By Colin MacGillivray
MORE than two decades of misery were washed away when Eastern Hill claimed its first A Grade premiership in 24 years, downing Broadford in an entertaining Seymour District Cricket Association grand final on Saturday.
Eastern Hill had been the team to beat all year and did not disappoint the home crowd at Kings Park in Seymour, punctuating a 15-run victory with a dramatic run out.
The Eagles elected to bat after winning the toss but lost opener Dallas Bergowicz for a duck early.
It was left to Brayden Speechley to steady the minor premiers, which he did by batting patiently with a succession of partners for a hard-earned 42.
Only Eastern Hill skipper Seamus Feery, 17, and Nick Dundon, 16, stuck around long enough to give Speechley run support, as Broadford’s multi-pronged bowling attack of Jack Connell, 2/20, Jeremy Bradshaw, 3/27, and James Jones, 1/22, struck repeatedly.
The Eagles looked to be in trouble when Speechley was caught off the bowling of Connell, but Matthew Collard’s late-innings contribution of an unbeaten 23 moved the home side to triple figures, as they finished their 45 overs 8/115.
Broadford skipper Taylor Shell, who bowled brilliantly without reward for an economical 0/14 from nine overs, was full of praise for his bowling attack.
“Given the option we probably would have batted, because it gives you the chance to put some scoreboard pressure on in a final no matter what you make,” he said.
“To restrict them to 115 I thought was a pretty good effort by us. The pitch didn’t look like it had too many demons in it from a batting standpoint, so we thought we’d bowled pretty well to restrict them to that total.”
While a target of 115 seemed within reach for Broadford, Eastern Hill’s strength in 2021-22 has been its bowling, and the Eagles’ attack got straight to work.
Broadford openers Riley Mason, one, and Gareth Sharp, nine, were both removed leg before wicket by Jake Sutherland and Dundon respectively, while first-drop batsman Mitch Collier also had his stumps rattled by Sutherland for a single run.
It fell to former captain Ash Wood to steady the ship when he came in at 3/19, and he did so with 25 patient runs from 56 balls, including two of only three boundaries for the visitors.
Wood was disappointed to be given out, caught off the bowling of Daniel O’Sullivan on a catch that looked like it didn’t carry to the fielder, throwing Broadford’s innings back into turmoil at 5/50.
Broadford keeper Liam Collier’s 16 kept the visitors in the chase, but Sutherland, who finished with 4/13 in a match-winning performance, struck again to remove him.
With the required run rate mounting, Jones partnered first with Bradshaw, eight, then Shell, six, and finally Connell, zero not out, in a desperate last-wicket stand, with 17 runs required for victory and only three overs left.
Jones was run out for 12 two balls into the 43rd over, ending the match and delivering Eastern Hill its long-sought-after premiership.
Eastern Hill president Mark White said it was a momentous occasion for the young Eagles team, which improved dramatically after missing the finals last season.
“For me this all started four years ago when we had a professional coach for two years in Craig White,” he said.
“We had a very young team back then, most of whom were only just out of junior cricket.
“Over the coming years they learnt a great deal and grew into young men.
“With this young bunch of men I can only see more success in the future coming our way. What a great feeling and wonderful moment for our club.”
Shell said despite the disappointment of a lost grand final, he was proud of Broadford’s efforts.
“I’m proud of not just the A Grade side, but the whole club in general,” he said.
“I’m rapt for how everyone at the club has performed this year. My boys in A Grade were a well-balanced side, and we just couldn’t get over the final hurdle.”
Shell also paid tribute to Broadford’s C Grade side, which defeated Eastern Hill by four wickets at Harley Hammond Reserve.
The B Grade premiership went to Pyalong in a convincing 97-run win against Alexandra.