Stan Hargreaves Oval, the centrepiece of cricket in Yarrawonga, was looking resplendent on this sunny, cloudless Saturday . Despite heavy rain in the previous 24 hours the conditions were superb. The ground surface is unsurpassed in this area , the wicket well-grassed and evenly-paced and the pavilion -complete with a new deck- most accommodating.
With the C-Grade game being played on an adjoining oval, Victoria Park was a hive of activity and you could detect a confident air amongst the Yarra-Mulwala fraternity. Why not ?
The feeling in ‘Lakeland’ is that last year’s premiership was ‘one that got away’ and they are determined to make amends in 2013/14. So when they won the toss and batted , the tip was that they were gearing themselves for a fruitful day at the crease.
No one would have expected to see them reeling at 5/49.
They had begun productively enough against some steady bowling ,but when Zac Moore padded up to Jacob Schonafinger and ‘walked’ before the umpire had raised his finger for the LBW, it signalled a change in the game.
The introduction of Callum Nankervis into the attack saw the star-studded Lakers upper-order on the back-foot. Ever-improving, the youngster was assisted by a healthy breeze and bowled with considerable stealth. To see good bats hurrying their shots is an indication of the respect they showed for his extra pace.
Schonafinger, into the wind, was wobbling the ball skilfully and his accuracy was unwavering . Between them they had shared the 5 wickets ( Schona 3, Nankervis 2), as the Hawks were right on top.
Tall Ben Doyle joined his skipper Lee Frazer at the crease. Reports were that he had been struggling for runs this season, but with a century to his name in Albury & Border cricket, he was certainly no mug.
Frazer’s was the wicket the Hawks needed and the early chance that he offered to the slips cordon should have been taken. It proved costly.
He is an impressive player, the Lakers’ captain-coach. An ex-Assumption College boy, he was a seven-time Club Champion at both Keilor Cricket and Football Clubs and was a draftee at Hawthorn in his youth, without playing a senior AFL game.
The way he went about building his innings was a lesson to both his own and the Rovers-United players. Once settled, and with Doyle’s support, he took charge of the game. With Nankervis forced to rest , with figures of 2/8 from seven overs,’ Schona’ worked away diligently at the other end .
But the pressure was relieved and runs came at a steady rate. The Frazer-Doyle partnership had added 83 valuable runs when Schonafinger claimed the valuable wicket of Frazer for 63.
Doyle found an ally in Mark Athanitis, as they attempted to push the runs along. But, in so doing, Doyle was run out for 36, attempting a quick single. Athanitis fell to Josh Schonafinger for 29. The tall spinner also claimed hard-hitting left-hander Patrick Martin and from then on it was a matter of wrapping up the tail.
Yarrawonga-Mulwala were happy to eke out a competitive total after their early collapse; Rovers-United would have delighted if you’d have told them before the game that they may restrict one of the competition’s premier batting line-ups to 189 on their own deck. So both sides were grinning.
Jacob Schonafinger earned the plaudits of his own camp with figures of 4/57 off a marathon 22 overs. The 21 year-old Hawk skipper now has 26 wickets this season and has led from the front in grand style . All Rovers-United bowlers lent good support, with Callum Nankervis proving his class against good opposition.
With two overs to endure, the Hawks survived unscathed to be 0/5 at stumps. Paul Marshall and Matt Knight, both former Shepparton stars let a few go and Marshall’s final delivery, a searing bouncer, had Callum Nankervis swaying away. Marshall’s run-through ended just a metre or two from the youngster, at the batting crease, and he was no doubt given a word of advice on how to play the game.