Under 18 Grand Final
The Under 18 Grand Final was very much a game of shifting feelings and fortunes where players and spectators alike ran the gauntlet of emotions from sheer frustration to exhilaration. The biggest frustration was due to light problems that beset twilight grades this late in the season and having to play the game over three days was difficult for all, that the players handled it so calmly was testament to the strength of both sides and the maturity of these young men.
The exhilaration was the last half hour of the contest as the fortunes of both sides rose and fell with every passing minute, never has nail biting been a more apt description of a tense battle.
Heathmont batted first and despite an early run-out the second wicket stand between Lincoln Wong and Nathan Mullenger McHugh was looking ominous for the Eagles before Nathan fell in the battle of the hyphens to Shehan Kudage-Don to finish an excellent 44 run stand. Lincoln was joined by Dylan Howard and again a big target looked probable. Again it was a brilliant run out that sparked the Vermont revival with Lincoln departing for an invaluable 45.
For Vermont James Morrison and Ryan Phillips began to make further inroads into the batting lineup both taking 2 wickets apiece with James being particularly hard to get away. Finally on Day 2 the Heathmont innings closed for 142 with a 3rd run out closing proceedings. Vermont had every right to feel satisfied with their efforts and favouritism had shifted slightly in their favour but there was a resolve from the opposition that they had the runs on the board and could defend them.
The Eagles also suffered the loss of an early wicket with Ben Gibson caught but new batsman Conor Spinks joined the norm Angus Hands and they gradually began to claw the runs back against some great bowling bringing up Vermonts 50. Then as the day drew to a close and Vermont clearly on top there was a mini-collapse with two quick wickets thanks to Tom Delaney and the game was again precariously poised going into day 3.
Beautiful weather greeted a good and vocal crowd for day 3 and Vermont were quickly into stride and there target drew closer at an alarming rate for the Heathmont boys. Angus Hand brought up a great 50 but at 109 (42 short) he lifted one too many and Vermont lost wicket no 4 but they were still well in command of the situation. James Morrison and Ryan Phillips added 14 more valuable runs before James also failed to clear the fielder and the Heathmont bowlers visibly lifted.
The Vermont supporters were still confident with Buckets at the wicket and a straight drive for 6 was met with huge applause and then came the moment that to many swung the match. Ryan clipped the ball of his pads to what looked like a certain 4 just fine of square leg. Lurking there was Steve Brown and he launched himself through the air and two handed pulled in the catch of the season, spectators from both teams rose as one and applauded such a great effort, still with 3 wickets in the shed and only 15 runs required the match was there to be won by either team.
There was a shocked silence as Dylan Howard in the middle of a great spell of bowling slipped the next ball through Max Healey’s defence and nails were starting to be chewed down to the quick. Ned Coghlan was desperately trying to keep bat on ball and eke out the final runs and the last over commenced with Vermont requiring 7 runs but 9 wickets down. Three singles and an overthrow brought on by the pressure edged the Eagles closer but with 1 ball to go and 3 runs needed a 4 was essential. The last ball was struck well to leg and the batsmen ran two while the Heathmont fieldsmen kept their cool, got the ball back to the keeper safely and Vermont were left stranded by the solitary run. Dylan Howard’s 4 wickets to support his 25 runs won him the player of the match but in the wash-up everyone agreed cricket and sportsmanship had been the winners on the day and both teams did their clubs proud.