By Chris Anderson

With just two rounds remaining before finals, the finals picture is becoming clearer.
However, just as the DJ Strachan Shield ladder looks set, the lower grades still have some intriguing match-ups to come to finalise the combatants.
In DJ Strachan Shield, Warburton-Millgrove and Mount Evelyn have stitched up home finals, while Woori Yallock and Yarra Junction will be their opponents.
The only thing to be settled is who plays who in the semi-finals.
The RA Finger Trophy looks set for a last-ball finish.
No more than seven of the 10 teams can mathematically finish in the top four, with no guarantees as yet.
Coldstream, Gruyere, Hoddles Creek and Healesville currently hold the tickets to the finals, but even the slightest of slip-ups could see them miss altogether.
In DJ Strachan Shield action, Yarra Junction fell agonisingly short of capturing an outright victory against Seville, thus missing the opportunity to leapfrog Woori Yallock on the ladder.
Entering day two, having already captured first innings points and a commanding 80-run lead, the home side elected to declare their innings overnight at 3/120, in a bid to clean up the Blues, and chase what runs were left, if any.
Quite often when a team has been embarrassed with the bat in the first innings, they find some grit in the second with a purpose of saving face and pride.
Seville battled gamely against some excellent bowling once again from the Eagles, but with some resolve they kept their wickets intact more successfully than on day one.
Harrison Byrne was the mainstay of the visitors’ top order; and his gritty, well-made 54 looked to have Seville well on task to see out the day, and therefore denying Yarra Junction a dash for outright points.
Tom Page did his best to support Byrne with 29.
The Blues managed to pass the intended target to ensure Yarra Junction would have to bat again, but the spin bowling of Cam Spaulding would ensure the Eagles would get that opportunity.
Spaulding, often classified as a part-timer behind the likes of Bomford and Dempster in the slow-bowling stakes, has provided some wicket taking spells when required this season; and this was again the case as his tricky lines, lengths and subtle changes of speed caught the Blues off guard.
Although late in the piece, his excellent spell of 6/22 bowled the visitors out for 123, leaving the Eagles 44 to chase off seven overs for victory.
The Eagles threw everything at the outright victory, but Seville captain Matt Hadlum managed to guide his side safe of the indignity of falling to an opposition outright.
His figures of 3/19 in the face of the onslaught ensured there were enough new batsmen who had to take up the pace.
In the end, the Eagles fell four runs short of their target.
Although disappointed to fall short, Yarra Junction will be chock-full of confidence as their form leading into the pointy end of the season is peaking at the right time of the year, and they are establishing that they won’t be there just to make up the numbers.
They face Yarra Glen in their final hit up before finals, and they will be looking for another complete performance with both bat and ball to have themselves at their peak entering a last round bye.
For Seville, on the other hand, it’s all about pride and consistency against competition leaders, Warburton-Millgrove.
The Blues have been a little Jekyll and Hyde over recent rounds with a gutsy performance against Mount Evelyn being followed by a meek showing against Yarra Junction.
An improved performance is a must for them.
At the other end of the scale, Warburton-Millgrove again flexed their collective muscles against Woori Yallock making a difficult chase look relatively easy.
Woori Yallock worked hard with the bat to post a total of 202 on day.
The total looked respectable, and a score that would take some chasing.
Early wickets would be the key, and when Simon Young skittled the inform Ben Lever in the first over, it was game on.
Sean Humphrey has been an excellent acquisition for the Burras since the Christmas break, and his good form continued as he combined with the explosive David Lever for a steadying, and what turned out to be a game-breaking, 123-run partnership.
The pair took the game away from the Tigers with a blistering display of stroke-play.
The visitors looked bereft of answers.
Young claimed some reward for his hard work claiming Humphrey (48) on the stroke of tea, and with a rest and refreshment, the Tigers could press on the opening, but the Burras batting line-up in proving too strong for most opposition this summer.
Although still winnings games off his own back this season, Lever would be disappointed with his returns with the bat this far, and he had a point to prove.
When in full flight, he is an irresistible force, severe on anything full, and anything short.
His combination with Liam Barnard (26) for a partnership of 59 runs ended this contest.
