By Nick Creely
The win couldn’t have come at a better time for Narre South.
Under some pressure from a late charge at fourth spot from both Heinz Southern Districts and Hallam Kalora Park, the Lions needed to find some touch and respond after three losses on the trot.
And they did, and in the process moving one step further to cementing its spot in the Dandenong District Cricket Association Turf 1 finals.
Taking on St Mary’s at Carroll Reserve, the home side won the toss and elected to bat, and after a bright start with the blade it seemed that the Lions would have a chance on its hands.
That was until Morteza Ali stepped in with a decisive spell of bowling, continuing on his golden season in the DDCA’s top grade.
Snaring 4/22 off his eight overs – taking his tally of wickets up to 20 for the season – Ali rattled through the middle order after snaring opener Wendyl Pires (31), with the home side rolling over for just 103 in just under 36 overs.
Tim Phillips (2/26) and Michael Ritchie (2/10) were also excellent for the Lions with the ball, while skipper Scott Phillips kept things tight with 1/18 off six overs.
The Lions made little error in running down the target, with Ali (22) and Rumesh Rangana (57) getting off to a strong start, with the visitors ultimately finding the runs with eight wickets still left in the shed.
Just down the road at Park Oval, Buckley Ridges also found some much-needed form as it gears up for its premiership defence.
Coming off two losses in a row, the Bucks were greeted by the formidable Springvale South, a side seething after a shock loss to St Mary’s last round at home.
But it was the Bucks that just had all the answers.
After the Bloods elected to have a bat first, openers Nathan King (44 off 38) and Ateeq Javid (20) got off to a brisk start notching up 66 for the first wicket.
With a monster score potentially looming, some class from Adrian Neill (2/12) and Greg Todd (2/13) got the home side back on track, and suddenly the Bloods were 4/74.
It was then tweaker Wes Nicholas’ (4/26) time to shine, producing his best figures since the grand final against the Bloods last season, rummaging through the middle and lower orders to roll the visitors for 166, with Tim Ford (36 not out) once again providing a vital hand with the bat.
Ford carried on the momentum by removing Susa Pradeep early in the chase, but skipper David White (53) once again flayed them everywhere, and combining with Jayson Hobbs (58) for a match-defining 88-run stand, took the game away from the Bloods.
Jerome Jones (31 off 24 balls) put the rubber stamp on the contest with a late cameo as the Bucks ran away winners by five wickets and with eight overs still to play with.
Heinz Southern Districts, meanwhile, kept its faint finals hopes alive with a dominant win against North Dandenong in a high-scoring affair at Lois Twohig Reserve.
The Maroons did some fine work with the bat, with Clayton McCartney (75) keeping his brilliant form going by carrying the first dig as the home side rattled along to 6/225 off its 40 overs.
With runs coming quite easily for the home side, Chandima Abeykoon’s 2/28 off eight overs proved vital in keeping the run rate under six per over.
The Maroons were looking the goods for the win when Jamie Selvaraj’s (2/46) double strike saw the Cobras 3/44, but skipper Kaushalya Weeraratne and opener Udara Hettige had other ideas.
In a devastating, match-winning partnership of 133 runs, the pair completely took the game away to help move the Cobras within nine points of fourth spot.
Weeraratne – who crunched 89 in the win – ended a rare run of starts for the club. In 10 innings prior to Saturday, the champion all-rounder had scored seven scores between 30 and 49, and had yet to score a fifty for the season despite scoring well in excess of 300 runs.
Hettige was also outstanding, carrying the bat to finish unbeaten on 73, a knock featuring five fours and two sixes.
In the final game of the Turf 1 round, Berwick eased past Hallam Kalora Park at Frawley Road.
Off the back of a stellar spell from quick James Wilcock (3/3 off eight overs), the Hawks were held to 8/115 off 40 overs, with Ciaron Connolly’s 35 helping the home side to something to bowl at.
The Bears took just 27.5 overs to get the job done, with champ and skipper Matt Chasemore (41) continuing to find plenty of runs, while all-rounder Ruwantha Kellepotha struck an unbeaten 31.
Chasemore’s side is firming towards the minor premiership, continuing an absolute stellar run of form heading into finals.
Round 13 – the second last matches before finals – once again loom as key.
Heinz Southern Districts will be hoping to keep pace when it hosts St Mary’s at home, Narre South will want to bank a win against Buckley Ridges, North Dandenong travel out to Berwick, while Springvale South and Hallam Kalora Park go to battle at Alex Nelson Reserve.