Sunshine YCW captain-coach Syed Ali Hussain never lost belief in his players, nor in his methods.
The Cougars had their backs against the wall at certain points during an epic four-day Victorian Turf Cricket Association north A1 grand final win over Sydenham Hillside at Town Centre Reserve.
But Hussain never let his players stray from the blueprint that served so well over summer.
Hussain’s experience in four-day cricket in his native Pakistan proved vital when YCW trailed after the first innings.
“When we lost in the first innings, the boys went a bit in their shell,” Hussain said.
“I said to them, that’s the beauty of four-day cricket, today we’re down, tomorrow we’re going to be up.
“All we needed to do is stay focused, bowl in the right areas, take a few wickets and we’re back in the game … and that’s what happened.”
Sunshine YCW was dragged back into the game by spinner Tharanga Jayawardhane.
After taking four wickets in the first innings, Jayawardhane went one better with 5-36 off 21 overs in the second innings, leaving Sydenham Hillside stunned.
Jayawardhane’s bag of mostly recognised batsmen proved the turning point.
“He created different deliveries, put pressure on the batsmen all the time and wasn’t leaking any runs,” Hussain said. “He was spot on.”
Sunshine YCW’s run chase did not go smoothly, though, thanks to mother nature. Rain forced an early halt to day three, and the fourth day did not start on time.
There were 39 overs lost, but it still left YCW plenty of time to chase down the runs.
First drop Andrew Lowe (48) laid the foundations for YCW, before the aggressive Joel Evans (51 not out) completed the job in his own breathtaking way, with a six to seal the deal.
Hussain said he never once thought his side would not cap the club’s 60th anniversary season with a premiership.
“I had the faith before I signed a contract with this club that we were going to win this championship,” he said. “I knew these players had the potential, and I just thought all they needed was the right direction.
“I played heaps of first-class games in Pakistan, so I delivered to them what I have experienced, and they really followed up on that.”
Hussain delivered a rousing speech before the fourth day and got the desired response.
“I delivered my full confidence to the boys,” he said. “I said, look boys, this is the time, it’s not going to come back again in your life, so play your best cricket, delivering everything that you have inside yourself … and they came out and did it at the right time.”
Meanwhile, Sunshine United suffered a devastating 241-run loss to Seddon in the VTCA north west division grand final at Laverton Park. United made 221, thanks largely to Daniel Norris, who scored 107 not out, in reply to Seddon’s mammoth score of 462.
Ben Speake starred for Seddon with 216.