A THRILLER AT HARGREAVES OVAL

“The Zoo,The Zoo,The Zoo,The Zoo,The Zoo,

The Monkey’s Cage is nearly full, but there’s still  room for You

So,take  a trip to Victoria Park, before the gates are shut.

And I’ll be there with a bloody big bag of nuts, you bastard,

Nuts, you bastard, bloody big bag of  nuts……….”

The  Yarrawonga-Mulwala Lakers  usually belt  out  their  theme song when they  have a big win. They  may  have  given it a run  late  on Saturday  night  after they had  digested their ‘get out of jail ‘   victory  against  Rovers-United   in one of the games of the season ,at  Stan Hargreaves Oval.

The Hawks  were  rank outsiders   when play began . Chasing a formidable total of 189, in sweltering conditions  and  opposed  to   a multi-pronged attack, they plunged into  diabolical  trouble ,to be  3/10.

Accurate Matt Knight and the lively  Paul  Marshall  looked  irresistible. With the Weather Committee  decreeing that games  would  finish once a first innings decision had been reached, it appeared that  we  may be back in Wangaratta by mid-afternoon.

The first signs of resistance came from Josh Schonafinger  and Ryan Nankervis.  Nankervis, with  aggressive stroke-play  , regained  the initiative and found the boundary with  three  pull shots. The  pair had added 33 before  Ryan  was stumped off the first  delivery  from off-spinner Marcus  Hargreaves.

The ‘Shona’  brothers  combined to add another  43 runs ,to bring the Hawks back into the game. Jacob, never  frightened to loft the ball  scored  runs at a decent  tempo  and his 21 was another typical ‘captain’s’   knock.  But there  were ominous signs  that he was fatigued and it was no surprise when  Hargreaves caught him in front.

Josh ‘s  application was commendable  and he was rarely troubled by the bowlers. He  certainly wasn’t tempted by the Hargreaves tactic of ‘drying’  him up by bowling wide of the off-stump. He had been at the crease for  137 minutes when  umpire  Alan Haddrill  swiftly  elevated  the digit  to give the third of his four LBW decisions.  Schonafinger  was  on his way for 33 – a cruel blow on the verge of the tea  interval.

The Hawks were  6/99 at the break – the Lakers  were 5/99 at the same stage  last week,  but the odds favoured the competition leaders.

Particularly  when   Paul Marshall, re-introduced  after  tea, grabbed another wicket . Seamus Phillips and  the pugnacious  left-hander Adrian Squires embarked on a rescue  mission. It wasn’t  pretty stuff , with the scoring rate crawling along  at 2 runs per over.  But the Yarra-Mul bowlers appeared spellbound by the  conditions  and the game seemed  to be heading nowhere.

Phillips’ departure looked  to signal the end for the Hawks. They needed  54 runs with just two wickets  in hand.

Enter  Simon Godfrey, the ‘pinch-hitter’ who  has  produced a few cameos in recent times.  His inventive stroke-play  seemed to inspire the burly Squires. The match grew legs and the contingent  of Lakers supporters  who  had assumed the result was a foregone conclusion, began to pay a bit more attention to proceedings. The run-rate accelerated abruptly.  Squires on-drove two sixes, Godfrey  was playing shots  from the copy-book.

The pair’s willingness to take risks  threw the Lakers bowlers off-kilter. Suddenly the target was 30, down to  20, then  10.  With the Hawks  well in command and seemingly  set to pinch the game, Lakers captain  Lee Fraser  threw the ball to his two ‘trouble-shooters’ , Matt Knight and Paul Marshall.

Godfrey  escaped when  Josh Robilliard  dropped a  ‘sitter’  at mid-wicket. The tension  was palpable and  the Hawk batsmen appeared to abandon the fluent stroke-play  which had  produced a  stand  of 48 and recede into their shells.

Godfrey was bowled by Knight for a well-made 21  and with 4 runs required for victory  Squires fell for 37. It was a sad end for Squires, who had played his best knock for Rovers-United and, as much as anyone, had  given them a sniff  of victory, when defeat  was  almost certain.

Matt Knight took the bowling honours for Yarra-Mul with 5/27 ,with Marcus Hargreaves (3/40) and  Paul Marshall (2/28) also chipping in.

Five Rovers-United players scored over 20, in an even  batting  performance and it was the Club’s highest score for the season.    It  again proved that if you are  determined to  occupy the crease, results will come.

Bad luck for the good guys.

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