their declaration in the 70th over.

Cal Stewart put the foot down, scoring 97 off 100 balls, with eight fours and four bombs thrown in for good measure.

Stewart combined with Dylan Keyhoe, putting on 101 for the sixth wicket.

Keyhoe made 44 off 61 balls, sending one of those balls over the fence, and was the last man dismissed when his older brother Josh called the troops in.

The senior Keyhoe opened the batting with Jamie Cochrane, and the pair put on 53 in the first 15 overs.

Cochrane scored 42 and Keyhoe 27. Both innings’ featured maximums, and the partnership dealt mainly in boundaries; 36 of the 53 runs did not require the pair to get up and down the wicket.

The intent to score relatively quickly meant there was plenty of wicket-taking opportunities for Latrobe.

Veteran Anthony Bloomfield added another ball mount to the mantelpiece, taking 5/56 off 19 overs. Seeing was believing for the Sharks legend, who may well have thought his days of taking A Grade five-fas and bowling close to 20 overs in a day were gone.

Skipper Benn Zomer was also productive, taking 4/50 off 19.3 overs, which included half-a-dozen maidens.

Latrobe had 15 overs to get through before stumps, and closed at 1/37.

With the stage set heading into Day 2, Latrobe looks to be the team that has more decisions to make.

While chasing just over 200 in 85 overs with nine wickets in hand sounds straightforward, the Sharks may need to adapt on the fly depending on how the first session goes.

If they can get to the main break with minimum damage in the wickets column, a path to victory might be set.

If things go south however, they do have the option of blocking out for a draw. The Sharks have a number of players capable of dead-batting for long periods like Steven Freshwater, Anu Meenakshi and Jamie Coltman.

A draw keeps them in Prem A, so then it becomes a question of ‘what does Latrobe see as more important?’ Risk losing the game trying to end the season with a win, or doing whatever it takes to stay in Prem A, even if it means blocking for two sessions?

If the answer is staying in Prem A, Latrobe could achieve a ‘winning draw’.

Zomer will need to weigh up a number of hypotheticals in the lead-up, but above all else, could just have one message to the top order:

‘No cover drives before lunch boys’.

ANOTHER hour might be all that’s needed for Raiders.

The team from Yinnar is 1/86 chasing 123 against Moe at Ted Summerton Reserve. The six points look a mere formality.

The Lions decided to bat first on Saturday, but were undone by Madura Perera, who bowled very accurately and took 7/33.

Perera started off by dismissing two of Moe’s top four, and then took the last five wickets to fall.

Mick Higgins and Ben Burrows backed-up the pace-ace superbly, taking two catches each off his bowling.

A rescue-effort from Andrew Philip got the Lions to 4/92, but they lost 5/31 after his dismissal.

Philip made a fighting 48, and Callum Grant dug in for a patient 24.

Bean-pole quick Harry McColl set a positive tone for Raiders, taking the first two wickets of the innings, both unassisted, to end with figures of 2/26.

Moe was dismissed in not much more than 50 overs, and with time on their side, Raiders set about pacing themselves to eat away at the required total.

Youngster Burrows spent some quality time out in the middle, seeing off 115 rocks for 25, while at the other end of the age-scale, Chris Stanlake got himself a half-century.

Stanlake was the only wicket to fall in the 37 overs Raiders had before stumps.

Needing only a further 37 to win, the visitors can dictate pretty much all of Day 2.

Raiders should win on first innings inside the first 20 overs, and from there, captain Liam Maynard might look to get some batting practice in.

Raiders can’t finish any higher than third, and as both teams are bound for finals, players could be shaking hands at afternoon tea.

That decision however, rests entirely with Maynard.