By Nick Creely
AROUND THE GROUNDS
VICTORIAN PREMIER CRICKET
REVIEW – SEMI-FINAL
Lion-hearted Fitzroy Doncaster fast bowler Trent Lawford broke the hearts of Dandenong, ending their premiership defence in stunning, almost implausible fashion in the final over of a thriller at Camberwell Sports Ground.
Due to ground works, the Panthers were forced out of their home at Shepley Oval, but walked into the box seat with only a win or a draw seeing them advance through to a preliminary final.
Winning the toss and sending the Lions into bat, the Panthers took regular wickets throughout the innings, with James Nanopoulos (4/79), tweaker Akshat Buch (3/50) and quick Jakeb Thomas (2/46) all bowling superbly to have them 5/101.
But a late charge by Liam Banthorpe (31), Trent Lawford (26) and Nick Fletcher (36) boosted the Lions to 9/226, before skipper Ejaaz Alavi declared knowing all too well that his side needed 10 wickets to keep their premiership dreams alive.
It was a simply horror start to the run chase for the Panthers, with key men Tom Donnell and Brett Forsyth falling within the first two overs, and despite clearly looking to play out the draw from the early stages, another two scalps had the Panthers absolutely reeling at 4/31.
Forsyth’s astonishing season ended on 1297 runs at an average of 51.9, an incredible year for the champion opener.
With the Lions’ quicks looking menacing with ball in hand, Lincoln Edwards and James Nanopoulos went to work, riding plenty of pressure before playing with their usual panache, and the pair swiftly put on 98-runs before Jack Rudd (2/14) trapped Nanopoulos for 42. Ed Newman also fell victim to Rudd only moments later for a duck, and at 6/132, the game was quickly slipping away from the reigning champs.
But Edwards was defiant, playing an absolute gem of an innings to claw his side back into the contest, caressing an exquisite 109 before emerging quick Sam Elliott (2/55) snared his key wicket to bring the Panthers to 7/188.
Peter Cassidy (18 off 117 balls) was rock-solid as the Panthers desperately scrambled to take the game deep and play out a draw, essentially a win.
But enter the man of the moment, big Trent Lawford.
In a stunning final spell that ended the Panthers’ season in one foul swoop, Lawford snared the edge of Cassidy, but the defiant lower order brought the game to the final over, and was clear favourites to see out the final six balls and advance to a preliminary final.
But champions rise for the occasion, and with three balls to go, the Lions needed two wickets.
Trapping Jacques Augustin in front for 18 off 59 balls, the final wicket Jakeb Thomas strode to the wicket with the task at hand, but stunningly, Lawford got one straight enough to trap him in front, giving his side a magical win with just a ball to spare.
It caps off a brilliant title defence for the Panthers, who overcame a slow start to finish fourth as well as take out the inaugural Victorian Super Slam and Grand Slam
VICTORIAN SUB-DISTRICT – NORTH EAST
REVIEW – GRAND FINAL
An incredible grand final display from Noble Park star Issy Perera was not quite enough for the Parkers to claim the silverware against Plenty Valley at Pat Wright Oval on the weekend.
The Bats won the toss and elected to bat, with a sparkling 79 to skipper James Dickinson lifting them to a more than competitive 212 in 80 overs.
But it was the performance with the ball from Perera that was the highlight of the opening day, snaring 8/46 from 18 overs, turning in an astonishing display that virtually single handily got the Parkers into a position to potentially pounce on a memorable flag.
The pressure was on after a relatively positive start to the chase orchestrated by more runs to skipper Luke Wintle (46), who scored his eighth score above 40 in a row to cross over 800 runs for the season.
But from there, the Bats went to work, wearing down the Parkers to roll them for 158, with only tail ender Shehan Perera (27) showing some resistance late in the piece.
Star Bats all-rounder Ryan Pearson (3/19) was the pick of the bowlers to cap off a tremendous individual season.
MPCA – PROVINCIAL
Langwarrin has gone back-to-back in the Mornington Peninsula top flight after taking their run chase against Sorrento right to the final overs of the day in a classic match at Alexandra Park.
After winning the toss and batting, the Sharks racked up an impressive 9/220 off their 80 overs, with Leigh Poholke (65) and Jed Falck (51) doing well, while with the ball Matt Prosser (4/47) did some fine work, particularly through the middle.
The Kangaroos started superbly to their chase to compile 69 for the first wicket, courtesy of Prosser who was in fine form with 68, before a little wobble at the top had them 4/12.
But skipper Travis Campbell (49) and Mal Couuts (23) guided the Kangaroos home in the 77th over and with only a matter of minutes left to go in the match, to see their side to an incredible four-wicket win.
Former Tooradin champion Tom Hussey, while only contributing with five on the day, was instrumental all season in his first season at the club since departing the WGCA, scoring 426 runs at 28.4, as well as snaring 22 catches for the season.