By Chris Anderson
After a cracking day of cricket across the Yarra Valley, followers of the competition’s premier grade, DJ Strachan Shield have been left to wonder…can anyone challenge the Mount Evelyn freight train?
The answer might come with which of the other teams can pick up the pace over the closing four rounds of the season.
In a remarkable turn of fortunes, Seville now finds itself in third place on the ladder and in the thick of finals calculations with a comfortable victory over Healesville.
Seville had been slowly piecing things together before Christmas, but a heavy defeat at the hands of Mount Evelyn placed its season in the balance at the Christmas break.
Back-to-back wins post-season have seen them leap frog teams above them and given the team some huge confidence.
Batting first, the Blues started cautiously through openers Caleb Frankovic and Liam McGookin against some excellent bowling from the Healesville attack.
Although crawling to 0/18 off the first 10 overs, the stage had been set for the way the visitors would attack the game.
Leigh Aitkins accelerated the scoring, but his wicket just after the drinks break left the innings teetering at 3/57.
Healesville opening bowler Tom Dalley was rewarded with the opening two wickets, just reward for a patient effort up front.
Up and coming star Liam Kay joined Tom Page (43) at the wicket and the pair put together a decisive partnership.
Through Page’s strokeplay, complimented with Kay’s patience and some good running between the wickets, the pair patiently progressed the score via a well-made half-century partnership.
Kay’s eventual wicket caused a collapse of four wickets for six runs which threatened to derail the innings.
Dermott Fry (3/36) had the Bloods quickly back in the contest as the home side looked at a quick finish to the innings.
However, Seville was able to keep things moving forward, bat out their overs, and manage a tidy total of 8/155.
A score of this size sets up an intriguing finish.
Less than four an over can be more than manageable, but lack of partnerships can also make things extremely difficult.
Seville turned to some steady hands to start its bowling efforts, sensing a slowing of the pace could prove difficult to get away.
Opening with Marcus Smith and Liam Kay (2/14) proved a masterstroke for the visitors as the innings lacked impetus early, and with four early wickets the Bloods would limp to 4/39 at the drinks break.
Ash Hamer (37) did his best to kick-start the innings upon the resumption but it was as if the batsmen had left themselves with too much to do over the remainder of the innings.
Andy Kay (3/13) emerged from his son’s shadows to grab some of the spotlight as he and Mark Sandfort (2/17) wouldn’t let this golden opportunity slip.
Eventually the task was too great and Healesville were dismissed for a mediocre 88, handing Seville a crucial victory.
Wandin also claimed crucial ground and a fairly considerable purchase of second place on the ladder as they held on for a memorable victory against Warburton-Millgrove in a classic contest.
Wandin had surprised all with the quick adjustment to life in the fast lane after an impromptu elevation to DJ Strachan Shield earlier in the season seeing them score crucial points pre-Christmas.
A disappointing loss to Seville upon resumption put a dent in their progress, but the quick bounce back they were after came to fruition.
Wandin opened proceedings with the bat, and neither side could claim early ascendancy as the scoreboard would click over at a reasonable pace, but consistent wicket taking, particularly from the experienced hand of Cam Darwall (4/40) kept things in check.
The batting of Wandin’s experienced leadership has proved vital in their establishment in the top flight, and the efforts of Tim Thorne (42) and Bryce Edwards (54) would again prove vital in the Bulldog’s fortunes with the bat.
When the innings needed some grunt and skilful guidance, they provided it with an excellent 83-run partnership.
Despite some late wicket taking from Stuart Thompson (3/27), Wandin was able to keep the scoreboard accumulating to see out its allotted overs, and post a more than competitive 7/182.
It was a well-paced innings from start to finish with contributions right through.
Wandin’s bowling wasn’t as reliable as its batting, so the challenge is still ahead for the Bulldogs on a notoriously-fast Wandin North Oval.
The Burras’ innings started in similar fashion to their opponents.
Jamie Oakley (2/25) kept things in check for the home side to see the visitors 3/39 inside the first 10 overs.
Tyson Walker’s gritty efforts at the top of the innings would be well complimented by the measured experience of Ben Lever, and the innings started to take shape with some promise for the Burras.
The pair put on a timely 66-run partnership to give Warburton-Millgrove a real sense of hope.
The fall of Walker and Lever in quick succession left the Burras a little short with the score left teetering at 5/111.
As they have done with great success, Wandin turned to slow bowling maestro Andy Walker (3/41) to try and apply the brakes to the innings.
