Minnows bite back
By Tony White
Premier League minnows East Royal Tavern have struck back!
In an amazing turnaround of Lazarus proportions, the cellar dwellars of the Bananacoast Community Credit Union-sponsored cricket competition upset Grafton Services Brothers to score a fulfilling outright win at Ellem Oval.
It was the club's first outright win in the best part of four seasons.
And the victory added new stimulus and vitality in the penultimate round of this season's premiership.
"It was a tremendous result. The boys were really stoked," East captain David Cox said.
"We've had a very lean trot over the past three of four seasons, no doubt.
"This season has been my hardest in first grade.
"It's discouraging every week getting beaten. It's been a struggle.
"We've had some real thumpings but this is a great result for everyone at the club."
East, who had merger discussions with Brothers at the start of the current season, conjured what initially appeared to be another embarrassing defeat into a simply sensational victory.
East resumed on Saturday at 3-48 chasing Brothers' first innings total of 194.
For Brothers everything went according to script with East being dismissed for 95, ensuring Brothers gained vital first innings points to help shore up their bid to make this season's semi-final series.
After batting again, Brothers captain Troy McLaren elected to declare at 5-73 leaving East to chase 172 for victory in 30 overs -- just under six runs an over.
The Brothers crew were confident and had their tails up with the scent of an outright win.
However, a remarkable turnaround ocurred. East refused to lay down. Their previous brittle batting line up found steel and purpose.
The run chase was on in earnest.
Experienced Ben Hill, who returned to the club this weekend after spending last season in Sydney, opened East's innings with Cox.
The pair immediately made their intentions known. They were after the runs.
Cox fell for 22 in the fourth over with East at 1-31 but Hill provided the major backbone for East, scoring a dashing 89.
He was ably supported by young Mitch Ware (33no) and Doug Harris 18.
Ware hit the winning runs, a towering six off the first ball of the final over of the day, amid howls of jubilation from East's previously forlorn players.
"Brothers gave us a chance with the declaration but considering our recent batting form it was a fair task," Cox said.
"Having Ben Hill back was certainly a big plus. He batted sensationally and was finally out with us only needing five or six runs.
"He was the mainstay of our innings. Mitch Ware also batted very well.
"The boys were over the moon especially to mow down the runs in quick time.
"We've lacked confidence. This is just what we needed. It's our first win since beating Brothers in the first round."
East last won a premiership in 1994-95 with Greg Watkins at the helm. Watkins, who batted in the first innings but spent the rest of the match cheering on his teammates after a recurrence of a hamstring injury, was delighted.
"It's been at least four seasons since we've had an outright and that was against Tucabia," he said. "This is sensational for the club.
"A couple of people who may not have backed up next year might stick around now. Benny Hill was brilliant. Everyone lifted."
Vanquished captain Troy McLaren was gracious in defeat.
"East have had a tough year. Full credit to them, they were too good on the day," he said.
"We were hopeful of picking up a couple of quick wickets and putting the pressure on them but they batted really well.
"Hopefully our guys can learn from this."