Dennington v Allansford at Dennington. Pictured is Brad Sheen from Allansford 120310AS41 picture: AARON SAWALLDRAMATIC best sums up Saturday’s Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one final round.
Nanjing Night Net

The competition’s top two sides Nestles and West played a tense tie, last season’s grand finalist Woodford was dismissed for just 28 to sensationally bomb out of the finals and bottom side Brierly Christ Church saved its best to last, recording its first victory of the season in a big upset.

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With Nestles assured of the minor premiership after completing the regular season undefeated, West Warrnambool, Merrivale and defending premier Allansford, after a tight win over Dennington, snuck into the final four ahead of next weekend’s semi-finals.

Nestles and Allansford will square off in their fourth semi-final appearance in the past five seasons next Saturday and Sunday while West Warrnambool and Merrivale will meet in the other.

Just which side finished second won’t be determined until today with Merrivale captain Michael Walsh predicting his side could have snuck ahead of the Panthers by 0.4 of a point.

Merrivale quickly stitched up its place in the finals for the first time in about seven years, ripping the heart out of Woodford’s top order in a destructive opening.

After Woodford skipper John Houston picked up three runs off the first ball of the match — a no ball — the Eels lost 5-1 to be 5-5, a position they never recovered from. The Eels had only four batsmen who scored in the 28, with Ross Levett making half of them.

Merrivale pacemen Adam Melville (3-7), Damien Barnes (3-4) and Colin McKendry (3-1) were the stars with the ball.

Walsh was delighted with his side’s performance but said sealing a finals berth was a relief.

“We were just happy to get a win,” Walsh said.

“We were under pressure (trying to make the finals). We haven’t played finals for a while. Now we have to take the next step. You have to take the attitude of nothing to lose.”

Walsh said his side’s first target after dismissing the Eels in the 18th over was to pass the target.

“We didn’t want to be eight or nine down for 120, it was good batting practice for a few blokes and a couple who were under pressure to hold their spots made runs.”

Merrivale finished at 4-154.

Woodford’s Houston described his side’s total as an “embarrassment”. “I just didn’t see that coming,” he said.

“I thought we prepared ourselves really well, we had a great training on Thursday night and we were up and about.

“You can’t get hung up on it, you just have to move on.”

Houston said the finish was shattering but the club fielded nine players under 20 on Saturday, including five under 17s.

“You can get hung up on the result of the last game but our under 17s won the flag this year and having such a young side in division one was a real positive for the club.”

With news of Woodford’s demise reaching Dennington Recreation Reserve, Allansford knew it had to defeat the home side to leap into the four. After posting 9-196 with opener Bill Primmer making 35, the Gators had a few scares before dismissing Dennington for 156.

Captain Josh Parkinson said the Gators had to work hard for the win.

“We were looking a bit shaky at one stage. We always thought we were one wicket away or a tight over away,” he said.

“When (Kahinagalage) Silva (58) was batting, he was absolutely creaming them. They were 3-120 when he went out in the 29th over and they still had plenty of overs left. But we were able to stay in the game and get a few wickets.”

The closest match of the round was at Davidson Oval where Nestles set West 166 for victory.

The Panthers needed eight off the final over with seven wickets in hand to win and drew level with two balls remaining. Captain Andrew Robb was stumped trying to work a single by Nestles’ keeper Cam Williams who was standing up to the stumps to paceman Tim Cain off the fifth ball.

Star batsman Leigh Johnson was then caught behind by Williams off the last ball as he tried to get a single.

“It was a good game going into the finals,” Nestles skipper Brett Eldridge, who missed the game, said.

“It was that real finals intensity for the whole day.”

Robb said he couldn’t fault his side’s effort but was disappointed with himself.

“I’m happy to take the blame,” Robb said.

“At the end of the day we could have won. We had the chance to win but it was a great game of cricket.

“You couldn’t have asked for anything better leading into the finals.

“We fielded really well, after our first 10 overs we bowled really well and we batted really well but we fell one run short.

“I’m only disappointed in myself, I let the team down. I’m disappointed I had to make one of my players do that, come out and make a run straight away. You are trying to hit a run when everyone else is generally trying to survive first ball.”

Brierly Christ Church captain Nathan Murphy said the Bulls’ second-last-over win against Russells Creek was the finish his side wanted for the season.

Chasing 151 for victory, the Bulls finished at 6-156, thanks to a match-winning partnership by debutant Bryce Halliday (19 not out) and Aaron Rethus (32 not out).

“Gee it was a relief,” Murphy said of the Bulls’ first win of the season.

“It was our grand final. We were going off. There were high-fives everywhere.” He said the win was a reward for effort.

In the other game, a re-match of last year’s division two grand finalists, Wesley-CBC ended its impressive return to division one with a six-run win over the Pirates.

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