A “LIONHEART” performance from Shane Slater has guided Mortlake to an inspiring six-run win over Terang in a grand final for the ages.
The premiership was the Cats’ fifth in six years, putting yet another exclamation mark on a glorious era for the Mortlake Cricket Club.
Slater’s knock of 49 stood out on a day when runs were hard to come by, as opposition veteran all-rounder Tim Keane produced 40 runs of his own to wind back the clock.
Earlier in the day, Slater stood firm as wickets were falling all around him with Lachie Barr (12 runs) the only other one to reach double figures from the top order.
Terang bowler Sam Munro cleaned up the dangerous Clinton Baker (duck) and Barr, while Tim Keane dismissed Jamie Barr (duck), with Mortlake captain Todd Lamont (duck) and Lachie Wareham (one) also back in the pavilion.
Nathan Jones made a start with Slater, scoring nine runs until Terang captain Brett Hunger took the vital wicket of the veteran opener one run short of his half century.
Hunger went on to produce season-best figures of 4-23, taking out Jones, Todd Robertson and Josh Jewell, of which the latter made 23 before falling.
Terang’s batsmen started a little stronger despite Liam Geary dismissed for just two runs in the opening stages.
Tyson Hay and Hamish Bruckner put on 35 runs to see Terang 1-38, before Lachie Wareham took the ball.
Wareham cleaned up the top and middle order, dismissing Hay (25), Bruckner (duck) and Jay Wynd (duck) to put Terang on the back foot at 4-40.
Ben Graesser refused to yield, but eventually was given out through lbw to Todd Robertson, with Liam Venn gone seven runs later courtesy of some deadly pace bowling from Wareham.
Mortlake had Terang 6-62 with Tim Keane and Matt Whitton at the crease and much like Slater in the first innings, it would be Keane that stood firm, putting on a 32-run partnership with Whitton to move Terang to within 27 runs of victory.
Fittingly, it was Slater that eventually outfoxed Keane, having a late spell with the ball, first dismissing Whitton and then catching and bowling Keane to break the partnership with 20 runs remaining.
Brandon Bant made just the one run, while Hunger scored a boundary late and Terang needed seven runs for victory with one wicket to spare.
Despite still five overs remaining, Slater rose to the occasion once again putting a strong delivery to Hunger which saw hearts race as the ball spun towards Nathan Jones who held the catch, securing the match.
Hunger slumped over following the shot as the Mortlake players came from everywhere to rejoice their fifth premiership in six years, and celebrate with Slater who produced a sterling effort to get the Cats over the line.
Aside from Slater’s 49 and 3-17 and one maiden off 7.1 overs, Lachie Wareham’s 5-21 and three maidens off 10 was another inspirational performance.
Josh Jewell’s late 23-run performance stopped the Cats from being bowled out for less than 100 runs – eventually being the difference between winning and losing.
For Terang, Hunger’s four wicket haul, along with tight bowling from Brandon Bant, Sam Munro and Keane – the latter’s 40 runs almost getting Terang over the line.
Tyson Hay (25) and Ben Graesser (22) combined 35-run partnership was also a highlight, but ultimately amounted to little at the end.
Lamont said his side was “brave” in its battle to defend its total and the performance was one to remember.
“I just can’t believe it,” he said.
“It was just… both sides bowled unbelivevably well.
“The whole game I was nervous, I never ever felt in control of the game.”
Lamont praised his bowlers and singled out Slater who had been “doing it tough” lately due to an illness in the family.
“Shane put in a terrific performance, a real lionheart effort,” he said.
It was bitter disappointment for Hunger, who felt the side was on the verge of victory but could not quite get there.
“I’m shattered,” he said.
“I’m really proud of the guys; I said to the team I’m really proud of their efforts.
“We got here as a club not just the guys that played today.
“It’s been a really successful year with both teams making it through to the grand final, we were just unlucky.”
Hunger said he was pleased to finally take multiple wickets in the biggest game of the year, while the likes of Keane and Bant and Munro’s bowling were also highlights in the loss.
“We were right there,” he said.
“We knew we were ahead of the run rate, but wickets were obviously a problem and proved to be our downfall.”
Both teams will now head to the off-season with Mortlake’s presentation night scheduled for next Friday, while Terang’s will be in the next couple of weeks with a date yet to be decided.