Seasons in the Sun (Part Twenty Three): The Last Post

The mighty Lower Plenty Thirds 2014/15 Grand Final side L-R: Wellsy, Huddo, Sheldon, Bronty, Catesy, The Benevolent Leader, Charmer, Captain Grumpy, Maestro, TBag, DK

The mighty Lower Plenty Thirds 2014/15 Grand Final side L-R: Wellsy, Huddo, Sheldon, Bronty, Catesy, The Benevolent Leader, Charmer, Captain Grumpy, Maestro, TBag, DK

 

There is no wind. The conditions are nice and sunny – good for batting, bowling, fielding, umpiring, whatever takes your fancy – so our valiant resistance yesterday is something Monty aren’t going to have to be overly fussed with.

To the untrained eye, our warm up session looks the same as any other – Charmer, The Benevolent Leader, Bronty and Maestro hit through the lines that DK, Huddo and I offer up… and Wellsy stands patiently nearby. However, this is our final tactical structuring: our batsmen are removing the cut shots that would be reckless against Beanbag and Obi whilst practising the controlled aggression that we’ll need to break the dominance that the off spin pair held over us in our home and away match.

The crowd gathers, happily chatting as we all nervously assume our positions: Charmer and Wellsy out into the barking and hollering of the Monty fielders for their final big push.
221 in 68 overs requires a run rate of less than 3.5, which we’ll reach if our top order can seize the initiative early. The sight of Charmer cracking a boundary through a very slow off side gets the Lower Plenty contingent to its feet over the fence but otherwise Monty are happy to play the waiting game. With the exception of one reckless short delivery against Wellsy (“He knows the rules,” shrugs The Benevolent Leader as the ball arcs away for four), the Monty openers Janders and D-Path do their job well. They’re rewarded when Charmer holes out at mid-off while attempting to wrest back momentum.
Walking from the field for the last time, Charmer simply bemoans, “I didn’t quite get onto it. Too much bottom hand, all season…” It’s a risky gambit being an opener. TBag takes strike with Wellsy.

“Change of bowler,” murmurs Peter the Monty scorer. “O’Brien.”
Two months of tactical preparation pay off or go bust here as the Monty field is slowly tailored.
“Georgie and Beanbag in slip,” grins Captain Grumpy. “That keeper better be fit.”
They’re not needed: the Monty field does its job as well as we did yesterday. Wellsy and TBag are living off singles when the Elder Snelson – who dropped a sitter in the semi-final – plucks a one-handed blinder at silly midwicket off TBag. The Benevolent Leader joins Wellsy.

“We’re going to try to just take singles off Beanbag or wait for the short one on the on-side,” says Bronty. “We will wait for the loose one from Obi because he bowls that bit fuller and his quicker one is so obvious.”

I’m crunching the data as the overs rise and our run rate shrinks. It’s over four when Wellsy is caught out trying to swat Obi. 3/35. To compound our woes, the Seconds have sunk to 5/40 in their Grand Final.

Bronty – whose birthday it is, incidentally – walks out to face Beanbag’s first over. There is no collapse, unlike last time, but our run rate is only marginally superior. Beanbag delivers a rare full toss and a rare half volley that our batting pair have time to dispatch but Obi is a metronome.

The Benevolent Leader and Bronty come off at tea with the score 3/92 and the run rate less than two. The Seconds have now steadied and gone on the attack, on 5/101 with Bikkies and Shooter hitting the runs. They look like our best hope now.

The Benevolent Leader and Bronty are deep in conversation as to tactical direction. More fools them; they miss the fantastic spread that is put out for us.
“No point,” sneers Georgie malevolently. “Game’s pretty much fucked anyway!”
All Lower Plenty ears prick up… and smile gleefully. If we needed any more impetus to get on the bike, there it is…

Sadly, a Beanbag lifter claims The Benevolent Leader on the fourth ball after the break… caught in slip by Georgie himself. A strange silence falls over the team. It’s too far. It’s too many runs to have ever hoped to chase. From here, the match is simple: Monty begin the long, slow but unstoppable push towards victory.

