A devastating bowling spell from Brett Smith has given Hoppers Crossing the upper hand in its Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association bout with Brunswick at Gillon Oval.
Smith was a man on a mission late on day one, charging in to take 3-11 off eight overs, including five maidens, to turn the north-west first XI game in his side’s favour.
His last ball of the day removed Wicks star batsman Liam Murphy.
Cats captain-coach Greg Kennedy reckons that puts his side “slightly” ahead in the game.
“Their lower order hasn’t been forced to perform that much this year,” he said.
“Now they’re going to have to put on 100 to win the game against a good bowling attack [that] is fired up and ready to go on a difficult wicket.”
The outlook could have been vastly different at stumps for Hoppers Crossing had it not been for its late wicket-taking blitz.
The Cats were bowled out for 129 earlier in the day – a total that was not too bad considering the conditions, but one that Kennedy still felt put his team behind the eight ball.
“First ball of the day, our opening batsman Chris Henry gets a ball that rolls,” he said.
“It should’ve gone through at thigh height and goes through at ankle height and bowls him.
“While 129 looks poor, it’s not as far behind par as you might have thought because of the wicket.
“I think it’s short of a number, but we always analyse if the right shot for the right ball in that situation is played.
“I think nine of our blokes today can happily say they played the right shot for the right ball, but they were just done by a combination of good bowling or the inconsistent wicket.
“We scratched and scratched and put together a couple of smallish partnerships.”
Cameron Nicol was the pick of the Hoppers Crossing batsmen, scrapping his way to 29.
Will Partington-Gardner added 35 and Brandon Diplock made 24 to give the Cats a decent enough score to defend.
Brunswick, which faced 22 overs, is in desperate trouble on 5-43.
The Wicks had no answer to Smith’s dominant bowling late in the day.
“Brett was awesome – he bowled a spell from both ends,” Kennedy said. “He’s been the game changer so far.”
Already a long way off the title race pace, next week’s play is do or die for Hoppers Crossing.
“We’d have to win and then be a little bit lucky,” Kennedy said.
“It’s a must-win, we’ve got to come out with everything.”