Six teams would be worthy recipients of Victorian Turf Cricket Association north west finals berths – but only four will be given the opportunity after this weekend.
A mere 6.28 points separates first to sixth on the ladder, with the final day’s play of the home and away season this Saturday to determine the final four in the hunt for the premiership.
Sunshine United is just outside the top four in fifth place, so it must beat top-of-the-ladder Haig Fawkner at Selwyn Park on Saturday, otherwise it’s curtains for the Tigers.
“That’s the beauty of this league,” said Tigers captain Neeten Chouhan of the closely fought 12-team division, in which only a third of the teams qualify for finals.
Sunshine United eked out 153 in 67.1 overs in tricky day one conditions against Haig Fawkner. The pitch played a bit slow and the moisture in the air suited the bowlers, but the Tigers are not dissatisfied with the outcome.
Chouhan reckons 30 more runs would have put the Tigers in a commanding position, but he still believes his bowlers have enough to work with entering day two.
“It’s tough for them chasing, knowing you need to score the runs to get into the finals,” Chouhan said. “They’ve had three losses in a row, so there’s a lot of pressure on their batters.
“Hopefully, we get a few wickets up front and then clean up the tail. It’s good to have the runs on the board.”
Chouhan was the spark plug at the top of the order for Sunshine United. The opener blasted six fours and two sixes en route to 45, and was brutal in his punishment of any loose balls.
“I’m more of an aggressive player – it’s my natural game,” Chouhan said.
“They bowled the wrong line to me a few times, which made it a bit easier as well.”
In the middle order, it was the Duxson brothers who came through for Sunshine United.
Adam, with 40, and Tom (21) combined for a 65-run fifth wicket partnership to keep the Tigers in the game.
“We just lost a couple of wickets before they came in, so that partnership was vital,” Chouhan said.
“They played really intelligent knocks. They got a lot of ones, which a lot of players probably would not have got … they’ve batted together for a while and they understand each other.”
So it will all come down to the final day for Sunshine United.
With Haig Fawkner going to stumps on day one on 1-25, the Tigers bowlers have 133 runs to defend and nine wickets to take, so it promises to be a thrilling final day of the season.
Meanwhile, Sunshine United is still on cloud nine after winning its first VTCA Kookaburra Cup Twenty20 title.
United knocked off senior division club Keilor by 49 runs in the grand final at Laverton Park Reserve.
The win was a comfortable one for the Tigers, who posted 7-145 off their 20 overs and bowled out Keilor for 96 in a 16.2-over demolition
Sangaran Nandhalal top-scored for Sunshine United with 42, but it was Harvinder Singh who was the match-winner. He hit 25 and took
“He [Singh] was the man of the match and it was well deserved,” Chouhan said.
“He ran in with a lot of pace, got a few wickets, he bowled great in the finals.”
It was a historic occasion for Sunshine United.
“It’s the first time ever that we’ve got past the group stages, so it was fantastic for the club to win it,” Chouhan said.