Eight-wicket haul vaults Penola into finals

Penola finished South Gambier’s summer and sealed a finals berth in devastating fashion in the final round of the Hoggies Wines Barber Shield on Saturday. When play resumed on the second day, both sides were in contention with the Demons chasing 112 runs and the Eagles six wickets for victory in the sudden-death encounter.

But an incredible eight-wicket haul – whilst bowling unchanged from the hockey pitch end – by Michael Waters ended any finals hopes for South. After Josh Thompson and Michael Sims used their experience to see out the danger period before stumps on day one, they had nothing in reserve to cope with the threat of Waters on the second day.

The right-arm seamer removed both of them to resume the onslaught and set the tone for the remainder of the game. Nick Seager soon followed after a three-ball duck before Robert Drenthen came to the crease. Drenthen’s ability to score quickly could have turned the game around, but he only negotiated one delivery before edging another Waters missile into the wicketkeeper’s gloves.

When Waters returned for his next over, mother cricket continued to look down on him fondly when Jakob Opie missed a full toss. At the other end, Lachlan Jones was also putting on a bowling masterclass providing the perfect foil for Waters, suffocating South’s batsmen with severe pressure.

The result of the duo’s tireless work left the Demons cooked at 9/69, but captain James Dunn refused to give up. He bunkered down with tail-ender Ethan Sims and the last-wicket pair brought the total to 83 before drinks. Dunn became just the second South player and first of the final day to reach double figures.

However, Dunn’s back-to-the-wall effort expired on 20 after he chipped a ball straight back to Jones in his follow through. The wicket confirmed the Eagles’ success led by Waters and Jones, who single-handedly bowled South out with the respective figures of 8/43 and 2/30, while not another bowler was needed.

After wrapping up first-innings honours by 78 runs, Penola padded up to spend some more time at the crease ahead of finals. Following Opie’s damaging spell removing both openers with the new ball, Jack Mullan and Smith compiled 53 and 43 respectively before players shook hands with the Eagles on 3/119.

Despite the comfortable margin of victory, Smith said he was concerned at different stages of the game. “The game was in the balance heading into day two and I was nervous during the week,” he said. “I felt we could have made a few more runs, so it was great to get some early wickets. “When Robbie Drenthen came out to bat and we got him for a duck, we felt great because we thought he could take the game away from us.”

With all 10 wickets collected from two men, Smith did not have to look far for his top performers. “Michael bowled well for his eight-for and Jones went unrewarded at the other end,” he said. “It was a good bowling partnership and Michael was able to take advantage. “He just charged in, put it up there, swinging it and found the rewards.”

Penola now turns its attention to this weekend’s huge semi-final with East Gambier at Scott Park. After two defeats to the Bulldogs this summer, Smith has a simple mindset for the two-day battle this Saturday and Sunday using his side’s recent T20 trophy as inspiration.

“As a group we are pretty confident and do not feel we have anything to lose,” he said. “Both times we played East we were in a position to win, but just did not put the foot down. “We are stoked to make the finals and will go in all guns blazing.”

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