Minor premier knocked out as Eagles take flight

With a Barber Shield grand final berth on the line, emotions ran high during a heated final over which will be debated for years to come in an otherwise absorbing semi-final between East Gambier and Penola at Scott Park last weekend.

Chasing the small total of 96, the Bulldogs were in early trouble before ninth-wicket pair Ben Hentschke and Liam Turley resolutely pushed themselves to within 12 runs of victory before tea.

However, tensions flared just four balls after the break when Turley poked at a delivery outside off stump before landing in the gloves of Eagles’ keeper Mark Smith.

Every Penola fielder was adamant Turley had edged the ball, but the umpire did not move his finger.

The Eagles could not believe the decision and play was disrupted as umpires and players from both sides got involved in animated discussions.

After the long delay, Turley retired, which brought Matty Bennett to the hot seat.

The number 11 tentatively shouldered arms to a Lachlan Jones thunderbolt, which crashed into the stumps sparking wild celebrations from the visitors.

Players wondered whether Bennett’s golden duck was the final act as they awaited the return of the retired batsman.

But he was eventually timed out and the Eagles won by 11 runs.

Reflecting on the dramatic finish, Penola captain Smith conceded “it was disappointing for all parties involved” but believed the strongest team won on the day.

“We bowled really well and felt we deserved to win,” he said.

“The heated stuff at the end was disappointing because it took away from how well Lachie and Michael (Waters) bowled.

“Once we got away from the ground it eventually sunk in we had the chance of playing in the grand final.”

The Bulldogs were forced onto the back foot before a ball was bowled due to an untimely injury to influential leader Alex Hentschke.

Dion Stratford took over the leadership duties, but lost the toss and the visitors elected to bat under cloudy skies.

Despite paceman Ben Clark turning back the clock in his first A Grade game of the summer season with two early wickets, the Eagles were well placed at 2/60 thanks to hard work from Smith (35) and Lewis March (21).

But the introduction of spin turned the game on its head.

Ben Hentschke was the dam buster with two big wickets before Emerson Marks’ offspin tore through the tail with 4/6 from 5.1 destructive overs.

The collapse of 8/36 left East 17 tense overs to bat until stumps and the hosts looked up for the challenge despite Leigh Von Duve out lbw for two.

Connor Little (16) and Marks (9) showed good application, but the former was undone by a juggling caught and bowled effort by Jones on the cusp of stumps.

With the sun out early on day two and only 71 runs required with eight wickets in hand, conditions favoured East, but Waters and Jones had other ideas.

The pair tied the Bulldogs up with relentless pressure, conceding just one boundary from the last 22 overs and creating countless chances.

Jones’ huge wicket of Stratford was the highlight of his 5/50, while Waters also impressed with 4/33.

Smith said his new-ball duo is the reason why Penola finished on top.

“We would have liked more runs, but we were still confident defending the total if we could get early wickets,” he said.

“We felt each wicket we got, the more pressure was applied on them and I could not take Lachie and Michael off.

“Credit to both of them for how well they can bowl for long periods of time.”

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