With the required run rate starting to balloon, some lusty blows from the Burras’ lower order pushed the game towards a classic conclusion.
Regular wickets continued to dent the Burras’ progress.
With 12 runs to get off the final over and just one wicket in hand, a brilliant run-out from Rick Painter was the clincher for the home side.
It held on for a momentous eight-run victory with just three balls to spare.
In the final game of the round, Mount Evelyn again showed its considerable strength.
Yarra Junction opted to put some scoreboard pressure on the home side with the decision to bat in great conditions.
Some loose bowling accompanied by some brisk strokeplay, particularly from captain Kevin Bomford (30) put the Eagles at 0/41 after 10 overs.
Sensing the need to change fortunes, Kane Jones injected himself and Gareth Fraser into the action and this effectively ended the contest.
Jones and Fraser collected five wickets each in a brilliant display of skilful bowling and planning.
Their efforts reduced the Eagles from a promising 0/43 to being dismissed for 67 runs.
Despite Terry Ottrey snaring two late wickets with the finish line in sight, the Mounters strolled to an eight-wicket victory inside 20 overs.
Jon Williams continued his promising season with a well-compiled 40 not out.
DJ STRACHAN SHIELD
Seville 8/155 (T. Page 43, L. Aitkens 21, D. Fry 3/36, A. Hamer 2/21, T. Dalley 2/29) d Healesville 10/88 (A. Hamer 37, B. Wallace 19, A. Kay 3/13, L. Kay 2/14, M. Sandfort 2/17)
Mount Evelyn 2/70 (J. Williams 40*, T. Ottrey 2/7) d Yarra Junction 10/67 (K. Bomford 30, G. Fraser 5/15, K. Jones 5/16)
Wandin 7/182 (B. Edwards 54, T. Thorne 42, C. Darwall 4/40, S. Thompson 3/27) d Warburton-Millgrove 10/174 (B. Lever 31, T. Walker 26, A. Walker 3/41, J. Oakley 2/25)
LADDER: Mount Evelyn 60.0, Wandin 42.0, Seville 30.0, Yarra Junction 30.0, Warburton-Millgrove 30.0, Healesville 24.0
RA FINGER TROPHY
Gruyere District 3/256 (J. Carroll 102*, A. Waixel 95, Z. Fawdry 2/42) d Wandin 10/81 (L. Sinnott 33, J. Hamilton 11, R. Prouse 7/31, A. Vassallo 2/32)
Seville 7/179 (D. Gale 44, C. Laycock 32*, T. Dwyer 30, A. Smith 22, D. Wallace 21*, A. Dunn 3/18, D. Sharman 1/13) d Woori Yallock 10/90 (C. Ferguson 29, D. Sharman 18, D. Wallace 3/17, C. Laycock 2/12, M. Wynd 1/2)
Mount Evelyn 10/146 (D. Fraser 50, A. Whiting 14, D. Sharp 4/49, D. Whelan 2/13) d Coldstream 6/129 (D. Oliffe 24, D. Whelan 20, A. Steele 29, P. Miutescu 2/9)
Yarra Junction 8/169 (C. Smith 53*, R. Turner 25, S. North 3/23, T. Carvill 2/21) d Healesville 7/91 (A. Jacubowicz 27, J. Cooper 17*, M. Richards 3/25)
LADDER: Seville 54.0, Woori Yallock 48.0, Gruyere District 42.0, Mount Evelyn 39.0, Coldstream 24.0, Yarra Junction 24.0, Wandin 24.0, Healesville 9.0
Launching Place d Woori Yallock (forfeit)
Seville 10/147 (A. Kent 32, D. Troyahn 26, D. DiPietro 22, S. Beath 3/39, R. Cowan 2/10, J. Woods 2/20, J. Hamilton 2/29) d Yarra Glen 10/44 (J. Foster 4/11, J. Mullins 3/8, D. Troyahn 2/20)
Hoddles Creek 8/139 (S. Robertson 67, S. Middleton 2/3, M. Arnold 2/32) d Warburton/Millgrove 9/137 (M. Walker 41, D. Cerveri 20, B. Sinclair 4/31, S. Robertson 2/26)
Marysville d Wandin (forfeit)
LADDER: Seville 66.0, Marysville 48.0, Yarra Glen 45.0, Wandin 42.0, Hoddles Creek 36.0, Warburton-Millgrove 36.0, Launching Place 33.0, Woori Yallock 12.0