By Nick Creely
It’s the year of the Magpie.
Narre Warren has clinched the DDCA Turf 2 premiership, producing an outstanding grand final performance to cap off a truly memorable season of cricket.
Ruthless, daring and scattered with star power, the Magpies have been the benchmark for the majority of the season, and will now prepare to return to the top-tier of the association next season for the first time since 2017/18.
It’s opponents, Dandenong West, were always going to provide a stern challenge at Carroll Reserve on Saturday.
But like all quality sides do, an early statement from one of its gun quicks was the catalyst.
Josh Dinger – who has been a colossal this season with 33 wickets at an average a tick under 10 – was immense, applying maximum pressure to the top-order.
In a stunning new-ball burst, the Westers soon found themselves 4/30 with Dinger claiming all four scalps to put the opposition under the pump straight away.
The Westers were never just going to lie down and found some fight through the middle order, but Dinger’s class shone above, snaring 6/21 from 9.2 overs to bundle out the opposition for just 92.
Kasun Balasuriya was also virtually unplayable, bowling four maidens from his seven overs to take 1/7.
In grand finals – as it so often plays out – 92 was a tricky chase. The pressure of being so close to the finish line has brought down plenty of teams in the past.
But as has been the case during the Maggies’ golden season, Ben Swift (34) and Zach Allen (17) raced out of the blocks to immediately put his side in pole position, but a bit fight saw the Westers peg a few wickets back.
It meant little in the end as the Magpies ran away with a six-wicket win and a memorable premiership, with Cam Dinger cooly guiding his team home with 26 not out.
The Magpies also capped off the day with its second XI winning the Turf 2 Reserves premiership against Cranbourne at Narre Warren North Reserve.
Keysborough, meanwhile, soared to glory in Turf 3, overcoming the minor premiers Springvale in an entertaining, high-scoring clash at Lois Twohig Reserve in Dandenong North.
On one of the DDCA’s best and most picturesque decks, the Knights had little hesitation in winning the toss and batting.
Despite an early scalp, it proved to be a fruitful decision.
Coming across this season as a gun recruit from Dingley, Christo Otto was simply the star.
Prominent with the Dingoes over such a long period of time, Otto’s class and experience was on full display, crunching an outstanding 84 from 107 balls, sending five fours to the rope and three over it.
Otto linked with his skipper Jackson O’Brien (65) to put together a defining 119-run stand, ultimately setting up the Knights for an ultra-competitive 5/202 from its 40 overs.
Picking up where he left off, Otto snared 2/27, alongside Jacob Hennigan who claimed 2/27 as the opposition struggled to get going in the chase, falling to 4/48, and eventually 5/64 as the Knights drew closer to premiership glory.
Hasindu Waduge (65) left nothing in tank, compiling a counter-attacking half-century that provided some stunning sixes, but ultimately it was a bridge too far, with the Knights restricting them to 153.
Hampton Park, meanwhile, clinched the Turf 4 premiership in a hard-fought grand final against Springvale South at Sweeney Reserve.
The Redbacks were 172 for victory after half-centuries to Mark Keatinge (58) and Andrew Sharp (60).
In several switches of momentum, the Redbacks – in the end – got the job done with three wickets to spare, with skipper James Kellett (56 not out) and Rob North (55) leading the way with fine knocks.
It was a memorable season for the Redbacks who will now enter the Turf 3 ranks having finished on top-of-the-ladder as well in the regular season.
The DDCA Premiers
Turf 1 Reserves – Buckley Ridges
Turf 2 – Narre Warren
Turf 2 Reserves – Narre Warren
Turf 3 – Keysborough
Turf 3 Reserves – Doveton
Turf 4 – Hampton Park
Turf 5 – Berwick Springs
A Grade – Buckley Ridges
B Grade – Lynbrook
C Grade – Parkmore Pirates
D Grade – Coomoora
E Grade – Fountain Gate
F Grade – Beaconsfield