MURRAY Valley’s quest for a fifth-straight Country Week division one premiership is all but over after it lost to title favourite Goulburn Murray.
The defeat left Murray Valley requiring a minor miracle in today’s last round to qualify for the grand final.
Goulburn Murray is the only unbeaten side after three rounds and will play in the grand final.
Gisborne remains second despite suffering a shock loss to Benalla yesterday, while Ferntree Gully is third after it thrashed Castlemaine yesterday.
Only 33 runs seperates the two teams going into the last round.
Murray Valley is fourth and would need to score a mammoth win over Gisborne today and hope that Goulburn Murray disposes of Ferntree Gully if it’s to sneak into the final.
In yesterday’s action, Benalla gave itself a chance of avoiding relegation by beating the previously undefeated Gisborne.
Chasing Gisborne’s 9-199, Benalla looked set for a third-straight defeat when it slumped to 8-159.
However, tailenders Sam Gladstone (25) and Mitch Purcell (23) stunned Gisborne with a ninth-wicket stand of 36.
When Gladstone was dismissed Benalla still required five to win. Purcell kept calm and scored the five runs to give Benalla a much-needed win.
Earlier in the day, Gisborne’s Brett Gardner made 75 and skipper Warren Else (53) continued his superb carnival to lead their side to 9-199.
Benalla opening bowler Brad Gleeson did the damage with the ball, taking 5-37.
Murray Valley’s batsmen let the side down in its loss to Goulburn Murray.
After winning the toss and batting at Bell Oval, Murray Valley was dismissed for just 118.
Goulburn Murray skipper Dylan Cuttriss ripped through the top-order taking 3-15, while David Curry cleaned up the middle and lower-order taking 5-25.
Kieran Andrew (47) and Brodie Ross (27) were the only Murray Valley batsmen to offer any resistance.
At 0-53 Goulburn Murray looked a safe bet to win the match, but the spin bowling of Murray Valley captain Shaun Downie changed the momentum of the game.
Downie took five wickets as Goulburn Murray lost 7-44 to give Murray Valley a sniff.
Jake Perry (41) steadied the ship for Goulburn Murray and it eventually made 162.
Downie finished with 5-45 off 15 overs.
Ferntree Gully had little trouble in defeating Castlemaine by 137 runs at the QEO.
Opening bowler Cameron Wheeler claimed 5-25 to restrict Castlemaine to 120.
Opener Nathan Stubbings (58 not out) batted through the Castlemaine innings.
An unbeaten 81 from Mohammed Furrukh was the highlight of Ferntree Gully’s total of 7-257.