National Indoor Cricket finals: Victoria go down to ACT finale

July 9, 2018
Category: Indoor Cricket,
National Indoor Cricket finals: Victoria go down to ACT finale

The ACT have gone back-to-back as National Indoor Cricket Champions, after an eleventh-hour comeback saw them take a 20-run win over a gutsy Victorian side in the grand final.

By Ahmad Khawaja

It was simply not to be.

The ACT have gone back-to-back as National Indoor Cricket Champions, after an eleventh-hour comeback saw them take a 20-run win over a gutsy Victorian side in the grand final played at Action Indoor Sports Toowoomba earlier this afternoon.

For Victoria, it will be heartbreak, and a case of so close, yet so far as they continue to chase a National title that has eluded them since 1994. And yet, for the great majority of the match, you would have thought they were a lock-in for the championship, having expertly controlled the game from the outset until the very last pair of the match, when ACT applied the screws and found a way to win like they have done so often before.

Going into the last four overs of the game, Jack Craig and Jarrod Burns found themselves yet again in the spotlight, having previously led the heroics in their thrilling win over Queensland in the preliminary semi-final the night before. While they chased 27 in that game, today the target was nine and the attack an adrenalin filled Rockets side looking to put all the pressure on. They scored eight runs off the first over to bring the scores level at 66-all, before man of the match Brock Winkler turned the game on it’s head with three wickets in three balls as the crowd erupted. A full delivery outside off had Craig missing and run-out from a third-ball play, before he bowled him with two consecutive yorkers to swing the match in ACT’s favour. From then on, Victoria were chasing the game, and another run-out in the next over from Alex Bazzana put them on their way. Three wickets in the last over and the final score line is nowhere near reflective of how close this match was, as both batsmen had to chance their arm at the finish.

A great game of indoor cricket

Earlier on, a very vocal crowd at the Toowoomba centre had turned up in attendance, more than usual given the Junior Nationals were commencing on the same day, and over 800 viewers on the Cricket Australia Indoor Facebook livestream were treated to an indoor cricket clinic, in a match providing a throwback of the tough, low-scoring indoor battles of days gone by. The match featured it’s share of controversy, physicality, wickets, mix-ups, agility, strategy and pressure. Throw in some athletic fielding, smart bowling and fantastic batting, and you couldn’t ask for much more from an indoor cricket match.

Both teams went in unchanged from their previous encounters against Queensland in the major semi-final and preliminary final. The Hammers continued with their line-up of Justin Perkins, Kieran Perkins, Trent Lawford, Clive Rose, Brad Jones, Jarrod Armitage, Jack Craig and Jarrod Burns. ACT’s line-up consisted of Tim Floros, Alex Bazzana, Benji Floros, Alexander Floros, Grant McDonald, Tyler Hays, Brock Winkler and captain Matthew Floros. They were missing star player and man of the tournament, Luke Ryan from their side.

Victoria aggressive in the field, strategy pays off

The first four overs made for a very tense opening. Victoria utilised some of their top bowlers early up, bowling excellent lines and lengths, especially on leg as Jones, Kieran and Justin Perkins and Rose all created one third-ball play in every over of the skin. Kieran Perkins made the breakthrough in the third over, as he had Tim Floros caught sweeping off the leg-side net. The Hammers, as they tend to do, created plenty of traffic for the opposing pair, with fielders doing their best to come through the middle and across in the way of the non-striker looking to get to the striker’s end.

With the first pair making 18, the second pair produced more of the same. The batting was slightly more conservative by nature, as the Hammers looked to utilise their change-ups. Captain Justin Perkins opted to use his brother Kieran for the second time in eight overs, and it paid dividends when a mix-up resulted in a run-out, when Justin gathered a ball in the front court off the leg-side net and tapped it to back to Lawford at keeper. Another mix-up in the last over from Burns nearly saw another run-out effected, but the leg-side couldn’t quite gather.

