The Cessnock District Cricket Association played its penultimate round of competition at the weekend, with second, third and fourth spot still all up for grabs in the top grade.
Greta/Branxton wrapped up the minor premiership with a convincing eight-wicket win over an out-of-sorts Wine Country at Miller Park on Saturday.
Sent in to bat, the Wood Ducks were skittled for 70 inside 29 overs.
Openers Jack Morris (17) and Matt Lightfoot (12) were the only batsmen to reach double figures, while for Greta/Branxton Patrick Andrews (4-10 off 7), Darren Thomson (3-19 off 10) and Cliff Newling (2-9 off 2.2) combined nicely in taking the wickets.
The Blues reeled in the target in 21 overs, with Mark Bercini (31no) and Joey Butler (20) among the runs.
Tom Page (2-22 off 5) took both of Wine Country’s scalps.
In bizarre circumstances, five-time consecutive defending premiers Mulbring were in grave danger of missing the semi-finals.
But, in true fashion, they bounced back to form by trouncing Coalfields Cup champions Bellbird by five wickets at Carmichael Park.
The home side was sent in to bat – and all out inside 26 overs for just 52.
Matt Shrieber (18) and Ben Fairlie (14) were the only willowmen to achieve double figures in an unlikely Tigers batting card.
Having said this, the Mulbring seamers bowled well in the favourable conditions, with Aaron Halls (4-16 off 6), Zach Sneesby (3-18 off 10) and Ben Neaves (2-6 off 7.4) all very difficult to handle.
The Marlins achieved the victory, however not without a struggle, in the 21st over after losing five wickets.
Halls (19no) completed a fine all-round game, and it was only fitting that that the man of the match was there to hit the winning runs.
He was well-supported by Mick Mascord (12no) who was also at the crease at that moment.
The Piranhas had the week off with the bye.
This sets up an exciting final round this weekend, with both matches still having a bearing on the ladder.
Mulbring remains a mathematical chance of securing second place and a home semi-final if they defeat the Piranhas, with Bellbird having to beat Greta/Branxton to wrap up a similar position.
The Piranhas will have to upset Mulbring by a big margin to draw level with them and grossly improve their Net Run Rate.
Meanwhile, Wine Country has the bye and will finish either third or fourth depending on results.
Greta/Branxton also wrapped up the club championship with wins in all grades.
- by Mark Bercini
Greta/Branxton 8/103 (Ben Van Haren 20, Jason Varley 18, Blake Kellett 17, Jesse Ballenden 3-23 off 10, Johan Briedenhann 3-26 off 7) defeated Wine Country 10/99 (Luke Jeans 22, Cameron Ashe 16, George Copeland 13, Brett Bridge 3-19 off 8, Anthony Brundson 3-36 off 10, Hayden Regan 2-21 off 10)
Chelmsford Hotel 4/146 (Arron Follan 52no, Brad Hanlon 51no, Corey Goodwin 18, Aaron Sweeney 3-17 off 10) defeated Piranhas 10/96 (Craig Benson 17, Liam Dureau 15, Aaron Sweeney 13, Hayden Ridley 3-32 off 10, Matt Turnbull 2-15 off 9)
Greta/Branxton 5/32 (Brett Stephenson 10, Rob Clark 2-4 off 3) defeated Piranhas 10/29 (Adam Williams 9, Jamie McNamara 7-11 off 4, Noah McNamara 2-16 off 4.5)
Wine Country Blue 9/142 (Wayne Harris 58, Glenn Oakes 14, Eain Harris 13) defeated Mulbring 10/60 (Peter Davis 3-16 off 5, Wayne Harris 3-13 off 7, Stephen Hedger 2-15 off 7)
Wine Country White 10/100 (Stephen Leathley 53, Bailey Vanlaarhoven 14, Robert W. Clark 4-20 off 9, Clint Starkey 3-29 off 10, Mark Scott 2-27 off 9) defeated Bellbird 10/85 (Gary Kirby 25, Paul Lynch 12, Matt Wood 3-10 off 4.1, Zane Leathley 2-13 off 10, Alessandro Ganino 2-19 of 10)
Bellbird Maroon 4/101 (Jordan Field 40no, Matt Burke 33no, Jordon Jackson-Tilley2-26 off 10) defeated Cessnock Hotel 10/95 (Paul Robinson 22, Dean Jackson 22, Marc Bender 19, John Crowe 12no, Dan Field 3-30 off 8, Heath Cameron 2-13 off 10, Bradley Henderson 2-10 off 7, Jordan Field 2-12 off 4.2)
Greta/Branxton Blue 6/79 (Zach MacBeth 29, Zac Watkins 15, James Shoulders Jnr 2-4 off 1) defeated Greta/Branxton White 10/75 (Mitch Fallon 48, Correy Stone 3-16 off 10, Zach MacBeth 3-9 off 4, Riley McKewen 2-15 off 6.2)
Bellbird White 10/129 (Adrian Bright 47, Rob Jordan 30, Andrew Wanless 4-28 off 10, Hayden Yates 3-20 off 10, Abinandan Sudharsanam 2-54 off 9.2) defeated Chelmsford Hotel 10/63 (Venkat Inakollu 14, Joel Butterfield 4-15 off 5.4, Steve Bedford 3-16 off 8, Adrian Bright 2-10 off 3)
Piranhas 9/134 (Craig Beer 53, Ricky Hollis 36, Peter Walsh 2-26 off 10, Dominic Peacock 2-25 off 7, Harrison Webb 2-17 off 5) defeated Wine Country 10/55 (Harrison Webb 17, Lachlan Eather 15no, Steve Russell 3-5 off 5, Ricky Hollis 3-14 off 3, Michael Read 2-6 off 4)
Cessnock District Cricket Association 2020-21 points tables
First grade: Greta/Branxton 42*, Bellbird 33*, Wine Country 33, Mulbring 29*, Piranhas 25*
Second grade: Chelmsford Hotel 69**, Wine Country 53***, Greta/Branxton 50***, Bellbird 47***, Piranhas 37***
* byes received, 0 points allocated
Third grade: Wine Country White 69, Bellbird 65, Wine Country Blue 64, Greta/Branxton 62, Piranhas 62, Mulbring 54
Fourth grade: Bellbird White 6.43, Chelmsford Hotel 6.33, Bellbird Maroon 6.33, Greta/Branxton Blue 6.00, Cessnock Hotel 4.71, Wine Country 4.33, Piranhas 3.67, Greta/Branxton White 3.57, Supporters 3.00
* Fourth grade points calculated on average due to uneven number of byes
Club championships: Greta/Branxton 600.60, Wine Country 548.10, Bellbird 532.00, Piranhas 423.50
Club championships formula: First grade x 7, Second grade x 3.5, Third grade x 1.4, Fourth grade x 0.7
NB: The team with the higher total points in grades where clubs have more than one side will contribute to the club championships