NIXON -DRAGE STAND FOILS OUTRIGHT BID

A tepid shroud of inevitability surrounded the Norm Minns Oval on Saturday, as Wangaratta-Magpies prepared to deliver the death rites to a stumbling Rovers-United.

The ‘Pies emphatically dominated the opening day’s play with both bat and ball.

The Hawks’ dismal first innings of 60 gave their steam-rolling rivals the sniff of outright victory and, after declaring at 3/94, they had captured two vital wickets. It was 2/7 when stumps were called.

So when ‘Pies skipper Zac Guilfoyle and his promising new-ball partner Dylan Landgren immediately appeared ‘on song’ on Day 2, Rovers-United were on the defensive.

To the accompaniment of a chorus of ‘oohs and ahs’ from the field of play, there was a raft of playing and missing, as the slips cordon waited, like a pack of hungry dogs, for the spoils on offer.

Guilfoyle , a much-improved paceman, extracted a bit out of the track, and got the occasional delivery to rear around the shoulders of the two-minded batsmen.

After a period of consolidation, he snared another wicket…it was 3/20, And another…. it was 4/33. The Pies smelt blood.

The arrival of Hawk skipper Jacob Schonafinger saw a brief, welcome release from the shackles. In characteristic fashion, ‘Schona’ took on the bowling and played a few adventuresome shots over and through the field.

He went for a brisk 25, with the score on 50. His brother Josh followed soon after……both Guilfoyle victims.

Enter Blake Nixon, a chirpy 17 year-old wicket-keeper, who has shuffled up and down the order with the regularity of a Shane Watson this season.

“It could be my day”, he said confidently at training on Thursday night. I had nodded, more out of politeness than any real belief that he was about to produce the innings of his life.

He looked steady enough, even as wickets continued to fall around him. Guilfoyle had continued to be the bane of the Hawks and his sixth wicket had given him nine for the match. He was on the verge of a milestone of his own.

The scoreboard told a disastrous tale of woe for Rovers-United. They were now 8/75 and the game had the potential to be wrapped up before tea.

Mark Drage has been a handy opening bowler this season, but is of the opinion that his aggressive batting could be used to better effect a couple of positions higher than the number 10 spot that he now occupies.

Figures hardly supported his argument. As he strode to the crease, we afforded ourselves a cursory glance at the scorebook. It showed that he had mustered just 22 runs in nine knocks this season, before he had top-scored with an undefeated 16 in the first innings debacle of this game.

Nixon, also, hardly conjured thoughts of greatness, as he had totalled 55 in eleven previous innings’.

What the Hawks got when these two were at the crease, was a gutsy fight back, which, the longer it went on, showed the value of old-fashioned application.

Over after over went by, and the runs, which had started at a trickle, began to come steadily. First, they were applauded when they both headed into double-figures. They looked shaky, but survived.

Then they were into ‘rarified air’, as they both passed the 30-mark. Now they looked comfortable and were defying everything that was thrown up at them.

The overs ticked by, and the chances of a Magpie outright began to look slim. The key bowlers were spent, and on their haunches.

Miraculously, the 100-partnership came up and both players were executing shots they had never deemed possible. That’s the value of confidence !

After a ninth-wicket stand of 117, which had earned them a place in the WDCA record-books, Nixon skied one and returned, head down and with a rare show of shyness, as he was rapturously applauded by all in the Richardson Stand. He had made 61.

Shortly after Drage fell for 64, his second top-score for the game, as Rovers-United ended with 198 and had successfully foiled outright defeat.

The Pies fully deserved their win, but the Hawks at least regained some pride, in what turned out to be an eventful day’s play.

 

blake and dragey

 

 

 

 

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