East Gambier sealed its first Hoggies Wines Barber Shield minor premiership for more than a decade after safely negotiating Mil Lel on home turf on Saturday. The Bulldogs needed at least a first-innings victory in the final-round battle and they did exactly that by defending 225 with a well-planned bowling effort.
Initially the hosts did not get on the front foot in Mil Lel’s run chase as openers Tim McInerney and Craig Lock eased into proceedings with a 39-run stand. But the relentless line of Alex Hentschke proved too much for Lock, who was caught for 14.
Shortly after leg-spinner Ben Hentschke trapped Nick Walters in front before the former’s younger brother removed McInerney on 30. At 4/97 Mil Lel was already in trouble after losing steady wickets, but another spinner Emerson Marks entered the attack and landed the knock-out punch.
In just his second over the left-arm orthodox bowler left his exclamation mark on the game by removing both Daniel Justin and Carey Megaw. Justin had looked dangerous progressing to 23, but he went forward at one ball too many and could not reclaim his ground before Dion Stratford whipped the bails off in a flash.
Megaw took guard, but was forced to depart in an instant after a Marks’ off break snaked through his defences first ball. Youngster Mitch Little was forced to negotiate the hat-trick delivery and Marks just missed out on the magic moment after beating the edge of the tentative batsman.
Despite the nervous start and not scoring a run from his first 19 overs at the crease, Little hung around and frustrated East as he built partnerships with Mil Lel’s tail. Logan Gibbs was the biggest threat, striking an entertaining 31 before Matthew Bennett knocked him over before Little ran out of support and Ben Hentschke finished the innings.
Mil Lel scored 151 from its 66.4 overs and returned home with the wooden for the third successive season. Although maintain the minor premiership was never a focus, East captain Alex Hentschke said he was proud to put the honour back into the Kennel’s trophy cabinet.
“It is always good to finish the minor rounds on top,” he said. “But it is just a feather in the camp to have and it is nice to get a good win heading into finals.” Hentschke said the Scott Park surface did not favour bat or ball and said patience was the key. “The pitch played well, so we were not looking at the conditions and just backed ourselves to get the 10 wickets and build pressure on Mil Lel,” he said.
“We went into our rhythms and areas, so if Mil Lel wanted to chase down 225, they had to manufacture some shots because we were not going to give them the boundary balls.”
The result sets up a semi-final date with Penola at the same venue and the Bulldogs hold the upper hand winning both of the season’s previous duels. Hentschke is wary of the Eagles and believes scoreboard pressure could be crucial in the cut-throat game.
“You can’t go into any game too confident because Penola is a good team and just took care of South,” he said. “They have blokes in good form with Michael Waters taking eight (wickets) so it should be a close game and hopefully we can come out on the right side of it.”