An Epic finale!
Bentleigh Uniting made it back to back Longmuir Shield premierships for the second time in the clubs history when they won a thrilling encounter with East Sandringham at Hurlingham Park by three runs. The game went the distance with the result in doubt until the last ball of the day with East requiring a six off the final delivery to grab the shield. It was not to be but that was just one small part of a scintillating, pressure packed match.
Day one began with Uniting batting after winning the toss but the standard was set by the opening over by East fast bowler Jayme Saleem who put the opening batsmen under the microscope immediately, however, it was Pat Singh at the other end who made the first break removing Tom Backman (3) via a smart leg side stumping by Brett Hampton in the fourth over. Tim Brisbane (5) and Luke Manders (7) got through the rest of the opening blitz but both fell shortly after to brilliant catches by Anton Duddy in the gully, both from the bowling of Brendan Bennett to leave Uniting 3/23. When Longmuir Shield player of the year Ash Russell (13) was trapped in front shortly afterwards by Singh the scoreboard read 4/34 and Uniting were in all sorts of trouble.
Run scoring was difficult due to the accurate bowling and sharp fielding of East Sandringham and Glenn Lalor and Simon Richards played with plenty of caution to scrape through to the tea break without further loss at 4/59 after 38 overs of tense cricket.
The duo did their best to up the ante’ upon the resumption but free scoring remained off the agenda as East continued their hard nosed, disciplined approach. After a 66 run stand and with the score at an even 100 Richards slapped a catch to Luke Dallas at cover to be caught for 29 and when Damian Britt let one go and lost his off stump to Saleem a few balls later East re-established control of the contest. Callum Cathcart (5) and Harry Zaia (0) came and went quickly and at 8/123 it was starting to look like East had one hand on the flag but Lalor remained and Uniting’s leader is a resilient and intelligent player and with assistance from Liam Hard set about trying to post as competitive total as possible as the remaining overs dwindled. It turned out to be a match winning partnership as the pair were able to add 50 off the final 12 overs of the day to eke out a score of 173 before Caillan Austin trapped Hard in front of his stumps for 19 on the final ball of the days play.
Lalor held firm throughout in a great display of temperament to remain undefeated on 67 off 151 balls. Austin (3/48, Singh (2/28 off 25 overs) and Saleem (2/63 off 24 overs) were superb in their work for East.
Day two and East started positively despite losing Mark Devereaux (11) with Luke Dallas and Anton Duddy in good touch and they were in cruise control at 1/60 but Luke Manders turned the game on its head when he removed Dallas (17), Guy Martyn (2) and Hampton (0) in the space of 2 overs, nullifying three of East’s prime movers and re-igniting the contest as East slipped o 4/62. In similar circumstances to day one Duddy was left to steady the innings with assistance from Daniel Corp. The pair put together a slow but crucial recovery and virtually mirrored Uniting’s position from day one when Corp was clean bowled by Russell with the score stuck on 109 after a painstaking but solid 19 and it looked set to be an even go for the last 15 overs. It proved to be so as Duddy played a virtual lone hand for his team. Bennett provided some support and East looked winners again with 22 required from the last 4 overs with 5 wickets in hand but there were plenty of twists and turns still to come and two of Uniting’s key men were to play a big part as veteran paceman Simon Surridge clean bowled Bennett and Russell nipped out Brett Gibb (4) and Austin (1) and Saleem (0) was run out. After a man of the match performance Duddy (88*) was only able to gather 2 runs off the final ball of the match to leave his team just shy of their requirement. Russell (3/34 off 18 overs) had ice in his veins in the final overs and Manders (3/29) turned the tide when East were cruising but in an absorbing contest from the first ball to the last there had to be one winner and on this day it was Bentleigh Uniting’s turn in a perfect advertisement for local cricket. All players from both sides made a significant contribution to a stunning game.