By Colin MacGillivray
ONLY one hurdle stands between Kilmore and its first Seymour District Cricket Association A Grade premiership since 2016 – the Yea Tigers.
Kilmore booked its grand final berth by seeing off two-time reigning premier Tallarook in an eight-wicket semi-final romp. In the other semi-final, minor premier Broadford fell agonisingly short against the Tigers.
Kilmore’s triumph was set up by a ruthless display of precision bowling from Brett Buttler and Hayden Smith, neutralising the dangerous Tallarook batsmen.
Smith, who has been in and out of Kilmore’s A Grade side this season and was a mid-week call-up for team, produced his best performance at the right time, taking 3/6 from six overs.
Buttler (3/17) and Smith bowled three maidens each, with support from the likes of skipper Josh Buttler (1/21, four maidens), Robert Hanson (0/4 from five overs) and Jayme Lowe (1/7).
With runs hard to come by, Tallarook’s batsmen were forced into increasingly risky shots.
After Tallarook opener Coby Schulz was run out for 15 the team stabilised briefly before four wickets fell in quick succession.
Cameron Muir (15), skipper Lachie Watts (11), Ben Cooney (0) and Dan Fisher (0) were dismissed for the addition of only six runs, leaving the visitors struggling at 5/39.
Leigh Irving (16) tried to hold Tallarook’s innings together in the middle order, but when he fell the rest of the tail was quickly swept away. Tallarook was all out for 70 inside 34 overs.
Josh Buttler said despite facing a relatively small run chase, he knew Tallarook’s bowlers would come out firing with their season on the line.
But despite the best efforts of Blake Coyle and Watts, Buttler fished unbeaten on 37 alongside keeper Matt Rose (3*), with only Dale Tassone (26) and Jacob Walton (4) falling during the run chase.
Buttler said the Kilmore players were thrilled to reach the grand final.
“Tallarook have had a bit of the wood on us for the past few years. We saw them as a bit of a benchmark, so we set ourselves up to be able to match it with them,” he said.
“We stuck to our plan that has worked all year. We bowled to build pressure and restrict their scoring, and tried to keep tightening the pressure throughout the innings.”
Buttler said his side would stick to the same tactics against Yea in the grand final.
“Early in the year we won in a pretty easy manner and then the second time we met they won in a pretty easy manner,” he said.
“It’s definitely an even contest and you couldn’t say either side is particularly favoured. It’s a contest that could go either way.
“The plan we’ve gone with throughout the year of building pressure is something that we’ve relied on and it has worked. If we’re able to do that, hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”
Buttler said Kilmore was looking forward to hosting the grand final and urged the town to support the team on Saturday.
“We’re hoping we can get a big crowd and a lot of home support, and hopefully that can help get us over the line. It’s very exciting to play a grand final at home. We want our supporters to come out and watch,” he said.
The Tigers will be no easy beats after finishing runner-up to Tallarook in the past two seasons.
Yea emerged with a three-run victory after a thrilling semi-final against Broadford on Saturday.
A strong effort from the Broadford bowlers restricted the Tigers to 9/105 from their 45 overs as Jack Connell led the way.
Connell finished with 3/14 from nine overs, with Taylor Shell (2/7), Braden Hickey (2/18) and Ash Gurney (1/24) also among the wickets.
Broadford was tantalisingly close to its first grand final appearance in three years, but Yea’s bowlers refused to concede defeat.
Broadford skipper Ash Wood made 20 at the top of the order after the loss of Hickey for 12, but Wood’s dismissal by Tiger Marc Steiner triggered a case of middle-order nerves for the home side.
Mitch Collier (13) and Jeremy Bradshaw (12) were the only other Broadford batsmen to reach double figures until tailender James Jones strode to the crease.
Jones entered with Broadford in dire trouble at 9/81, still 25 runs short of victory.
He and Shell put on a heroic last-wicket stand, with Shell defending stoutly and Jones hitting out boldly.
Jones scored 19 runs from his first 20 balls, including two fours and a six to bring the home side to 9/102, only four runs shy of victory. He looked to have struck the winning runs as the ball sailed toward the boundary, but a brilliant catch from Tiger fieldsman Damon Malcolm brought a heartbreaking end to Broadford’s season.
“It was a fantastic game of cricket. I thought we bowled really well to restrict them to 105 and I felt we probably should have been able to chase that down. To their credit they bowled really well and we came up just short,” Wood said.
“It was a catch on the fence to end it. It was a fantastic catch by Damon Malcolm. You’re talking inches and it goes for four.
“It’s a tough game sometimes. It’s disappointing but I’m proud of our efforts as a team throughout the entire season.”