Altona has ripped up the form guide to advance to its first Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association grand final since 2008-09.
The A’s turned it on when it mattered, downing minor premier Williamstown by two wickets in an edge-of-your-seat east-west first XI semi-final at the Williamstown Cricket Ground on Saturday.
It came just a week after the A’s survived the qualifying final phase as the highest-ranked losing side.
Altona restricted Williamstown to 157 on day one.
The A’s built pressure with tight bowling and claimed wickets at regular intervals.
Shannon Clarke showed the Seagulls why he was the second leading wicket-taker in the competition with 4-26 off 22.1 overs.
David Kinsella’s hot form with the ball continued with 4-36 off 10, while A’s captain Adam Yates chimed in with 2-25 off 15.
“It was a nail-biting finish – for us to come away with that win was fantastic,” Yates said.
“The pitch was very flat, so we were thinking restricting them anywhere under 200 would be a great effort.
“Our bowlers toiled really hard all day and did a fantastic job after they were 3-95 at one stage.”
In any other situation, Altona would have no sweat chasing down 158 for victory.
But the opportunity to go through to a grand final for the first time in eight years and a chance to play-off for a first premiership since 1996-97, played on the minds of the A’s players.
At 6-77, things were looking grim for Altona, after Greg Sheehan (38) was the only top-order batsman to fire.
In the middle order, Adam Brown offered a spark with 10 and Stefan Sidari did likewise with 12. Both had small but promising partnerships with Sean Hollins (36no).
Still, at 8-133, the A’s were up against it.
Then came one of the most important 26-run stands in Altona’s history – between Hollins and Clarke (18no), who guided the A’s to victory.
Clarke hit the winning runs with a shot to backward square leg, sparking major celebrations for the A’s.
“The calmness of the two guys at the crease at the end was fantastic,” Yates said.
“That’s what finals cricket is about – being able to withstand that pressure.”
Altona has set up a mouth-watering grand final with Balwyn at Gordon Barnard Reserve this weekend, with the A’s as underdogs.
“We’ll have to be at our best to beat them,” Yates said.