Quality bowling at the death was the difference in Williamstown’s crucial 14-run win over Yarraville in a thrilling Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association east-west group match at the Yarraville Oval on Saturday.
The Seagulls have leap-frogged Yarraville in the standings, jumping up to third and keeping the pressure on the top two.
Four west group sides – top-of-the-ladder Altona, second-placed Werribee, Williamstown and Yarraville – are separated by just nine points and still in the running for the minor premiership with two rounds to play.
Williamstown successfully defended its total of 4-232 off 45 overs, restricting Yarraville to 5-218.
When the Eagles appeared to be heading towards the target, the Seagulls death bowlers Jarrod Flood-Bauce (2-35), Brent McMinn (1-43) and Dale McDonald (0-20) put the clamps on.
“The game was always in the balance,” Seagulls batsman Matthew Dervan said.
“Our bowlers did a fantastic job in the last 10 or 15 overs to restrict their batsmen, who were in and set.”
In big games with premium finals positions up for grabs, you need your more experienced players to come to the fore.
Williamstown leaned on captain McMinn and wicketkeeper-batsman Brenton Hodges in this one.
McMinn provided the foundation of the innings with 67 off 53 balls, bringing up his 500th run of the season in the process.
Outside of his leadership and run-making, McMinn’s value can also be found with his part-time off-spin, which has seen him take 13 wickets, and his fielding, with eight this campaign.
“With the batting, he’s leading from the front,” Dervan said. “He goes out to dominate the bowling attack every week.
“He hits the ball hard, he’s very attacking and when he gets away he’s really hard to stop.
“You can count on him in the big moments.”
Hodges is similar in that his importance to Williamstown is weighed in more than just runs.
Sure, he made a valuable 29, opening up with James Grixti, who posted 47, but his glove work was a thing of beauty.
With little assistance in the pitch for the bowlers and a fast outfield that was a nightmare for fielders, Hodges decided to put the pressure back on the Yarraville batsmen by keeping up to the stumps.
Hodges finished with a catch and two stumpings, which were crucial in a game decided by such fine margins. Hodges’ stumping of Kasey Duncan off fast bowler Flood-Bauce was a momentum-swinging act.
“It was an unbelievable piece of wicketkeeping,” Dervan said. “I’ve played with him for close to 10 years now and it’s the best bit of keeping I’ve seen from him, a stumping down the leg side off a half volley.
“He’s a huge asset behind the stumps for us.
“When you’re playing on a pitch where there’s not a lot of seam movement and not a lot of swing in the air, sometimes you need to create opportunities in different ways and he backs himself keeping up to the stumps.”
Josh Hahnel did his utmost to get Yarraville over the line, scoring an incredible 118 off 135 balls, but it wasn’t enough.
Meanwhile, Altona’s hold on top spot is a little shaky, having lost two of its three matches since the Christmas break. The A’s had a disappointing five wicket loss to Werribee at JK Grant Reserve on Saturday