By Chris Anderson
How many times have we moaned the lack of a great grand final, when we have the best two teams pitted against each other, only to have one side dominate the contest.
For the senior grades in the Yarra Valley Cricket Association, the first box was ticked last week when the best two teams in each grade won through their semi-finals.
These teams delivered five classic grand finals in which all teams had their chances across the weekend.
In DJ Strachan Shield, Warburton-Millgrove are the toast of the town as they outlasted a gallant Mount Evelyn in a riveting contest between bat and ball.
Mount Evelyn won the toss on Saturday and didn’t hesitate in batting in brilliant conditions.
After a positive start, the Mounters lost a glut of wickets when Burras captain Daniel Lever entered the attack.
When brother David disturbed Daniel Fraser’s furniture, Mount Evelyn had slumped to be 4/61.
From there, it was a battle of will between the Burras’ trio of bowlers – Michael Walker (2/54), David Lever (4/71) and Daniel Lever (3/73) – against the explosive power of Mount Evelyn captain Kane Jones.
Jones found some handy allies in brother Luke and Jesse Fraser, and a pair of handy partnerships grew.
This not only resurrected the innings, but put it in a position to attack a healthy total.
Jones was brilliant in his attack on the Warburton-Millgrove bowlers, showing enough respect for the good balls, riding his luck at times, and brutally attacking anything loose.
Unfortunately for Jones and his team, he fell short of a well-deserved century losing his wicket to Walker on 91, and fell within sight of a dash to the finish-line.
Some lusty blows from the Mounters’ tail was accompanied by regular wickets to David Lever, and the innings was closed nine overs short of stumps with the score on 201.
Entering day two, the game was well and truly in the balance.
The total of 201 was more than competitive, but by no means insurmountable.
The Mounters raced out of the blocks on day two, and Jones’ day one innings didn’t seem to slow him down as he shot his team off to the perfect start, with a couple of wickets, he had had reduced the Burras to 3/10.
Jones was in irresistible form with the ball, and a couple of missed chances could have well had the Burras further in trouble.
The required some resistance of the highest quality, and this emerged through the union between Liam Barnard and a Tim McKail.
The pair survived some nervous moments early on, and the longer they stayed at the wicket, the more comfortable they became.
Barnard cautious defence was well matched by some lusty strikes from the blade of McKail.
The pair managed to firstly negate the energy the fielding team had gained from the early wickets, then they proceeded to safely guide their team to the tea interval.
In the process, they slowly raised the scoring rate.
With the game in the balance, Mount Evelyn were desperate for the breakthrough, but Barnard and McKail would not be deterred in their quest to see their team home.
McKail registered a magnificent maiden A Grade century as he just beat down the Mount Evelyn bowlers and fielders as they had no answer to his brilliance.
Mount Evelyn were able to get some joy in the run home as spinner Jed Thompson lured Barnard out of his crease and Jesse Fraser completed a neat stumping with Barnard falling for 49.
With the fourth wicket falling at 162, after a magnificent 152-run partnership, the door was still ajar for the Mounters to strike, but they had spent all their petrol tickets.
McKail, and club legend Mick Walker, were then left to fittingly see their team home to a memorable victory with 10 overs to spare.
The win confirmed Warburton-Millgrove’s status as the best team in the competition this season.
A long batting line-up, backed up by a miserly attack, added up to premiership glory.
In RA Finger Trophy, the best two teams of the past two seasons, Gruyere District and Coldstream, were again in the thick of the action come the last weekend of the season.
Gruyere District batted first and found the going tough against a disciplined Coldstream attack.
Mitchell Hodgetts (38) and Adam Waixel (23) did their best to give the Scorpions a decent score to defend, but regular wickets to the Crocs meant that a decent partnership was hard to come by.
Young gun Daniel Whelan (5/43) was again impressive in leading the Crocs attack while he was well supported by Ben Walsh (3/34).
When day one was all said and done, the Scorpions were bowled out for 149, a defendable total, but one that looked a little light on.
Gruyere District would need to rely on regular wickets from their star bowlers, Ronan Prouse and Matt Tilney if they were to dent Coldstream’s powerful top order.
Regular wickets did come, but so did regular runs.
Stephen Phillips (52) looked as if he was going to lead his side to back-to-back flags; and with the score on 5/118, the Crocs looked to have one hand on the trophy.
