By Nick Creely
Every single ball, wicket, and run seemingly had implications.
It was a grand final truly befitting its title.
The momentum swung so rapidly, and so intensely that it was almost hard to keep up.
There’s been many great DDCA Turf 1 grand finals of recent memory, but the air of tension and the quality of cricket between powerhouse clubs Hallam Kalora Park and Berwick at a packed Frawley Road won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Across a two-day one-dayer, the Hawks – brushing aside the disappointment of recent years – secured its first Turf 1 premiership since 2001/02, a 20-year period not lost on the many loyal Hallam people who were in full voice all the way through.
But the premiership cup could legitimately have gone into the hands of skipper Matthew Chasemore if not for a few brief little moments, and that is ultimately how tightly-fought and fierce the clash was.
After rain swept through Melbourne on Saturday morning, the game was delayed until 2pm, with 45 overs to be played on the day, and the second innings to be played on the Sunday.
It’s fair to say it was worth the wait when Hallam Kalora Park skipper Jordan Hammond won the toss and elected to bat.
Despite a brisk start from the Hawks, Berwick seamer Brendan Rose got his tail up when he found the edge of champion Hawk Leigh Booth, with Bears gloveman Jordan Cleland diving beautifully to his right to shark the catch.
It didn’t get any easier for the home side thereafter.
While Ben Hillard dug in like he does so well, the Bears brought on its wily medium pacers in Jarrod Goodes and skipper Matt Chasemore, and immediately it was obvious that with a little bit of pace off the ball scoring was always going to be tough.
After Goodes (1/18) snared Sachith Jayasingha after a pressure-filled 20 minutes of probing line and length, skipper Chasemore (1/14) trapped danger man Matthew Cox in front for a first ball blob, taking off in celebration towards the crowd as the umpire didn’t hesitate to lift the finger.
The Bears were certainly in control of the contest, setting the game up for leggie Ruwantha Kellepotha to go to work with the Hawks battling to turn the strike over.
Slowly but surely, the Hawks – through Hillard and skipper Jordan Hammond (22) – managed to consolidate after coming together at 3/41, putting on a solid 48-run stand despite some incredibly disciplined bowling.
Just as the Hawks looked clear, it was that man, Kellepotha that turned the tide.
Deceiving Hammond in flight to have the skipper stumped, before rattling the stumps with a ripping leg break to remove Kevin Kean, Kellepotha was proving to be a man hard to handle.
But there was one constant for the Hawks. Ben Hillard.
The opener, who gritted his way to a similar half-century in the semi-final against the Bears, crossed past 50 and was holding the innings together with pure class and determination.
After a 126-ball stay at the crease, Hillard’s vital – if not match-defining 54 – came to an unfortunate end, when Kellepotha ran out the opener after a searing throw.
It was an hour of pure brilliance from the Wookey medalist.
At 6/114, the Bears were in utter control at this point, before the experience of Steve Gilmour counted.
There wouldn’t be many more important 30 not outs in recent memory than what Gilmour produced.
Calm, measured and with enough power to worry the Bears, it was a brilliant hand.
With boundaries so hard to find (there was only seven in total for the match), the ex-Victorian quick slapped two, utilising his 37-ball stay at the crease to produce not only vital runs, but match-winning ones as his side clawed its way to 7/151 after its 45 overs.
There was plenty of performances of note for the Bears, with Kellepotha’s 3/49 the pick, while James Wilcock (0/35) bowled without much luck and Brendan Rose (1/34), Jarrod Goodes and Matthew Chasemore were all terrific.
But the stage was set for Sunday.
Perfect weather. The sun baking on the pitch.
It appeared the prototype day to be batting.
And for the Bears, it couldn’t afford to lose its champion skipper Matthew Chasemore in the opening exchanges, with Hawks quick Will Whyte truly on song.
As Chasemore said in his post-match speech, he can’t stand facing the dynamic Hallam right-armer.
I’m sure that’s true for most opposition sides as he – alongside Hammond – really set the tone with the new ball as they’ve done all season.
Jordan Cleland (30) was looking solid for the Bears as they scratched to 1/19 from 10 overs, but a double-strike from Steve Gilmour (2/31) – that of Brodie Emmett and danger man Nathan Pilon had the visitors 3/30 and in trouble.
As he does so well, Ruwantha Kellepotha (22) looked to take the game on, belting two boundaries early as he and Cleland compiled a 32-run stand, but some class spin bowling from Sachith Jayasingha (2/17) saw Cleland spun out with a ripping delivery, before the big wicket from Lee Brown (1/24).
Looking to clear the rope with a slog sweep, Kellepotha holed out to the boundary to send the Hawks fans into raptures and one step closer to that sweet premiership feeling.
It looked game over as the Hawks strangled the Bears and didn’t allow them one easy run, before James Wilcock and Brendan Rose came together at 7/84 to give it one last crack.
With time against them, the pair battled hard, ran through the wickets with plenty of vigour and desperately look to pierce the gaps on the wide expanses of Hallam Reserve.
The equation was 42 to win off six overs, and eventually that was slashed to 26 from three overs with Jordan Hammond and Will Whyte putting together some high class bowling late in the piece.
The dagger came in the last over and with 14 left to get.
Brendan Rose, after a gritty 33 from 42 balls, went searching for a maximum but was caught, before Jarrod Goodes was run out pushing hard between the wickets.
With eight needed off the final ball of the season, it was only fitting that Whyte would snare the all-important premiership scalp, with a catch on the boundary just that sweet icing on the cake.
There was many contenders for the Damien Fleming Medallist for best afield – Ben Hillard’s gritty half-century, Ruwantha Kellepotha’s 3/49 and 22, and Will Whyte’s stirring 3/31, but the nod went to Steve Gilmour, whose contribution in key moments for the Hawks will go down in folklore.
It was a season of uncertainties, but one thing is certain – these Hawks are one hell of a side.