St Albans’ season was at the crossroads in the Victorian Turf Cricket Association senior division on Saturday.
The Saints’ aspirations for the rest of the summer hinged on the result of its mouth-watering fourth-versus-fifth battle with Spotswood at Donald McLean Reserve on Saturday.
A thrilling 12-run victory was enough for the Saints to not only stave off the threat of relegation, but also have one foot in the finals with one round to play.
Saints captain Rob Nikolic was delighted with the outcome of what he described as his side’s “biggest game of the year”.
“There were two sides to it,” he said.
“If we lost, we would’ve been back down in a relegation scrap, but if we won, we’d be safe from relegation and looking towards playing finals.
“It’s just a relief to get the win.”
This was not just a win for St Albans, it was a test of its character.
Playing away to Spotswood is hard any time, but when you win the toss, elect to bat and your top order crumbles to be 4-19, your odds are significantly weakened.
But St Albans dug deep and found a way back into the contest on the back of stellar batting from Shanaka Silva and Billy Whitford.
Silva kept calm to make 72 off 116 balls and Whitford made 37 off 59, during their 84-run fifth wicket partnership.
“They just batted time and they did it quite risk free,” Nikolic said.
“They both had very composed innings and batted a long time to get us back into the game and set us up where we could send in some blokes who can hit a ball late in the innings.”
It allowed Tom Langley-Dunn to come in later in the innings with a carefree approach and produce some fireworks.
Langley-Dunn made 32 off 24, including two big sixes that were the difference in the game.
“We knew if he could get his eye in, he’d do some damage at the end,” Nikolic said.
St Albans was content with its 7-175 off 40 overs.
The Saints were feeling a little uneasy about their standing in the game though when Spotswood advanced to 2-95.
Once they removed Woodsman top scorer Ross Horkings for 44, the dominos began to fall.
St Albans found a host of avenues to wickets with Whitford, Silva, Langley-Dunn and Geeth Alwis snared two wickets apiece, but more importantly built pressure through dot balls.
Spotswood was strangled so hard it fell short of victory, finishing on 9-163 off its 40 overs.
“It was a real hard-fought win, real gritty,” Nikolic said.
St Albans will visit Keilor in the last round knowing a victory will seal their finals spot.
Keilor is licking its wounds after a 116-run loss to Strathmore at Syd McGain Oval.
Sunshine United is still a chance of finishing in the top four after ending the finals aspirations of two-time defending champions Yarraville Club in an edge-of-your-seat one-wicket win.