LOWER RISE: Bird swoops on the Shield
CRICKET: Lower Clarence's latest inductee into the representative ranks, Harry Bird, repaid selectors in spades, notching a maiden representative century to steer the side to a fourth-straight Cotten Shield.
After walking to the middle following Brandon Honeybrook's departure in the first over, Bird finished on 117 not out as Lower Clarence secured a four-wicket win.
But it was a victory set up with the ball as the side's seam attack stifled the Clarence River batsmen who finished their 50 overs at 9-173.
Opening bowlers Honeybrook (0 for 28 off 10) and Simon Harrison (2 for 22 off 10) bowled through the entire 20-over powerplay leaking fewer than three runs an over.
"I just had a gut feeling they were going to keep the screws on and I was right,” Lower captain Ben McMahon said.
Harrison also removed Clarence River's dangerous openers Dylan Cleaver (23) and Kallen Lawrence (15) in his spell.
Clarence River took a slower approach with Jake Kroehnert (23) happy to work the ball around the field through the middle overs but the continual loss of wickets hurt the side.
Ben McMahon led the way for Lower Clarence with the ball, with the captain tearing through the middle order to finish with 4-41 off 10 overs.
Brayden Pardoe (49*) launched a late assault in the final 10 overs to push the score to a defendable total but it was too little, too late for Clarence River.
"Obviously it was the same old story for our side, we didn't score enough runs,” captain Brad Chard said.
"We were just losing those wickets through the middle overs, if we don't lose wickets there and have players in the shed for the end we're probably in a good position.”
While the run chase might have gotten off to a shaky start for Lower Clarence, Bird was a stable presence at the crease, working the ball through the offside with ease.
Bird gave two chances in his innings, dropped at first slip when he was in single figures, and again at mid-off after passing 50 runs, and he would make the opposition pay for both of them.
"I feel like it really could have gone either way at the start. I have heard a lot about this game in the lead up to it and it was good to get out there and get the win most importantly,” Bird said.
"I seem to be pretty lucky this season, I guess I am a believer that you create your own luck and I have been working pretty hard in the nets. I wanted to do well for the boys. If you do go hard at the ball it is going to be hard to catch.”
Bird worked well with Nathan Ensbey (13) to stabilise the innings after the early breakthrough, and again with Mark Ensbey (21) in a 63-run fourth-wicket stand.
"The white ball was moving around a bit, they had some great bowlers early on who were getting it to do a fair bit, we just had to stick it out,” Bird said.
"I just try to win every ball, you need to keep it simple when you are in the middle. You just need to visualise yourself scoring runs, that is what all the top players say. I also like to bat time, I know if I bat time I will score the runs.”
And score runs he did, as the top-order batsman brought up the century with a wristy flick through square leg.
While usually subdued in his celebrations this season, Bird could not hide his emotions as he punched the air and saluted the healthy crowd at McKittrick Park.
"This one, I thought it meant a bit more, especially being in this game,” he said. "I knew I was important to the innings, if I got out there a couple of times it could have been bad news for the team.
"I think it was a bit of relief. I don't know these Clarence River guys but I have heard a lot about them from my teammates and I know how much winning this game means.”
Nathan Blanch was the lone shining light with the ball for Clarence River, finishing with 3-29 off nine overs.