‘Hawks prevail in riveting encounter….’ by KB Hill

When play gets under way on Day 2 of the WDCA’s match-of-the-round, a mere handful of spectators are scattered around the W. J. Findlay Oval.

 

They’re obviously rusted-on diehards or loyal parents, I guess. Meanwhile, adjoining Golf Links Lane is a busy thoroughfare, as footy fans, excited by the prospect of watching both Richmond and Collingwood in open-training sessions before the big game tomorrow, converge on the Showgrounds.

 

Scarcely any of them cast a sideways glance at the ‘flanneled fools’ toiling on the green sward to their left. Had they bothered to pop in, they’d have witnessed a terrific cricket contest……..

 

***

 

There’d been talk that Rovers-United-Bruck’s total of 171 would be easily defendable. I’m a trifle pessimistic, as Yarrawonga-Mulwala boast three or four of the competition’s classiest run-makers, and a batting-order that runs deep.

 

The Hawks really need to pull something out of the box against the competition leaders today. A win would probably cement a finals spot; lose and they’re locked in a three-way battle for the only vacant berth.

 

To accentuate my concerns, I’m greeted with the news that Paulie Szeligiewicz, the Hawks’ workmanlike trundler, is out of action, which will leave their attack a bowler short.

 

But, as they say these days , 170-odd is the new 200 at the Findlay Oval…………….

 

***

 

There’s little early joy for the bowlers, as Lakers’ openers Corey McIntosh and Josh Lawrence set about establishing themselves and then begin to pick off the runs.

 

McIntosh is coming off a fine 83 in his last knock, but Lawrence, in particular, seems to be in fine fettle. The burly right-hander has just 104 A-Grade runs to his name this season, but I like his style. He takes toll of anything outside off-stump, and, into the bargain, gives it a decent quilt.

 

 

The big fellah made his name in Shepparton cricket and, when he began with Yarra-Mul three seasons ago, announced his arrival with successive ‘tons’ ( 128 and 149 ). He looks to be back in the groove, that’s for sure.

 

But you can’t fault the RUB new-ball exponents. Paddy McNamara, the lithe, loose-limbed left-armer, sends down six quality overs before age-restriction rules compulsorily – and temporarily – remove him from the crease.

 

His skipper, Jacob Schonafinger, toils away accurately from the Gum Tree End; his opening 13-over spell yielding just 15 runs.

 

It’s good cricket, but you sense that the Lakers may be almost off the leash, particularly when Lawrence pulls three boundaries from the bowling of spinner Tfadzwa Tsiga.

 

There’s an air of Bonhomie among the visitors’ camp. A youthful mob, they appear to enjoy good-naturedly taking the ‘mickey’ out of each other, whilst savouring the enjoyment of a swelling total out in the middle.

 

To put it bluntly, the Hawks are effectively being batted out of the game.

 

The Lakers have moved to 0/88, with just 84 required for victory. Even their reserved and hard-to-satisfy scorer, Steven Hicks, seems contented with their seemingly-impregnable position.

 

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wicket……. Paddy ‘Mac’ gets one through the defence of the watchful McIntosh, whose 33 off 96 balls has been a valuable contribution.

 

 

Still, there’s no cause for alarm, as probably the competition’s best-performed bat, Matt Casey, arrives at the crease. But, in the very next over, enthusiastic Matthew Winter is rewarded when the composed Casey nicks one and is miraculously caught by Tsiga at first slip.

 

You’d probably say it was a candidate for ‘Catch of the Year’ but, by the end of the day, you’d be pondering which of the five catches ‘Tas’ managed to snaffle was deemed the best.

 

Was it his second, which came shortly after, when he swivelled in mid-air and bent backwards to hang onto one, and remove left-hander Harry Wheeler – another richly-deserved McNamara victim?

 

There was plenty to ponder over the Tea break, with Yarra-Mul, at 3/112, now leaving the door ever-so slightly ajar for the Hawks.

 

 

But, of course, with just 60 runs required, and the steam-rolling Lawrence in complete command, it would be a brave punter who would back RUB.

 

Then the ‘Game-Changer’…….. Lawrence has raced to an untroubled 82 by smacking two boundaries off an over from Jon Hyde. We’re in consensus on the sidelines, that a century is his for the taking, but he duly plays over a seemingly straight-forward delivery from the veteran and his stumps are disturbed.

 

Now it’s ‘Game-On’…..4/126.

 

It’s amazing how a couple of quick wickets can change the momentum of a match. The bowlers now look to be sending down hand-grenades; the batsmen are looking for demons in the deliveries. They’re finding it increasingly difficult to pierce the field, and are becoming over-cautious in their stroke-play.

 

They slip further into the mire, losing Ben Welsh and Sam Lidgerwood with the score on 131. It would now appear to be up to skipper Reed Clarke, a solid, experienced, dependable player, to take charge of proceedings and stop this rot.

 

After all, it’s not desperation-stakes yet, with just 41 required and four wickets in hand. But McNamara traps Clarke in front for 8. It’s now 7/142 and the effervescent chatter that has been bubbling along in the Yarra-Mul camp all day, has now been reduced to a murmur.

 

The rot has really set in now. After a tense period and with the addition of only 13 more runs, it’s all over. McNamara and Hyde both break through, and Schonafinger concludes a fine day by having Matt McCabe caught at mid-wicket.

 

The mundane final dismissal, a straight-forward ‘chest-mark’ by Vance Curran, with the score on 153, was in stark contrast to the memorable, acrobatic catching display put on by ‘first-slipper’ Tsiga.

 

McNamara, with 4/29 off 16 overs, has produced more spectacular figures during his brief career, but in my opinion, has never bowled better. Schonafinger, who wheeled down 22.2 overs from the other end, snared 3/25, in another marathon performance, whilst Hyde’s 2/44 was a valuable contribution ( along with his unbeaten 22 with the willow).

 

 

For those who revel in the ‘chew your fingernails to the quick’ type of cricket, in which the Hawks have prevailed over the past two games, you couldn’t wish for any better. It’s great for building team-confidence.

 

As for Yarra-Mulwala, the loss may prove to be a timely jolt on finals-eve. There’ll be plenty of WDCA fans who will still plump for the Lakers to take out their fifth flag……..

 

This article first appeared on KB Hill’s website On Reflection and appears here with permission. For more of KB’s great stories, click here.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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Comments

  1. Ian Hauser says

    KB, you’ve nailed it yet again with this great, eyewitness account of a thrilling game. Local sport – it’s hard to beat!

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