The only blemish in Lever’s innings was he was unable to see his team home to the victory target, as his brilliant century will prove a warning to the other team’s in the competition that his ability with both and ball will be a key card for the Burras come finals time.
Tim McKail (35no) enjoyed some early beach party time with a brisk innings that saw his team to 4/235, and an extremely impressive victory against a quality opposition.
Simon Young battled gamely for 3/69, but he is playing a lone hand for the Tigers at the moment, and without his partner in crime, Jackson Wright, the Tigers looked toothless against the Burras.
Woori Yallock are now winless since Christmas, and in a desperate need of a reversal of form leading into finals.
They need more contributors to support the likes of Simon Young and Ryan Smith if they are to challenge for a hat-trick of premierships.
There were some signs of improvement with the bat this round; and this will need to continue as they travel to Healesville next round.
Warburton-Millgrove in the other hand could not be better placed as their form with both bat and ball seems complete.
Complacency is their only enemy in a near flawless season thus far.
The Burras will view their contest with Seville as another opportunity to fine tune things before a last round encounter against Mount Evelyn and finals.
The question is, who is going to stop them?
Mount Evelyn are hot on their heels; and although less impressive with their victories, the Mounters keep notching up the wins with consistent form.
After posting an impressive 5/339 on day one, they had little trouble defending the score, despite some valiant resistance from Healesville.
The target was always going to be tough to chase; and with some impressive bowling up front, the Mounters gave their opposition limited scoring opportunities despite their fight with the bat.
With the fourth wicket falling with the score on 41, and with over a third of the overs gone, the Bloods efforts looked forlorn.
Mark Minney joined Scott Hamer (31) at the crease and the pair upped the scoring rate in a bid to give the Bloods some chance of chasing the total after tea.
This was curtailed somewhat by the wicket of Hamer on the stroke of the break.
The home side sensed an easy kill, but the inform Mark Minney would have none of it.
In a bleak season, Minney has been a shining light for the Bloods.
In a stroke of fortune, Minney, a legend of Eltham Cricket Club, with a decorated career in the Diamond Valley, looked to spend some time playing cricket with his son Max, and he has rarely failed this season.
With partners running out, and the required run rate ballooning, Minney set on a calculated assault on a tiring bowling outfit.
A quick-scoring 82-run partnership with Dylan Moore (22) put some pressure on the impatient fielding side, but just as the deficit had been closed, and a score beyond 200 beckoned the resistance was broken down.
Moore fell with the score on 181, and the rest of the cards fell quickly.
Minney followed for an excellent 82, leaving him to wait yet again for a much rewarded century after five half centuries in seven innings.
Gareth Fraser (3/30) proved to be the game breaker cleaning up the tail, and the innings for 190.
Mount Evelyn now have a couple of weeks rest courtesy of the bye, and will eagerly await their final round clash against Warburton-Millgrove.
The Burras are the only side the Mounters are yet to conquer and a victory would be a huge boost going into finals.
Healesville on the other hand will be looking for some competitive showings over the final weeks of a trying season.
The Bloods had high aspirations for the season after falling just short in last season’s grand final, but they haven’t met expectations with a mixed bag of performances.
They return home for a clash against a stumbling Woori Yallock and a victory or two in the closing rounds will make the bitter pill easier to swallow when the season is all said and done.
DJ Strachan Shield
Woori Yallock 202 (David Lever 5/56, C. Ferguson 52, R. Smith 43, T. Murphy 35) def by Warburton 4/235 (David Lever 103, S. Humphrey 48, T. McKail 35*, L. Barnard 26, S. Young 3/69); Mount Evelyn 5/339 (Dan Fraser 130*, D. Giblin 79, K. Jones 49, G. Fraser 40) d Healesville 190 (Mark Minney 82, S. Hamer 31, B. Damrow 23, G. Fraser 3/30, K. Jones 2/28); Yarra Junction 3/120 (A. Taylor 58, M. Robinson 32) and 3/40 (T. Hancock 17, M. Hadlum 3/19) d Seville 40 (L. McGookin 13, K. Bomford 4/11, T. Ottrey 3/3, N. Bark 2/0) and 123 (H. Byrne 54, T. Page 29, C. Spaulding 6/22, Q. Hodgkinson 2/10).
