FIVE runs have proven the difference between the Bendigo District Cricket Association playing in today’s Melbourne Country Week grand final and finishing third.
Bendigo yesterday finished the preliminary rounds of the Country Week carnival by defeating Leongatha by 60 runs at Moorrabbin to improve its record to 3-1.
However, the victory wasn’t enough for Bendigo to hold onto second position as Mornington Peninusla’s score of 288 against Ballarat allowed it to leapfrog Bendigo by five runs and into today’s grand final against Sale-Maffra.
Adding to Bendigo’s frustration, not only did it miss a grand final spot by five runs – or a quarter of a wicket under the Country Week points system – but it defeated Mornington Peninsula by 10 runs on Wednesday.
In a dramatic fourth day, Bendigo restricted Leongatha to 5-147 after winning the toss and bowling.
Bendigo then replied with 8-207 before declaring after 47 overs in the hope of picking up two or three wickets in the second innings as news of Mornington-Peninsula’s growing score in their run-chase against Ballarat continued to filter through to the Bendigo camp.
But Bendigo could manage just one second innings wicket, taken by Cameron Taylor (1-17), as Leongatha smashed a quickfire 1-46 off three overs.
“It’s obviously very disappointing to just miss out on the final in those circumstances, but the boys have had a great week and I couldn’t be more prouder of them,” Bendigo coach Max Taylor said.
“If someone had said at the start of the week we’d have three wins, I would have taken that, and that would normally be enough to get you into the final. But that’s the way cricket goes.”
Leongatha found scoring difficult early against the Bendigo bowlers after being sent in.
Bendigo conceded just 62 runs off its first 30 overs, before Leongatha scored 85 off the last 20 to finish at 5-147.
Captain Adam Burns was at his economical best. His 10 overs cost just eight runs, while he also picked up a wicket.
At one stage Burns bowled 35 consecutive dot balls and he finished his spell having been scored off just five of his 60 balls.
Bendigo’s run-chase was highlighted by a knock of 84 from opener Ryan Grundy, who faced 110 balls and hit five boundaries and three sixes.
In his 11th Country Week carnival, Burns finished one short of making his first half-century when he was dismissed for 49 (37 balls, six fours, one six).
After scoring 233 runs in his first three hits of the week, Cameron Taylor was dismissed for a duck.
Bendigo passed its target six wickets down, but did have a late scare when it fell from 3-133 to 6-137.