HEATHCOTE cricket captain Corey Gilmore, who is injured this season, handed the reins of infield leadership to experienced campaigner Luke Bell for the Northern United Cricket Association grand final against Bagshot on Saturday.
Bell, not wanting to step away from his usual routine, spent the week sucking on darts and tins of beer.
Club president Ben Harris contemplated where on his property to build a new shed big enough to store even more cricket trophies.
Spirituality featured in a number player plans over the last week. Nicolas Malavisi, soon to be our Saint Nick, spent time in mass with the big fella connecting with the other big fella on enacting another miracle on the cricket field.
Pat Ring simply chanted the words “line and length’’ over and over again like a Gregorian Monk, whereas Brenton Conforti turned to Eastern philosophy by using Zen techniques to wipe his mind of any thought for the entire week so be could be clearly focused on game day.
Bagshot won the toss and elected to bat.
Braydon Klemke and Pat Ring opened the bowling for Heathcote and while some of the bowling was erratic initially, excellent work from the keeper Slattery kept the score card in check.
The Bagshot openers were restricted by the Heathcote bowlers with the score only 18 runs after the the 10-over mark.
Bell thenbrought on Kyle Seidel and Shane Cox.
The odd couple if there ever is one, the leg spinner Cox with guile and Seidel with brute force. Cox struck first and then in the next over Seidel claimed two other critical Bagshot wickets.
The euphoria of the Heathcote side and its supporters peaked in the 16th over with Joel Condon enacting a run out with a direct hit from the boundary. Bagshot were 4/29 and added 20 more runs before Seidel took a caught and bowled.
Conforti replaced Cox, and in his second over his appeal for LBW was so long and painful that the umpire eventually conceded and raised his finger.
The wailing of Conforti’s appeal was so unappealing that when the next ball hit the batsman on the pads the umpire gave the batsman out, thankfully instantly, even before the bowler could open his mouth.
Conforti was on a hat-trick and Bagshot now 7/60. Bagshot saw off the hat-trick ball safely and the battle resumed.
The Bagshot innings consolidated briefly until Conforti was rewarded with two more wickets bringing his total for the day to four.
Pat Ring in his second spell collected the wicket of Webb when he bowled the batsman.
A dominant display by Heathcote in the field that saw Bagshot all out for 92 in 34 overs.
Club stalwarts Ben Harris and Joel Condon opened the batting for Heathcote and both proved highly effective in taking on the Bagshot bowlers.
The highly experienced Harris could smell victory (the beer and sausages at the end of the game) and was particularly hungry, lapping the much younger Condon as they ran between the wickets.
Their partnership of 23 runs finished in the sixth over when Condon was bowled.
A rare failure by Bell in the same over bought Seidel to the centre and he and Harris batted well as they built toward a Heathcote victory.
Harris was out for 24 and with the score on 45, Heathcote was still in a strong position.
Three quick wickets saw the momentum move to Bagshot and with Heathcote 6/60, Bagshot continued to rotate its bowlers who bowled tightly to the new Heathcote batsman Cox and Malavisi.
The Cox and Malavisi partnership had 21 overs to score 33 runs to secure victory and they were stoic in this task.
Out of the high pressure arena of the Elmore cricket ground at this critical time there emerged two batting diamonds for Heathcote.
Cool as Vanilla Ice and unflinching, both Cox and Malavisi played a dead bat to any ball that threatened the stumps and with diligence stayed well clear of the barrage of short pitch bowling.
Not only did they survive but they they prospered as they slowly accumulated runs when safe to do so. The partnership ended when Malavisi was stumped, but the batsman got the side within 11 runs of victory and changed the flow of the game back in Heathcote’s favour.
When Cox hit a four in the 35th over victory was assured and Heathcote winning by three wickets in what turned into a most tense encounter.
Kyle Seidel was man of the match having collected three key Bagshot wickets early in the innings scoring 13 critical runs in a low scoring match.
In reflecting on achieving the ultimate prize it most be noted the all round team performance in both finals. Corey Gilmore it has been said was the fabric that bound the team together this season.
To get players to fill in to field a side most weeks this season, Gilmore has had to ask so many favours he will be spending every Sunday for the next six months helping other blokes move house.
After the win Gilmore was quick to acknowledge the players and encouraged them to savour the moment that they had trained so hard all season to achieve.
The club owes a huge debt of gratitude to Grant Baker for the work in preparing the Heathcote pitch and Ron and Di Sheppard for their efforts behind the scenes.
To misquote Freddie Mercury: “We are the champions ... of the NUCA”.