Ladder: Warburton-Millgrove 63.0, Mount Evelyn 57.0, Woori Yallock 45.0, Yarra Junction 45.0, Healesville 27.0, Seville 27.0, Yarra Glen 21.0.
RA Finger Trophy
Woori Yallock 210 (P. Broussard 96, S. Morgan 33, A. Nelson 3/31, J. Nelson 3/33) d Warburton 9/114 (A. Doolan 38, N. McDonald 26, S. Morgan 3/25, J. Adams 2/4); Healesville 186 (B. Wallace 48, M. Jackson 45, T. Kear 4/25, P. Jones 3/41) d Hoddles Creek 125 (W. Trotter 39, M. Jones 24, A. Pearce 5/30, L. Chandler 3/27); Wandin 159 (T. Thorne 36, M. Kushbakt 25, A. Rafique 29, L. Thomas 3/24, B. Tauber 3/41) def by Launching Place 6/198 (M. Bradley 49, M. McConnell 42, B. Mills 39, C. Uzman 4/65); Coldstream 8/159 (D. Oliffe 43, S. Kollosche 26, B. Walsh 24*, D. Chaproniere 2/11, T. Pilton 2/15) d Yarra Junction 111 (S. Thomas 33, R. Say 4/23, D. Whelan 3/21, D. Sharpe 2/27); Seville 51 (M. Ewart 22 R. Prowse 7/16, J. Harding 2/7) and 119 (B. Costigan 36, M. Ewart 24*, J. Carroll 4/32, R. Prouse 3/40 def o/r by Gruyere 173 (M. Hodggetts 81, J. Carroll 34, M. Tilney 34, D. Knight 4/15, J. Beri 2/15).
Ladder: Coldstream 51.0, Gruyere 49.0, Hoddles Creek 49.0, Healesville 45.0, Woori Yallock 43.0, Yarra Junction 39.0, Warburton-Millgrove 33.0, Launching Place 27.0, Wandin 15.0, Seville 9.0.
C Grade
Healesville 9/158 (J. North 60*, T. Cavill 24, M. Kogleman 3/34, S. Sanders 2/12) d Powelltown 148 (S. Thompson 40, C. Dunne 20, S. Fawdry 4/31, T. Cavill 3/28, J. Hellary 2/22); Seville 8/173 (G. Frankovic 77, P. Smith 41, R. Wilson 4/23, A. Whiting 2/23) v Mount Evelyn 172 (D. Finch 45, D. Westaway 41, R. Sheperd 23, A. Kay 6/16, G. Foster 3/53); Yarra Glen 9/174 (L. Crawford 44, L. Coulson 39, J. Clare 31, M. Oakley 4/30, H. Lamont 2/13) def by Wandin 6/180 (D. Wallace 82*, B. Sinnott 54, L. Coulson 2/21, S. Patterson 1/7).
Ladder: Mount Evelyn 51.0, Wandin 39.0, Seville 36.0, Powelltown 30.0, Yarra Glen 21.0, Healesville 21.0.
D Grade
Hoddles Creek 9/253 (S. Robertson 65, L. Van Der Vlugt 63*, J. Vanraay 3/33, D. Henderson 2/24) d Mount Evelyn 147 (B. Smith 40, L. Van Der Vlugt 3/12, B. Cole 2/24); Coldstream 264 (P. McArdle 80, B. Creedy 57, M. Young 5/71) d Launching Place 51 (D. Evans 3/19, C. Steele 2/8) and 7/111 (G. Ferguson 30, J. Kuth 27, A. Cummins 3/15); Yarra Junction 2/264 (L. Thompson 100*, G. Thompson 53, Ben Thomas 67*, R. Turner 28) d o/r Seville 61 (R. Culwick 20, R. Boxell 6/20) and 8/192 (S. Mundie 56, J. McKenna 67, G. Lebrocq 3/11,B. Ganson 2/32,T. Reed 2/42); Wandin bye.
Ladder: Wandin 52.0, Coldstream 48.0, Hoddles Creek 36.0, Yarra Junction 34.0, Launching Place 18.0, Mount Evelyn 12.0, Seville 12.0.
