By Nick Creely
Hear those Lions roar.
In order to stave off a late charge to snatch away fourth position on the eve of Dandenong District Turf 1 finals, Narre South delivered its most dominant – and significant – performance of the season, and at exactly the right time.
After a blistering start to the season for the promoted Turf 2 premiers, the Lions have battled form since Christmas, struggling to put together its best cricket.
But the tide has slowly turned in recent weeks, and this performance against the usually ominous Buckley Ridges is certainly a sign of what Scott Phillips and his hungry band of Lions are capable of when they enter a crunch final in a few weeks’ time against the very same opposition.
The nature of the way the Lions were able to dismantle the Bucks at home on Saturday was as impressive as it was vitally important.
After day one was washed out due to rain, the Bucks won the toss and elected to bat on a Strathaird Reserve deck that’s been tough to bat on this season; the visitors could never have envisioned things could have gone so wrong so quickly.
In a scintillating new-ball spell, Tim Phillips (2/8) rattled through the top-order, removing the dangerous Daniel Watson early before snaring the most important scalp in the association – master blaster David White for just 14.
Interestingly, Phillips has been one bowler who’s been able to get the better of the masterful Buckley skipper, removing him three times already this season for scores of 0, 0 and 14 in four matches against the club.
Skipper Scott Phillips (1/27) was also able to snag an early wicket, trapping Susa Pradeep in front for a duck, leaving the visitors reeling at 3/21, and eventually 5/23 when a superb over from seamer Joel Zietsman (3/9) saw the usually destructive middle order back in the sheds.
Buckley’s trouble didn’t simply relinquish, and in fact the Bucks were at one stage looking likely to be shot out for under 50, before a vital hand from Matt Goodwright (28) at the end lifted them to 90.
Gun all-rounder Morteza Ali (2/23) was another to play an important role for the home side.
The Lions seamlessly – despite a strong spell from towering quick Adrian Neill (2/25) – chased down the target with 16 overs to spare, with a pair of strong contributions getting the home side across the line.
Down at Arch Brown Reserve, Berwick continued its snarling form ahead of the finals, crushing North Dandenong, who as a result of the loss will be relegated from Turf 1 at the end of the season.
The ladder-leading Bears were sent in by the Maroons, where skipper Matthew Chasemore (98) continued his run-soaked season, combining with Josh Holden for a 156-run stand that saw the home side rack up 2/199 off its 40 overs.
Any chance of the Maroons mounting a challenging was quickly snuffed out by the Bears, who rummaged through the top order to roll the visitors for a meek 53.
Star quick James Wilcock (2/9) was once again prominent, picking up two early scalps to get things started for his side, leggie Ruwantha Kellepotha (3/21) just continues to find key wickets, while Jarrod Goodes (4/9) was simply too good for the Maroons to continue his strong season.
Springvale South, meanwhile, locked away a top-two spot after a thrilling victory against Hallam Kalora Park at home.’
The Bloods didn’t have it their own way during its finals-like win against a gritty Hawks unit, being sent in to bat before finding themselves 4/46 and with some key guns – including Ateeq Javid, Nathan King and Ryan Quirk back in the sheds.
But the Bloods’ impressive depth was on show, with the impressive Brayden Sharp (42), Liam Hamilton (20) and Tim Ford (24) playing super hands in the late order to guide the home side to a competitive 9/159.
Will Whyte (3/24) bowled a terrific spell – particularly with the new-ball – for the Hawks, spinner Sachith Jayasingha (2/6) proved difficult to get away, while Chris Pereira’s (3/39) outstanding form with the ball continued.
The Hawks were rocked by early wickets, leaving them 4/32, before a rescue mission from Ciaron Connolly (47) and Kevin Kean (34) got the visitors back on track.
But the damage was well and truly done for the Hawks, with youngster Sam Wetering (4/34) and the remarkably consistent Jarryd Straker (3/21) combining beautifully to help dismiss the visitors for 149 in the 38th over.
In the final game of the round, Heinz Southern District’s impressive late season form continued with a comfortable win against St Mary’s at Reedy Reserve.
The Saints battled hard with the bat after being sent in by the Cobras, scratching its way to 5/156 after strong hands from skipper Rob Peat (47) and Junaid Kari (48 not out).
However, the visitors were no match for the power of Trevor Davies (60) and Kaushalya Weeraratne (65 not out), who piled on the runs as the Cobras emerged with a seven-wicket win – its seventh of the season as it mounted a late charge for finals.