With 37 on the board after two and a good contest on our hands, the Hammers put their foot on the throat in the third, bringing the game into their ascendency. Lawford started the rot in the first when Tyler Hays on-drove a straight full delivery, where three-line leg-side fielder Rose plucked a wonderful diving catch to his right. Burns picked up a wicket in the next over when a good shot from Hays was tapped back brilliantly by Justin Perkins off the leg-side net. The Rockets side were up in arms as they felt the run-out call was not correct. Armitage, who had had a good tournament to date, picked up another wicket on his third ball when Hays’ misery continued, chipping a full ball off the leg-side net for an easy caught and bowled. The captain finished things off with two third-ball plays, one resulting in a catch as some physicality and tempers threatened to boil over. He used his change ups excellently as the skin ended on -1 and the momentum very much with Victoria.

As great sides do, ACT responded under the pressure. Lawford worked the hip of captain Floros, and the Hammers very nearly had another when they nearly pulled off a run-out off the net. Winkler and Floros continued to rebuild in the face of some opportunities for Victoria, who all-up had nine third-ball plays and six wickets. When they were able to free their arms, the twos were easy for the taking, and they took 20 runs in this fashion, finishing with 30 and setting the Hammers 67 to win.

Hammers batsmen work hard to set up chase

As they have all tournament, the Perkins brothers started off for Victoria and immediately got to work, taking 10 runs off the first five balls from Bazzana before a run-out off the last over reduced that to 5. Their leg-side down-up pull strokes were especially impressive, some almost sweep-like as they consolidated along until Kieran was caught off Winkler, some ambiguity as to whether that might have been a bump ball. They recovered in the last over from Alex Floros, playing some great down-up twos right under their eyes, and posted a solid 24. Rose and Lawford were again made to work hard for their runs, opting for relatively risk-free batting. They posted 12 off their first two overs and survived one third-ball play, but not able to avoid the second as Hays bowled a probing delivery into Lawford’s hip for a run-out. A good mix of off and leg bowling meant the pair would make 14 from their four overs. Jones, the most experienced player in the side, and Armitage would then make the running in the third pair. Benji Floros bowled a top over to start with however, generating two third-ball plays, the second resulting in a run out as Jones missed a full delivery. The ACT strategy looked to be to bowl full to Jones and back of a length to Armitage, who seemed content to give himself room and hit through the off. They worked the next two overs nicely before captain Floros pulled out a mankad dismissal in the last over, a very under-utilised method of wicket at this level of the game. Suffice to say, this didn’t go down well with the Victorians. However, they still made a valuable 20 runs, leaving the last pair nine and the game in the balance.

Gregory praises “brave” Victorian side, believes they are genuine title contenders

Coach Ross Gregory was in a sombre, yet reflective mood after the match, praising the effort of his side as well as those of the champions. He insisted Victoria had shown this week they will be title contenders going forward, alongside ACT and Queensland.

“Yes, it is very hard to take. We came here. We left it all on the court. We were in front for much of the match, and at the end, ACT found a way to win. That’s how it is in indoor cricket. So, credit to them and I extend to them my congratulations”, said Gregory. “I’m very proud of our team. In this final I was especially pleased with our bowling, how we kept it tight all the way through and took the majority of our chances, kept attacking the Rockets. Our batting came out and did the same thing they had done for the majority of the tournament. Really battled. It came undone at the end and that can happen, but everyone gave it their best shot”.

Gregory continued, “A lot of people expected Queensland and ACT to come out this week and be playing off in a grand final, and not only did we topple Queensland, we came this close to being champions. This is a new era in Victoria Indoor Cricket. This group of men played with resolve, with determination, with heart and courage, and those are the attributes I want in a side. They play with each other, for each other, and I cannot ask for much more from them. They will be gutted now, we all are, but the dust will settle, and next year, we will be back, and we will be coming for that title”.

Indeed, the Victorian community is very proud of the team’s achievements this week and will have no doubt they will be gunning for that title come next year.

Summary score (batting team first):

ACT 66 (2) [K Perkins 2/-1, Burns 1/3, J Perkins 1/6, Armitage 1/6] def. VIC 46 (2) [J Perkins 14, Rose 13, Armitage/Jones/K Perkins 10]

Net games: K Perkins +11, J Perkins +8, Armitage +4

Player statistics available here

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