It was a fine line between pleasure and pain for St Albans in its Victorian Turf Cricket Association north west division efforts.
The difference between playing finals and missing out, in the Saints’ case, was a mere 0.94 points. Their agonising miss came after registering a final round win over Sunshine United, the side they were trying to displace from the top four, at Kings Park Reserve on Saturday.
“Yeah it hurts a bit,” Saints’ captain-coach Tom Langley-Dunn said. “What we thought was getting the win was the most important.
“The problem was, the team we were playing against was in the top four, so bonus points came into play.”
St Albans did everything in its power to pick up the points it needed to overtake Sunshine United.
They first explored quick runs as an option, then sought to take a swag of wickets in the last 19 overs of the day.
Neither option worked, as United defended its spot in the four resolutely late on the second day. “There was a lot of overs taken out of the game [by Sunshine United’s tailenders],” Langley-Dunn said. “Their 10 and 11 batted a long time, they dug in and batted really well, taking a lot of time out of the day.
“For us, it was to either try and get 200 runs off 19 overs, or try and get a few runs and then get five wickets.
“We lost a wicket in the second innings, and every wicket we lost, we had to either get that wicket back or get plenty of runs.
“We declared one down to try and get five wickets basically, but it wasn’t to be.”
St Albans, a newly promoted team in the north west division, showed it could match it with the best sides in the competition on its day.
As for most sides that go up to a new division, the Saints could not replicate their best form on a week by week basis.
“We’re disappointed because we didn’t play consistent cricket all year,” Langley-Dunn said.
“You tend to find the teams that make finals are the ones that play the most consistent cricket through the year.
“Out of those five teams [fighting for the top four spots], we were probably the ones who played the least consistent cricket, and that’s why we missed out.”
It also took a while for the penny to drop with the St Albans players. The Saints had upped training and preparations after the Christmas break, a touch too late as it panned out.
“In the first half of the season, we were lackadaisical with training and stuff, but that was addressed … I reckon we were stronger towards the end of the year,” Langley-Dunn said. “We just left it a bit too late.”
A victory in the final round was St Albans’ consolation prize, victorious over Sunshine United by 30 runs on first innings, after 56 to leading run-scorer Simon Lambert and a five-wicket haul to opening bowler Robert Nikolic. It will all mean little though to the Saints as they watch the four other contenders fight it out for the title in the finals.
… … … Lance Jenkinson