In a brilliant rear guard action, Rowan Prouse (5/47), who has been in exceptional form in the latter part of the season, and the experienced Matt Tilney (3/36), led their team to a remarkable seven-run victory to atone for the disappointment of 2015-16.
In C Grade, Wandin battled to post a score in a war of attrition with Mount Evelyn’s spinners.
Wandin were cautious in their approach to inform Mount Evelyn openers Trevor Williams and Reese Shepherd, but their cautious approach left them short when spinners Chris Doyle (5/33) and Robbie Wilson (3/35) entered the attack.
The pair were able to stick to their plans without much challenge; and despite batting more than 60 overs, the Bulldogs were only able to post 95 when the last wicket fell.
Mount Evelyn were steady in their approach on day two, but when the third wicket had fallen with the score on 40 – and the dangerous trio of Darren Westaway, Jon Williams and Chris Doyle back in the shed – then Wandin had the opportunity to strike.
Fortunately for the men in maroon, seasoned campaigners Malcolm Darvell (37 not out) and Dwayne Finch (23 not out) guided their team with a steady hand to a memorable victory after many years of toil.
In D Grade, Coldstream posted 140 against Wandin at Seville.
The Crocs had plenty of batsmen get starts, but none were able to put the Bulldogs truly to the sword.
Daniel Trembath (3/37) led a patient and disciplined effort with the ball for Wandin, as they have given themselves a chance at premiership glory by keeping the score within reach.
Wandin, led by a terrific unbeaten half century from Mathew Lanham, kept the circling Crocs at bay as regular wicket to Michael Pezzimenti (4/32) and PJ McArdle (2/34) kept the pressure on the Bulldogs.
Lanham stood strong, and found enough allies to guide his team to a hard fought three wicket victory.
In the One Day Grade, Powelltown and Marysville played out a classic with both teams having their share of success with the bat.
Powelltown batted first and executed with excellent results.
Brendan Green (40 not out) and Darcy Andrel (41 not out) were the main driving forces in Powelltown posting an impressive 4/193.
Marysville would need a big effort with the bat, and their big guns delivered with Jarred Darkin (42 not out) and Chris Piggott (45 not out) leading from the front in a classic grand final.
The Villains were able to outlast the Demons and passed their total inside the last five overs of the game.
After years of struggle to keep their club afloat, the result was a huge reward for those who have put in the hard yards for Marysville, both on and off the field.
DJ Strachan Shield
Mount Evelyn 201 (K. Jones 91, Dan Fraser 34, David Lever 4/71, Daniel Lever 3/73, M. Walker 2/54) def by Warburton-Millgrove 4/203 (T. McKail 116*, L. Barnard 49, K. Jones 2/42).
RA Finger Trophy
Gruyere District 149 (M. Hodgetts 38, A. Waixel 23, D. Whelan 5/43, B. Walsh 3/34) d Coldstream 142 (S. Phillips 52, S. Kolloshe 28, R. Prouse 5/47, M. Tilney 3/36).
Wandin 95 (D. Marshall 24, M. Sinnott 18, C. Doyle 5/33, R. Wilson 3/35) def by Mount Evelyn 3/97 (M. Darvell 37*, D. Finch 23*, J. Dobson 2/22).
Coldstream 140 (M. Pezzimenti 28, B. Creedy 26, A. Cummins 20, C. McArdle 20, Dan Trembath 3/37) def by Wandin 7/144 (M. Lanham 51*, J. Freeman 27, M. Pezzimenti 4/32, P. McArdle 2/34)
One Day Grade
Powelltown 4/193 (B. Green 40, D. Andrel 41, R. Hodgins 2/10, T. Goldstraw 1/28) def by Marysville 5/204 (J. Darkin 42, C. Piggot 45, B. Green 1/14, P. Dunne 1/12).
Warburton-Millgrove 85 (N. Andueza 52, L. Allisey 2/4, H. Bansagi 2/13) def by Yarra Junction 4/86.
Seville 2/202 (J. Proctor 41*, K. Kay 40*, AJ. Smith 40*, L. North 1/22, C. Frazzetto 1/31) d Healesville 135 (S. Gebert 41*, D. Ebbels 32, H. Flemming 2/8, AM Smith 2/7).
Healesville 2/89 (J. Hammond 19*, C. Nyco 18, J. Fritzlaff 1/5, B. Thurlow 1/5) d Hoddles Creek 84 (W. Hayes 19, L. Paine 9, R. Blendish 2/4, M. Wallis 2/8).