West Gambier went on to claim the outright victory it desperately craved against Mil Lel, but the script took some unexpected turns on day two at Frew Park. After skittling the home side for just 50 on the opening day, the Roos were in the box seat heading into Saturday as Mil Lel resumed its second innings at 2/46 and a lead of 34.
The visitors luck continued as Mil Lel captain Jack Miller edged a Sam Willis delivery to the keeper’s gloves just 10 balls after play began. Willis also accounted for Daniel Justin, while Lachlan Brown pinched the wicket of Darcy Williamson. After losing 3/23 from the first 17 overs of the day, Mil Lel was in dire straits and incumbent batsmen Nick Walters and Logan Gibbs struggled to break a chain of dot balls.
Eventually the duo nudged the total towards triple figures, but both walked back to the pavilion within one over of each other. Gibbs (21) was clean bowled by Justin Dejong, while Walters (25) was caught out after mistiming a Niall Easterbrook delivery.
Tail-ender Carey Megaw took matters into his own hands and ensured the lead got past the important 100-run marker, although Easterbrook cleaned up the tail, while Willis finished with 4/28 after taking the first quartet of wickets. Megaw’s defiant 20 gave Mil Lel enough runs to make the run chase tricky for West, which proved to be the case.
Chasing 114 for maximum points from 39 overs, the Roos stumbled to a nightmare start as Walters and Gibbs ran amok with the new ball. Opener Kale Wrightson lost his defences just eight balls in, while Geddes suffered the same fate shortly after.
It did not take long for Connor Prior and Jake Blackwell to find confusion between the wickets and the former was run out by Craig Lock’s sharp work on 11. Sam Coxon managed to get off the mark immediately with a boundary, but could not prevent Gibbs leaving the stumps dismantled.
In the blink of an eye Mil Lel’s mindset switched from despair to disbelieve with West 4/29 and all three results possible. However, two top Roos put their heads down and guided the visitors to safety. A determined Blackwell relinquished some of the pressure with back-to-back boundaries off Walters.
Willis also showed plenty of exuberance with the blade and scored quick runs including one Megaw over for 13. In just less than an hour at the crease, Willis (34) and Blackwell (38) compiled 64 valuable runs for the fifth wicket. However, there was one more twist left in the tale after Mitch Little’s legbreaks brought the pair undone in consecutive overs.
But even though Dejong also fell to Miller, West had little reason to panic. Roos’ captain Richard Crute came to the rescue striking critical boundaries before Easterbrook hit the winning runs into Frew Park’s picket fence.
Crute said it was incredibly satisfying to clinch the outright three-wicket win and secure a finals berth as a bonus. “It was huge for our season because it cements us in the top four,” he said. “Once you get into finals anything can happen, so it gives us a chance and hopefully we can perhaps make it into the grand final. “But we need to focus on this week because north is a very handy side.”
Despite easily knocking over Mil Lel on the opening day, Crute was wary of the home side’s during the week-long break. He said his aggressive declaration was designed to keep both sides in the game and was very pleased with his team’s response in the field to setup the victorious run chase.
“Part of my thinking in terms of the early declaration was to try and make them (Mil Lel attack, helping us get some wickets,” Crute said. “If Mil Lel was able to get a good start, they had the chance to also get the outright, but our boys were fantastic with the ball. “We did not release the pressure with boundaries and put in the best fielding display of the season to bowl them out.”
With a small, but difficult target on the board, Crute said he had some butterflies in the closing stages after things did not initially go to plan. “We had 39 overs to bat, so I said to the guys do not worry about the score because if we bat out the overs we will make it,” he said.
“Mil Lel set us a tricky target and we lost a couple of early wickets, but Jake and Sam steadied the ship. “It was a bit of a shame they could not get the job completely done, but thankfully we did with 10 overs to go.”