By Nick Creely
Dandenong District Cricket Association powerhouses Springvale South and Buckley Ridges will once again do battle for some silverware after advancing through from the Twenty20 semi-finals on Tuesday evening.
The Bloods and Bucks – who also played off in a classic Turf 1 grand final last season – will now do battle on Tuesday 25 February at Shepley Oval, the home of the Dandenong Cricket Club in Victorian Premier Cricket.
In two tense, and low scoring affairs, both sides’ bowling attacks were superb away from home.
Down at Arch Brown Reserve, Springvale South won the toss and elected to bat against the genuine Premier Cricket-quality attack of Berwick, featuring names such as James Wilcock, Brendan Rose, Ruwantha Kellepotha, Isaiah Jassal, marquee Blade Baxter and veteran Jarrod Goodes.
But the Bloods had their own star power at the top, with Dandenong great and reigning Ryder Medal winner Brett Forsyth partnering at the top with Bloods run-machine and overseas pro Ateeq Javid.
The pair combined for a typically elegant 107-run stand to kick off the match, with Javid crossing past his eighth score of 50 and above for the season with an assured 58 off 51 balls, while Forsyth fell one shy of a half-century, crunching five fours and a six in his vital hand.
But the Bears were never going to just allow the Bloods to steal the game away, fighting back brilliantly – largely through the efforts of impressive tweaker Isaiah Jassal (3/16) – who snared the scalps of Forsyth, Tim Ford and Ryan Quirk to help bring the final total down to 5/133.
Fellow spinner Ruwantha Kellepotha (1/22) also kept things tidy in a strong four-over spell, while Goodes (1/24) was typically important through the middle.
It was a horror start to the chase with gun all-rounder Blade Baxter run out in the first over, and the Bloods simply didn’t relent, with the slower bowlers doing some fine work to cut off boundaries and force the home side into errant strokes.
In the midst of a superb season, spinner Jarryd Straker (2/18) was once again hard to get away, Akshay Ballal (2/21) delivered a timely spell, while seamer Tim Ford (3/29) continued some strong form with three vital scalps.
Despite a late charge from Josh Holden (20), the Bloods ultimately rolled the home side for 107, with five balls to spare to set up the grand final berth.
It was a somewhat similar tale down at Strathaird Reserve with Narre South playing host to Buckley Ridges.
On an up-and-down wicket, the Bucks won the toss and elected to bat.
But Tim Phillips provided arguably the biggest scalp in the association, with skipper David White chopping on from the third ball of the match and giving the Lions an early boost.
Daniel Watson (24) and Susa Pradeep (20) helped rebuild the innings nicely, but some wickets – combined with some smart bowling from the Lions – helped keep the visitors to 6/124 off its 20 overs, with Jerome Jones (25) and Greg Todd (26 not out) also providing some much-needed runs late after the visitors were at one point 5/78.
But it was the ‘DJ’ Watson show with the ball, with the star all-rounder dismantling the Lions’ top order, including key men Jonty Jenner, marquee Jayde Herrick and Morteza Ali, with the home side slumping to 5/14, and eventually 6/27 when spinner Wes Nicholas snared Joe Thomas.
Despite the game seemingly out of reach, Jawed Hussaini (35) and Matthew Brooks (39) combined beautifully to slam on 61 runs and take it to the final over, before another crucial spell from Watson saw the home side bundled out for 108.
Watson finished with 5/25 off 3.5 overs, and also ran out Hussaini late, to be the star of the show, with the DDCA champion overcoming injury earlier this season to be in menacing form as finals are near.
It sets up a mouth-watering grand final between the two clubs, with the Bucks shooting for its eight Twenty20 title in just 13 tournaments, while the Bloods will be hoping to secure its third title.