Bronty picks up a floater from Obi and hits over midwicket; as Maestro calls him through for the second, we scrape a flake of hope that we might be able to get a good counter attack going. However, the umpire stands solemnly with one hand perched on his shoulder: short run. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: there are no such things as good omens in Grand Finals.

We never retreat into our shells: good running between wickets sees first Bronty and Maestro, then Captain Grumpy and Maestro, then Huddo and Maestro, make enough runs to have the Monty field earning their premiership. Maestro hares between the wickets, fro spilling out from all vacancies in his helmet, but he can only regret not having more time.

Catesy floats nervously nearby, all padded up and pensively smoking as the run rate goes above one a ball.
“This looks like a job for…”
“Glenn Maxwell,” chuckles Catesy wryly. Huddo holes out and Catesy stubs his final dart of the 2014/15 season to take the field.

Just then, my uncle and Bronty and The Benevolent Leader’s brother-in-law Gerard arrive to watch the final ten overs. “In next, Cal?”
“No, I’m filling out number eleven today.”
“How have you been going this year?”
Gerard was batting at three in Hampton League A-Grade when he was 10 and was never dismissed batting from the same position in Dowling Shield at 13. So it hurts me to look him in the eye and tell him that my run tally only passed my wicket tally last week. Not as much as it probably hurt him, though…

Catesy becomes the eighth wicket. DK goes in and goes down fighting, flailing an uppish catch to mid-off. Our respective battles to climb out of the tail end are definitely going to wait for next season.
As I put on the helmet, Bronty tells me to bat out the 68 overs – which I think is just spiteful, but anyway…
Janders bowls a steady one outside off and I leave it. “Come on, boys!” Georgie exhorts. “Let’s be celebrating this ball!” “Don’t be too presumptuous Georgie,” I mutter, just loud enough for him to hear and chuckle.
Next ball, Maestro edges Obi and is snared by the keeper. That’s the game – the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds all out for 118. Monty are the 2014/15 E Grade premiers.

We do the hand shake thing and smile and chuckle and gather around The Benevolent Leader in the middle of Whatmough Park.
“I think we gave it a real crack,” he surmises. “Really good effort yesterday in tough weather and Maestro,” he nods, “really good innings by you today. So next season we just have to go one better.”

We dawdle over to where the Monty team are delightedly awaiting the presentation of the Shield.
“Would like to thank the Greensborough Cricket Club for lending us this ground,” say the Umpires, sentiments echoed by The Benevolent Leader and Obi in their respective speeches. “And we were happy that it was these two sides who made it because we knew the match would be played in good spirits and it was.”

By the time we file into the cool of the rooms, the Seconds are all out. Grand Finals – they’re hard to win. But it looks like Club 68 of the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds will be gearing up for another season.

Monty 220
Woody 61
Beanbag 35
Jimmy 32
Catesy 5/63
Sheldon 3/12

Lower Plenty 118
The Benevolent Leader 38
Janders 4/30
Obi 3/20

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Callum , have really enjoyed following the fortunes of the lower plenty 3rds
    Well done you ! Good luck next season and thank you

  2. Callum O'Connor says

    Thank you Malcolm. It’s been a real pleasure.

  3. Callum, commiserations old son. What a mighty effort to make the final, and also to follow through on the commitment to tell the story every week. I found myself looking forward to your reports.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Callum for a great series and a great season.

    Pity you ran out of partners, thought you were due.

  5. Good days bad days…

    On the brightside, you got me through the long footy-less summer! Should be able to get to the new season now.

    Cheers,
    Gus

  6. Jack Hoysted says

    Congratulations on a great season. You’re right, GFs are not easy to win. I’ve really enjoyed reading your column all season. It’s been a real winner. The true spirit of cricket leaps off the page. Good luck with your writing and your cricket in future. Maybe next year will be the year. That’s what always keeps us flannelled fools coming back for more.

    Cheers,

    Jack Hoysted

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