By Colin MacGillivray
BROADFORD will chase its first Seymour District Cricket Association A Grade premiership in four years when it meets Eastern Hill in Saturday’s grand final.
Broadford pulled off a miracle to defeat Avenel in its last grand final appearance in 2017-18, and, although not quite as dramatic, needed to dig deep again in its semi-final against Kilmore at the weekend to make its way to the biggest game.
Broadford will now face minor premier Eastern Hill in the grand final.
Playing on its home field at Harley Hammond Reserve, Broadford elected to bat after winning the toss, ambling to 0/28 before quick wickets in succession by the visitors applied early pressure.
Mitch Collier and Ash Wood were tasked with rescuing Broadford’s innings and did so confidently.
Collier was looking set for a big total when a straight drive from Wood brushed bowler Josh Buttler’s finger and cannoned into the stumps at the non-striker’s end, sending the luckless Collier back to the sheds.
Wood continued to build his own innings, pairing with Evan Mills for an 80-run partnership that put the home side in an ideal position.
Wood was eventually removed by Robert Hanson for 70, while Mills (27) was one of four scalps collected by Kilmore’s Ned McKeown.
Jake Martin made a handy 10-run cameo at the end of the innings to push Broadford’s total to 8/178 from 45 overs, a score captain Taylor Shell was thrilled with.
“It was a massive effort batting. Ash just about carried his bat through the innings to make 70. It really set us up for the day and helped us put up one of our best scores this season at home on the board,” he said.
“To do that in a semi was a phenomenal effort by everyone involved.
“To get a bit of scoreboard pressure in a final gave us a real confidence boost coming into the second half of the game.”
Kilmore was far from done however.
The visitors got an ideal start to their innings when the ever-dangerous Dale Tassone and Kevin Craddock quickly piled up 78 runs, putting the team on track for victory.
Shell lauded his team for refusing to panic under pressure.
“They were going at virtually a run a ball and were absolutely cruising, but with the runs we had on the board we knew all it would take was one or two wickets and no matter what we were still right in the game,” he said.
“It’s the old saying: cricket is a funny game. There have been plenty of finals where a side looks like they’re going to absolutely cruise in and then something changes and sometimes it can go the complete opposite way.”
That change came when Jeremy Bradshaw and James Jones took the crucial wickets of Craddock (30) and Tassone (51) respectively in quick succession before the drinks break.
It set the stage for a match-winning performance from Jake Martin, who turned in career-best figures of 6/22 from eight overs, including a maiden.
Shell was full of praise for the man nicknamed ‘Snake’, and said he had performed admirably all season.
“He’s taken bags a couple of times this season, and for him to get 6/22, which I think is his career best figures, in a final is a phenomenal effort by him personally,” Shell said.
“We knew we needed to build some dot-ball pressure to bring some momentum back to us and stem the flow of runs. Jonesy and Snake did that, bowling in a really great partnership together.
“Jack Connell bowled a brilliant opening spell and came on towards the end and put a bit of pressure on to finish off the innings.
“Every bowler chipped in for the day and everyone got at least one wicket. Everyone did their job.”
Martin ripped through Kilmore’s middle order as only Ben Dawson (11), Hanson (11) and Mitch Van De Duim (10) reached double figures after the openers departed.
Kilmore, a grand finalist last year, was all out for 143 after 40 overs, giving the home side a 35-run win.
Shell said the victory was a big result for the club, made all the more special by having two up-and-coming junior players on hand.
“I want to give a big congratulations to one of our juniors, Rowan Pollock who was 12th man on the day,” Shell said.
“He was really excited and keen, and when we asked him if he’d like to do it without a second of a thought he said yes, he’d be there ready to go.
“Him and another junior, Blake Jones, were constantly running our drinks to us. They were doing it all off the ground for us, so I’m greatly appreciative of their efforts and I know the boys are too.”
In the other A grade semi final, Eastern Hill downed 2020-21 premier Yea Tigers.
The only match between Broadford and Eastern Hill this season came in December, with two subsequent scheduled meetings both rained out.
Shell said it would be his side’s biggest test yet.
“Eastern Hill have set the bar this season. They’ve been on top of the ladder nearly all season, so we know we need to level up to their standard to be a good chance this week,” he said.
“We’ll take some confidence out of the semi and into the grand final. We’ll have to bring our best and do all the fundamentals right to get over the line and be a genuine chance.
“We want to replicate what we did in the semi and do all the fundamentals right by bowling to our lines and lengths and bowling to plan, putting value on our wickets and getting runs on the board.”