One Day Grade
Warburton-Millgrove 116 (J. McIntosh 56, S. Middleton 18*, B. Louw 7/12, I Bolch 3/13) d Healesville 98 (B. Louw 34, R. Nolan 15, T. Walker 2/13, B. Olcorn 2/26); Marysville 8/200 (J. Darkin 42*, R. Hodgins 40*, Omair 2/20) d Coldstream 162 (Omair 40, D. Vaux 34, R. Hogins 3/5); Wandin 6/253 (D. Trembath 45, M. Laman 40ret., H. Beers 2/27, H. Vassallo 2/41) d Gruyere District 7/107 (G. Sweetten 41*, T. Noar 20, M. Richardson 2/9, S. Moore 1/15), Powelltown bye.
Ladder: Powelltown 81.0, Marysville 57.0, Coldstream 45.0, Wandin 33.0, Warburton-Millgrove 27.0, Seville 15.0, Gruyere 15.0, Healesville 12.0, Yarra Junction 6.0
Under 16s
Healesville 8/123 (N. Darkin 62, D. Howard-Scales 18, A. Vicendesci 2/6) v Warburton-Millgrove; Wandin-Coldstream 6/137 (L. Sinnott 42, M. Pezzimenti 28, P.Heaphy 1/16, J. Coutts 1/18) v Mount Evelyn; Yarra Junction bye.
Ladder: Warburton-Millgrove 42.0, Yarra Junction 40.0, Healesville 34.0, Wandin/Coldstream 33.0, Mount Evelyn 15.0.
Under 14s
Hoddles Creek-Yarra Junction v Mount Evelyn 7/105 (B. Jones 32, D. Finch 19, A. Hall 2/13, O. Simpson 1/7); Launching Place 5/168 (X. Beattie 40*, M. Sinnott 36, W. Cooney 1/6, D. Ebbell 1/10, S. North 1/15) v Healesville; Yarra Glen v Warburton-Millgrove (no scores); Seville 4/231 (J. Proctor 43*, J. Beri 40*, T. Noar 2/18, D. Maston 1/29) v Gruyere District.
Ladder: Healesville 52.0, Seville 48.0, Warburton-Millgrove 36.0, Launching Place 32.0, Hoddles Creek/Yarra Junction 24.0, Yarra Glen 18.0, Mount Evelyn 6.0, Gruyere 6.0.
Under 12A
Healesville v Hoddles Creek 74; T. Fritzlaff 11*, R. Lever 2/5, C. Kuszenow 2/10); Seville 8/102 (H. Smith 16*, H. Wheeler 2/6, C. Smith 2/9, M. Cummins 2/14) v Coldstream; Hoddles Creek bye.
Ladder: Warburton-Millgrove 42.0, Healesville 40.0, Seville 27.0, Coldstream 21.0, Hoddles Creek 12.0.
Under 12B
Yarra Junction 6/112 (L. Theobald 33*, R. Bomfod 17*, C. Atkins 11*, C. Paterson 7, B. Fitzpatrick 2/3, D. Nikua 1/4, A. Sims 1/8) v Marysville; Yarra Glen v Healesville 96 (R. Cameron 13*, H. Burchmore 10, L. Pearse 2/14, R. Borthwick 2/8); Mount Evelyn 131 (N. Darvell 24*, O. Hampton 2/7, A. Kuth 2/10, T. Cope 1/3) v Launching Place.
Ladder: Healesville 42.0, Yarra Junction/Gruyere 24.0, Launching Place 18.0, Marysville 18.0, Mount Evelyn 12.0, Yarra Glen 12.0.
Under 10s
Warburton-Millgrove White 3/66 (Kobe 11, Thomas 8, Jake 7, Thomas 2/3, Lucy 1/7) d Wandin 6/54 (Lucy 10, Rory 9, Bethany 7, Sam 3/3, Kobe 1/1, Thomas 1 r/o); Warburton 3/66 (Kobe 11, Tom 4, Thomas 2/3, Lucy 1/7) d Wandin 6/54 (Rory 9, Jack D. 6, Zane 1/6, Kobe 1/1).

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