Greta Branxton United Cricket Club made it a minor and major premiership double when they defeated inaugural Coalfields Cup champions Bellbird by four wickets in the first grade decider at East End at the weekend.
The Blues had not tasted success on the field since 2007-08, when coincidentally they defeated Bellbird in a two-day game at Allandale Oval.
The combatants were due to meet again in the 2013-14 decider, however it was unfortunately washed out and both clubs had to share a hollow joint premiership.
So, with this being said, each organisation probably had some unfinished business to attend to.
Bellbird won the toss and elected to bat and, at 9-89 in the 33rd over, they looked like being dismissed for a low total.
However, the Tigers’ tail fought hard and managed to bat the complete 40 to close their innings at 9-131, which was not bad considering the lush outfield.
Matt Schrieber was responsible for the fightback with an unbeaten 48, with opener Jason Orr (24) and former skipper Rob Drage (17) keeping things ticking over.
Blues veteran Darren Thomson was their best with the four-piece, taking a well-deserved 5-23 off 10, with Brent Watson as per usual very economical with 2-26.
Bellbird started the defence of the modest target off in great fashion, with the Greta Branxton reeling at 2-8 in the fourth over.
But, this brought to the crease the Blues most prolific run-scorer in the club’s history in Josh Dagg.
And, he went about resurrecting the innings in typical fashion as he worked the ball around the East End arena ever so patiently.
He shared in a ship-steadying fourth wicket partnership of 47 with Reuben Andrews (19) who was playing in his maiden top grade grand final.
The Blues shrugged off three brilliantly effected run-outs from the Bellbird team to remain composed throughout the latter parts of the run chase.
In an epic finale, Greta Branxton required 24 runs from the final four overs to secure victory.
Zach Kronholm picked up the wicket of Thomson (10) to again swing the momentum slightly in Bellbird’s favour, but as he has done a few times throughout the season, Watson came to the crease and cleared the wide long-on boundary in the penultimate over of the match to turn things back in the Blues’ favour.
Four balls later he found the mid-wicket boundary with a similar stroke to end what was a great contest between two very competitive teams.
An emotional Dagg remained unbeaten on 51 at the non-striker’s end when the blow was struck in what was a match-winning performance.
Watson finished on 14 not out, with opener Nathan Holz (23) the other batsman to make an impression.
Kronholm was the pick of the Tigers’ attack with 2-37 off 10.
The Ross Smith Shield was presented to the Greta Branxton team for what will be the final time within the district, with the combined Coalfields Cup competition to be inevitably played across two full rounds next season.
Wine Country won the second grade premiership by upsetting minor premiers Chelmsford Hotel by six wickets at Carmichael No. 1.
Chelmsford was skittled inside 36 overs for just 83 batting first, with Arron Follan (39) and Gundeep Gill (17) the only willowmen to reach double figures.
New ball bowler George Copeland toiled beautifully for Wine Country, bagging 5-22 off 9.1 in a fine spell.
He was well-supported by Jesse Ballenden (3-15 off 10) and veteran John Barrett (2-10 off 6) who also bowled very economically.
The Wood Ducks were 4-39 in reply, but Luke Jeans (25no) and Ethan Ellis (20no) took their side to the target without further loss.
Skipper Dave Plumridge (17) and Jack Sims (12) were the other batsmen to make starts.
Mathew Turnbull bowled well for the Wanderers to finish with 3-33 off 9.3, but the small target was always going to be difficult to defend.
Bellbird came from fourth spot to win back-to-back third grade titles after thumping Wine Country Blue by 92 runs at Miller Park No.1.
After knocking off minor premiers Wine Country White in the semi, Bellbird batted first and was all out on the final ball of their innings for 164.
Most batsmen made starts, with Gary Kirby (43), Matt Harrison (19), Aaron Duffie (18) and Shannon Attewell (13) all productive at the crease.
Matt Wood (4-42 off 10) and Eain Harris (4-25 off 10) took four wickets apiece for the Wood Ducks.
Wine Country was out of sorts with the bat in reply and dismissed just after the drinks’ interval for 72.
Zach Ellis led the way with 16, with Bailey Vanlaarhoven (11) and Jason McMichael (10no) making starts.
Veteran Matt Harrison (5-23 off 10) bowled beautifully against his former club, with Rob Clark (3-28 off 8) and Mark Scott (2-3 off 1) finishing things off in style.
Bellbird Maroon also made it back-to-back fourth grade premierships by disposing of Chelmsford Hotel by three wickets in a low-scoring affair at Miller Park No. 2.
Chelmsford Hotel was sent into bat, and this proved to be a great move from Bellbird skipper Jordan Field as they were all out for just 66 in the 32nd over.
Vijay Tharumakulasingam (21) and Venkat Inakollu (13) were the only batsmen to show any sort of resistance against a quality Bellbird attack.
The wickets were fairly evenly-distributed, with Heath Cameron (3-14 off 6), Alex Clifford (3-3 off 3), Danny Orr (2-22 off 10) and Dan Field (2-17 off 8) all bowling great spells.
Although they did not have it all their own way in reply, the Tigers claimed the minor/major premiership double in the 33rd over of the run chase, with Field playing a fine skipper’s knock with an unbeaten 46.
Suraj Radhakrishnan (3-17 off 8.4) and Abinandan Sudharsanam (3-6 off 10) kept the Wanderers in the contest with fine spells.
A massive congratulations goes to all curators and clubs for getting grounds up to a very playable standard following the recent heavy rains and flash flooding.
The district presentation will take place at the East Cessnock Bowling Club on 1 May, starting at 6.30pm.
For further information, contact district secretary Mark Bercini on 0408 429 710.
- By Mark Bercini