A classic encounter between Yarrawonga-Mulwala and Rovers United Bruck played out when the arch enemies tangled at the Stan Hargreaves Oval on Saturday.
It was a match that went right down to the wire – as most contests between the arch rivals generally do – and re-affirmed that both will be thereabouts at the business end of this WDCA season.
Hawk’s skipper Jordan Blades won the toss and elected to bowl in perfect conditions. He sprung the first surprise when English recruit Joe Thomas was thrown the new ball.
But after just one over, Blades reverted to the pacemen.
Jacob Schonafinger looked dangerous and disturbed the stumps of highly-rated Shepparton recruit Josh Lawrence.
Ben Welsh and Matt Casey steadily solidified the Lakers’ innings before the game took the first of its several turns.
Josh O’Donohue found his rhythm in a terrific second over to remove Ben Welsh (25) and soon after he had the danger-man, Matt Knight, snapped up by a juggling slip.
Both wickets fell on 43, O'Donoghue's eight-over spell yielded 5/25, and was a key factor in maintaining the ascendency of ball over bat.
Schonafinger was always probing and gave nothing away, while Thomas bowled an accurate, tidy spell, which produced the occasional ‘fizzer’.
The Hawks reduced the home combination to 9/98.
But the next – and probably most important twist – came when James Irvine and second-gamer Will Sharp combined to defy their preying opposition in a 29-run last wicket-stand.
The Lakers pushed their tally to a competitive 9/127.
Rovers United Bruck’s progress was steady in pursuit of the target.
Luke Whitten was watchful and Jordan Blades was his usual aggressive self but they didn’t really have much loose stuff to feast on as left-arm opening quicks Angus McMillan and James Irvine were bang on target.
It meant that the Hawks were unable to push the run-rate beyond 3 an over.
The introduction of young leggie Brock McCabe saw Blades continuing to turn the strike over but, with the score on 48, Blades was gone for 30, falling to the newly-introduced Corey McIntosh.
Jacob Schonafinger was pro-active with the bat until he fell for 15 when Matt Knight made a surprise excursion to the bowling crease.
But Adam McNamara, who is rarely shackled for long, took to the Lakers Captain with two sixes over mid-wicket amongst a 15-run over. Again, the Hawks had poked their noses in front.
With the total on 94 – and seven wickets to play with – Knight’s re-introduction of his opening quicks paid dividends. Jim Campbell was caught behind, Hamish Busk was clean-bowled, and the important wicket of McNamara fell to James Irvine.
It was now 6/94 and the weights had been applied to the visitors. Irvine snared another two victims in a team-lifting spell, which saw him finish with 4/17 and had the Hawks teetering at 8/106 – still 22 runs shy of victory.
After getting a couple of effortless early shots away, it was obvious that the game now rested in English recruit Thomas' hand.
He had scored 21 and appeared on the verge of becoming an instant hero when sprightly young left-armer Will Sharp brought the home crowd to its feet by disturbing his hardware - 9/121.
With seven runs needed to win; one wicket in hand, wicket-keeper, and another debutant, Damien Kelly, was at the crease and was joined by Josh O’Donohue.
He scrounged a single to maintain the strike. Six to win with an over from paceman Ben Doyle remaining, to settle what had been an absorbing contest.
Kelly straight drove the second ball for four then he attempted an identical shot next delivery, but it wasn’t there. He heard the sound of the death rattle behind him. The Lakers had triumphed by one run.
In a game that stood out for its excellent bowling, as well as its batting, it was also proof that WDCA cricket is alive and well and the Yarrawonga Mulwala team undefeated after two games.
A round 3 clash with the Bushrangers at Benalla will allow the Lakers to continue their good early season form.