Finals race reaches its crescendo

Saturday’s Pink Ladies Day at Pakenham, held to raise breast cancer awareness and funds for the McGrath Foundation, meant the world to breast cancer survivors Theresa Stevens, guest speaker Sarah Powell, and Lisa Kidd. On field, the Lions delighted their home crowd with a dominant opening day’s play against Merinda Park. 177481 Pictures: ROB CAREW

By Russell Bennett

REVIEW – ROUND 13 (Day one)
It all comes down to this – three days of home-and-away cricket left to decide the makeup of the Premier division finals.
And it’s a dream result for the competition, with so much still to play for.
Cardinia is currently clinging to the fourth and last spot in the finals race, sitting ahead of Upper Beaconsfield by just two competition points.
Tooradin and Pakenham, meanwhile, are in a dogfight of their own to determine just who gets a home final.
But the Maroons and Bulls both have serious battles on their hands this week against Clyde and Tooradin respectively.
Bathiya Perera’s side batted first and were dismissed for 186 in the 65th over with Scott Pitcher top-scoring with a determined 51 from the lower-order. Veteran Cougars seamer Shane White, meanwhile, claimed 5/35 from his 13.2 overs – drawing plenty of praise from skipper John Simpson.
“Shane just seems to keep going every week,” he said.
“At 45 years of age he seems as fit as ever and is looking at close to 30 wickets by the end of the year.
“You know you are going to get 15 to 20 overs out of him every week.
“He still swings the ball both ways and I think at times his lack of pace helps because the batsman have to make all the running. All the boys at the club love having him around and it seems like he has been there a lot more than two years.”
Clyde finished the opening day’s play on 1/37 from 12 overs with Glen Tuckwell and Gavin Britt the not-out batsmen.
“(We’ve got) 150 to get next week and hopefully finish off the year with two wins and build some momentum for next year,” Simpson said.
“Having had a season in Premier now I think the guys know what they need to do and where they need to improve and the consistency required to take the next step and compete against the better teams.”
Meanwhile at Cardinia long-time Gulls stars and current co-captains Aaron Avery and Cal O’Hare dug their side out of one hell of a hole against their local rivals.
Tooradin at one stage slid to 4/29 and then 5/49 before Avery (64) and an injury-hampered O’Hare (74) went to work – playing key roles, along with an invaluable 20 from Dylan Sutton – to drag their side towards the 200-mark (198).
Following the first day’s play, Seagulls champion Tom Hussey spoke about just how important Avery, O’Hare, and Sutton were to their side’s cause.
“For Azz it was good for him to get amongst the runs,” Hussey said.
“It’s been a little bit difficult for him at times – he tends to sometimes be the victim of circumstance where he has to come in and throw the bat or play an unnatural style of game.
“In so many of the shorter-format games he’s coming in to try and score straight away and I think it was good for him on the weekend with our backs against the wall because that’s when he does his best work.
“He had the time to get in and he was fighting for his wicket, and when he got that bad ball he still put it away. It was really good to see.”
In regards to O’Hare, Hussey said he was struggling so badly with a back injury prior to play that he couldn’t touch his toes.
He therefore shuffled a little lower down the batting order.
“He had a heap of work done (to his back) in the morning but it just didn’t seem to get any better, so he put himself down the order and probably for the first 20 or 30 balls before the tea break let’s say there was very little backswing and he was just hanging around with Azz trying to pick off a few singles,” Hussey said.
“That was going to be the plan while Azz was there, and then he started to limber up after that and he played a really good hand. He was very patient and worked really good ones, and then – as he can do – he hit a couple of massive sixes. While his and Azz’s partnership was awesome, so was the partnership between him and Sutts (Sutton).”
The Bulls will resume this week at 1/10, with the Gulls having already claimed the all-important wicket of skipper Alex Nooy for a duck.
Elsewhere, Pakenham – all decked out in special pink and white shirts to mark their Pink Ladies Day – is in an imposing position against Merinda Park on the front ground at Toomuc Reserve.
After rolling through the Cobras for 129 inside 57 overs with Tom Tyrrell and Dom Paynter claiming three wickets apiece, the Lions will resume this week on 1/84.
Kooweerup is in a similarly dominant position at home against Emerald. After Chris Bright (77), Chris O’Hara (39) and Ben Spicer (39) helped the home side to 224, the Demons stormed through the Bombers’ top order to have them 4/53 heading into their third last day in Premier for some time.

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