CRICKET FOTOOne of the characters of local cricket is Andrew Briggs. Universally known as ‘Brigga’, he has served the game as a player, curator, administrator, junior coach, wise counsel and, latterly, as a scorer.

He was on duty at the sun-drenched Findlay Oval on Saturday, for the ‘Battle of the Battlers’ – the clash between Rovers-United and his team, Greta.

Now ‘Brigga’ wears his heart on his sleeve. And it was illuminating to be at close quarters to him as we watched the drama unfold in a gripping encounter.

The Hawks had provided entertainment galore in their previous home-ground encounters and turned up trumps in both of them. This one, whilst not providing cricket of the highest order, as tight all day, with the result in doubt until the last over or two.

‘Brigga’ was his usual helpful self, as he assisted the ground staff in finalising pitch-marking requirements. We settled down to watch the game and the mood was convivial, chatty and full of cricket-speak. The early overs of Rovers’ innings provided cautious batting, against steady bowling from the Greta attack.

Callum Nankervis’ absence (on duty with Essendon Second XI) was telling, but Lochie Reynolds  was a handy inclusion for his debut with the Hawks in senior ranks. The left-hander should adapt well with a few games under his belt.

Cameo knocks from Josh Schonafinger and Seamus Phillips and Lochie Brown’s aggressive 16 pushed the score along, but it was a circumspect Ryan Nankervis who proved the saviour in the upper-order. His innings of 25 included the shot of the day – a superbly-caressed cover-drive which raced to the boundary.

His departure brought the ‘Old Hustler”, Simon Godfrey to the crease. In typical fashion ‘Godders’ chipped here and there, lofting the ball over the heads of frustrated fielders and stealing quick singles. His 26 was another priceless contribution from one of the WDCA’s ‘late-improvers’.

The Greta bowling was workmanlike, without being threatening. But, having their opponents 9/122 with 5 overs remaining, they were well-placed – especially if they could nab the final wicket quickly and pinch a few extra overs.

But they reckoned without the father-son combination – Peter and Luke Whitten- who soaked up overs and added 15 valuable runs with sensible batting. Whitten the elder brought the crowd to life with a delicately glided shot over the keeper’s head for 4. When he was dismissed for 11 the Hawks had given Greta a tantalising target.

Asked for his opinion on the state of the game, ‘Brigga’  thought  137 ‘might be 30 too many, the way our blokes have been batting’.  But he became mildly confident as the Triffitt-Barnard opening pairing survived into the 11th over. Mick Barnard looked dangerous, but Justin Triffitt was the first to fall – to the bowling of Mark Drage.  The teams were travelling neck-and-neck on parallel run-rates and it was hard to pick a likely winner.

But when Luke Whitten dismissed Barnard, who had optimistically swung and skied a delivery and was on his way for 28, it was a telling moment in the game. ‘Brigga’ was not  impressed.

Whitten, following on from an arduous Junior Country Week, bowled superbly and his figures of 6/2/1/10 were reward for his efforts. No batsman could get him away.

Greta started to fall behind the run-rate, but Chris O’Connor and Matt Gathercole began to take charge. ‘Brigga’ felt the hefty Gathercole could win the game off his own bat, if his strong hitting came off. He certainly posed a danger, but failed to make his ground after a hastily-run single and was sent on his way by umpire Johnstone, much to his disgust.

O’Connor, a more than handy player, summed the game up and knew that his side’s fate rested  in his hands. The target again became reachable and the right-hander looked good. With 28 runs needed and 4 wickets in hand, he chanced a lofted drive over mid-wicket and was caught close to the boundary by the reliable Josh Schonafinger, for 25.

‘Brigga’ muttered something under his breath about the wicket and swiped at some ants which had been annoying him. At 7/111 he was a sullen figure, as he could see the game slipping away.

Bowling at the ‘death’, skipper Jacob Schonafinger and Simon Godfrey did a good job of cleaning up the tail, as four wickets fell for 12 runs, to leave Greta with a total of 123 – 14 adrift of the Hawks.

It was a good, evenly-contested game. No bowler took more than 2 wickets; the highest individual score for the game was 28. The Hawks had pinched their fourth win in five matches to vault up to 6th position on the ladder. Life is all good.

Thanks, ‘Brigga’, for sharing the day.

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