By Nick Creely
It’s no secret in sport that preliminary finals are often the hardest and at times one of the most satisfying games of the season to win.
It’s a game in which teams are ever so close to the ultimate prize, but with just that little stumbling block in the way.
And it’s a game where its equally as painful to lose.
Berwick in the end prevailed quite comfortably in its do-or-die DDCA Turf 1 prelim against Springvale South – two perennial powerhouses doing battle at the picturesque Arch Brown Reserve, with only one spot vacant to meet the highly-confident Hallam Kalora Park unit.
In a season that has many obstacles, and the pandemic so often at the back of everyone’s minds, it’s quite an extraordinary effort that Matthew Chasemore’s group is now just a win away from back-to-back premierships.
They’re one of the most impressive local cricket sides on paper, and if it can hoist up the cup again this season will surely be one of the most dominant teams in recent Metropolitan cricket memory.
On Saturday, the Bears showed its class against another high-quality opponent, a Bloods outfit with plenty of momentum and with some remarkable firepower.
After the Bloods won the toss and elected to bat, James Wilcock (1/27) snared skipper Nathan King, but Ryan Quirk (32) and Clint Tomlinson (51) dug in after a probing new-ball spell to put together a fluent 46-run stand.
But just as the classy Quirk looked ready to explode, veteran Jarrod Goodes (2/39) found the timely breakthrough, and despite Tomlinson’s class and a gritty 20 from Jack Sketcher (20), the home team just found regular breakthroughs.
Tomlinson’s first season as a Blood was an impressive one in the end, finishing with 363 runs.
Wookey medalist Ruwantha Kellepotha (3/30) was particularly instrumental as the Bloods scrambled towards a defendable target, finding key breakthroughs in Paul Hill and Dylan Quirk – two vital cogs in the Bloods’ middle order.
Goodes – as he so often does in big games – did a mountain of work with the ball in his 12 overs.
He’ll have a huge say on proceedings next week in what will be his first Turf 1 grand final since 2011/12, where he snagged 5/56 against the Bloods.
Some late long hits from Tim Ford (19) lifted the Bloods to 9/168 from its 45 overs.
It looked underpar, but if the Bloods’ star spin duo could settle into its work, anything could conceivably happen.
An early wicket, that of dangerous opener Jordan Cleland courtesy of impressive quick Matt Wetering raised those hopes.
But a determined Matthew Chasemore was going to do everything to stand in the Bloods’ way.
As he has across done across his glittering career, the skipper made it a herculean task to prize him out.
In his typically industrious, rock-solid manner, the Bears skipper provided a cool and calm influence on the contest, eventually pairing up with his experienced teammate Nathan Pilon (45 not out) to simply do what it needed to do.
Chasemore was calm and patient, but still found boundaries when needed and always maintained control as he finished on 68 not out from 118 balls as his team ran down the total with eight wickets to spare.
Whenever his team has needed him to play that role this season, the ex-Premier Cricket champion has stood up in a big way.
Pilon was also instrumental, coming in at 2/61 and playing with fluency alongside his skipper.
He’s building ominously ahead of the grand final, where his power through the middle will cause headaches.
It leaves just two remaining – Hallam Kalora Park and Berwick – and quite fittingly, the two most consistent sides of the season.
The Hawks are aiming for its first Turf 1 premiership since 2001/02 in what is looming as a memorable weekend for the club, while the Bears are looking to stamp itself further as one of the most dominant DDCA sides of the modern era.
Both sides are 1-1 up against each other this season – ironically facing off in the last round of the home and away season and the first week of finals – so will both fancy their chances.
The action will begin from 12.30pm this Saturday.
Bring it on!