By Nick Creely
At the beginning of the Turf 2 season, Parkmore Pirates were unsure how they would field a competitive side after a bundle of star players departed the club.
Amal Athulathmudali, Niranjen Kumar, Bevin Cornielle, Aditya Ganesh and Anurudda Fonseka were just some of the big names to leave.
It’s fair to say it was a turbulent off-season for the club.
But the Pirates are now locked in for another Turf 2 finals appearance after breaking in on the final day of the home away season.
Under skipper Ashwin Nash, the Pirates have used those losses to fuel the next generation of cricketers, and get them into a position to push for what would be a truly remarkable piece of silverware.
“It just goes to show the next man up mentality we have as a club,” Pirates president Harry Masson told Star News earlier this season.
“I can’t commend enough the job Ash and the boys have done to not only keep this club afloat, but to make a mark on the competition as well given who we lost.
“It’s been so impressive to see what Ash and the boys are doing on the field.
“We’re really excited about what we can do as a club this season.”
The Pirates cruised past Lyndale on Saturday’s final round.
Set just 139 for victory, the Pirates ran down the total with the loss of just two wickets, with Johann Brohier (52) and Mohomad Safras (61) taking the game away with a dominant 104-run opening stand.
With the ball, the ever-reliable Madhawa Fonseka snared 2/43, while Ammar Bajwa (3/21) was outstanding.
The finals-bound Pirates face Narre Warren in a semi-final at Sweeney Reserve this Saturday.
It will be a tough challenge, but the Pirates seemingly keep knocking each obstacle out of the park.
Beaconsfield, meanwhile, dropped out of the four in an agonising defeat to end their season against Narre Warren.
17 wickets fell on the day, but in the end the Magpies had enough depth to put a dagger in the Tigers’ season, who needed just to win to play finals
After Kasun Balasuriya rummaged through the Tigers to snare 6/20, the home side could only muster up 89 in 42.5 tough overs of batting.
The Magpies didn’t have it their own way, with gun seamer Callan Tout producing a brilliant performance, taking 6/29 in a gusty display.
At 7/69, the game was truly in the balance before a vital 21 from Bevan Radhakrishnan guided the Maggies to a three-wicket win.
An absolutely golden performance from Cranbourne star Pete Sweeney has guided the Eagles to a huge win against Dandenong West, and in the process ensured his side would be locked in for the finals.
Sweeney – as he has all season – bowled superbly, snaring 3/24 as the Westers fell for 141, with Ethan French providing plenty of resistance with a well-made 52 from the top.
Despite the best efforts of Gartside Medal winner Gurpreet Singh (5/34) who did everything to stop the Eagles, Sweeney crunched 73 not out, holding his nerve despite some tense moments to guide the team to a three-wicket win.
His defining knock featured nine fours and a maximum.
And Parkfield finished its season a massive high, thumping Narre North away from home.
The visitors were sent in, and despite finding themselves 3/54 at one point, recovered superbly to post an imposing 6/223 from 45 overs.
Middle-order pair Tanil Dehigaspitiya (85) and Shane Cooray (53 not out) were the destroyers, while opener Matt Goodier also contributed 36.
Goodier (4/24) and Nick Jeffery (4/25) didn’t give the home side much chance to mount a charge, rolled for just 91 in reply.
Despite just missing out on finals, its been a largely promising season for Parkfield, who finished with seven wins, and six losses.
They’ll take great momentum into next season.
But now there’s just four: Narre Warren, Cranbourne, Dandenong West, and the Parkmore Pirates.
Not much has really separated the four throughout a fascinating season, and in a campaign where the landscape changes on a weekly basis, it’s anyone’s premiership to claim.
TURF 2 SEMI-FINALS FIXTURE
Cranbourne (2nd) v Dandenong West (3rd)
Narre Warren (1st) v Parkmore Pirates (4th)