Having faced the current top four sides in the opening six rounds, Taylors Lakes has undoubtedly endured the toughest draw of any Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association north-west side.
The Lions knew that if they could mentally survive that tough period, the draw would open up and be kinder to them in the back half of the season.
But even with the expectation of an easier run home, the Lions only had two draws and three losses to show for their opening five games, so they desperately needed a pick-me-up in the form of a win.
The Lions got just that on Sunday, registering a gutsy 26-run triumph over St Bernard’s Old Collegians away at Murphy Oval.
For Lions player coach Paul Thomas, the victory was very significant.
“We just had to win,” he said. “It puts us 10th, but we’re still only a game and a half out of the finals.
“We should have a strong finish to the year now … we’ve played all the top sides and probably should’ve even beaten two of them, so in reality we could’ve been in the top four.”
Taylors Lakes is not looking back on the
St Bernard’s win as a turning point because the players never felt like they were too far behind those clubs on the top end of the ladder, even if the standings tell a different story.
The Lions were immediately behind the eight-ball on Saturday when they lost the toss and were sent in on a pitch with a bit of moisture in it.
Thomas admits that he feared the worst when his team was 3-16 and before youngster Marcus Just steadied the ship.
Just’s patient knock of 34 was the most mature of his young career.
“It was probably the first time he’s really had to stand up for us and he did,” Thomas said.
Star all-rounder Yoshan Kumara and youngster Kamal Guraya added steel to the Taylors Lakes middle order. Kumara was superb with 41, while Guraya contributed 37.
In tough batting conditions, the Lions managed to compile 176, lasting 77.3 overs.
The total does not jump out at you, but the conditions were certainly not batsmen-friendly.
“Really, the 170 was worth 200-odd with the wicket the way it was,” Thomas said.
The conditions on day two were more conducive to batting, leading some to believe that Taylors Lakes did not have enough runs in the bank.
Kumara’s impact with the ball early in the day to have St Bernard’s in trouble on 3-12 – two of the wickets taken by Kumara and the other by Liam Wolf – offered hope for the Lions.
A middle order revival from St Bernard’s, led by Tristan Kassis (45) and Blake Manassa (42), saw it move to 6-121 and probably have its nose in front in the game.
But once the Lions took the key wicket of Arosh Janoda, who had smashed 29 in just four overs, they were on their way to victory, with St Bernard’s eventually bowled out for 150 in 49.4 overs.
“Their professional player [Janoda] came in and teed off,” Thomas said. “We got him out two balls before tea and that was the crucial wicket.”
Kumara was the man of the match, finishing with five scalps and 41 runs, underlining his value to Taylors Lakes and his standing in the competition.