‘THE AGONY AND ECSTACY OF A GRAND-FINAL…..”

It was, they said, the Grand Final that the WDCA had craved………a fluctuating, high-standard clash between two of the competition’s keenest rivals ……..

It featured dashing stroke-play, more twists than a winding mountain road, a dramatic batting collapse…….and finally, one of those last-wicket stands that evoke the suspense of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller………

Firstly, I must offer a disclaimer……….I wasn’t there…….and wasn’t party to the pressure-cooker atmosphere that someone mentioned resembled one of those classical ‘Local Footy Derbies’………

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‘Prav” – The Gun

Instead, as the game progresses, I’m relying on periodic score-updates. Early on, they verify my pre-game trepidation ………that Wangaratta-Magpies’ brilliant Indian all-rounder Pranav Menon, is going to have a profound influence on the game.

The trouble is, when you’re bowling to ‘Prav’, he’s so dominant, and scores so quickly, he can take the game away from you in a jiffy…….

His third-wicket stand with skipper Jack Davies adds 100 in just 80 minutes, before Jack is skittled by left-arm quick Paddy McNamara for a handy 36……But by now the Pies are 3/126, and headed for a huge total.

Brady Bartlett, whose 25 wickets have rounded off the Hawk attack nicely this season, collects another timely scalp when he traps ‘Prav’ in front eight runs later. His 59 off 64 balls was, I’m told, an essay of fluent, wristy strokeplay.

From then on in it’s a matter of the Wang-Magpies lower-order eking out crucial runs – and the Hawks keeping them in check. Despite the best efforts of the bowlers, the Pies finish with 8/163…….Bartlett (3/31) and McNamara (3/23) take the bowling honours.

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‘Runs on the Board’ is a well-worn adage in finals cricket…….Four runs an over, against a side which, time and again this season has been able to put the screws on their opposition, is a tough proposition.

But I’ve got faith in Bailey Dale and Luke Whitten, who have developed into a handy combination. Luke seems to have been inspired by Bailey’s cavalier stroke-play and has, himself, become more uninhibited……..The extent of this partnership could, I believe, determine the match…….

They’re off to a flier, and the updates I’m getting ( scoring at almost eight an over ) indicate that they’ve given their side a really handy launching-pad.

It’s 1/67 when Whitten is adjudged LBW to Zac Guilfoyle, but Dale and the incoming Jacob Beattie ( who’s also a free-wheeler) keep the run-rate flowing nicely.

When I succumb to temptation, and ring for someone to ‘paint the picture’, I’m told they’re 3/112…….Dale had skipped down the wicket to spinner Menon and had been neatly stumped by keeper Cooper Matheson for 45…….Beattie’s 22-ball knock had come to an end when the newly-introduced Nick Pell dismissed him for 28.

The Hawks had experimented with Beattie at first-drop, late in the season, with some success, and again, he had produced valuable, quick runs.

I’m delighted…..surely they should do the job from here……Only 50-odd runs, with heaps of overs in hand and plenty of batting to follow…….

Then the reports start coming through…….I’m informed later that the under-rated Pell is bowling ‘hand-grenades’……..6/120….7/129….8/131…9/136……

I receive an ominous four-word text from a knowledgeable Hawk….’Not looking good, KB’……. which sends me into the depths of depression….

Ah well, the dream’s over…….the boys have had a good season…….and the Pies deserve it. They’ve been outstanding all year ……..

I’m anticipating the final death knell……Half an hour passes by…….No word…Surely the game must be over by now…..

Then the belated message comes through………They’ve pinched it……..Unbelievable…

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So I sit down to watch the live-stream this morning, to recapture the drama of this Grand Final of the Ages ( I note that there have been more than 820 views on You-Tube, which shows the interest in the contest ) ….It’s every bit as riveting as I’ve been told……particularly that last-wicket stand of 28 between Alex McCarthy and Brady Bartlett, which finally swings the pendulum the Hawks way.

Equally as interesting is the ‘chit-chat’ from the crowd, amidst the excitement from both camps:

‘Pelly…Pelly….Pelly…’ as the ex-Greta paceman is cutting a swathe through the RUB middle-order…….

‘He doesn’t have faith in ya mate…….Can’t ya handle the pressure, Bartlett….’

‘Pull ya head in, why don’t ya….’

‘Very uppish shot that…You’re looking scratchy, McCarthy…..’

The partnership develops: A Bartlett pull-shot scoots to the boundary, as does a streaky shot backward of point………They chip 10 runs off one over, then Bartlett hammers a shot back at tiring medium-pacer Matt Gathercole, who just can’t grasp a difficult chance, with the score on 149….

A single here and a strong off-side shot there from McCarthy, who’s been solid, maintains the pressure……….It’s down to 11…..then another Bartlett boundary off Guilfoyle brings the crowd to fever-pitch………Seven to get…. another boundary reduces it to three……

And now they’re home……. Bartlett, whose handy all-round contribution has been as significant as anyone in the match, executes a strong drive, ushering in celebrations and commiserations among the combatants, neither of who deserved to lose………

Rovers-United-Bruck 9/164 defeated Wangaratta- Magpies 8/163

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