Collins makes his mark on another grand final

IT'S said that one of the hallmarks of any top sportsman is the ability to stand up and be counted when the pressure is on.

When it comes to local football and cricket here in central Victoria, the biggest stage is grand final day.

And for the second time in six months, Alex Collins - or Axel as he is better known - has stepped up under the grand final spotlight and made his mark in fine style.

Axel will be the first to admit he's had a lean season with the bat for Emu Valley Cricket Association club United, and he was the only batsman to miss out in the semi-final run-feast against West Bendigo the previous week when he made a duck in the Tigers' 437.

But the weekend's grand final against Emu Creek quickly became the Collins' Show as both Axel and his brother Andrew (158) produced a partnership that will go down in the annals of EVCA history as one of the greatest - if not the greatest.

Together, the Collins' boys put on a remarkable 293 for the second wicket, taking the score from 1-22 to 315 at Club Court during the Tigers' monster total of 371.

Axel blasted 141 and then backed it up with 6-54 with the ball on Sunday, with his starring role with bat and ball following his grand final heroics for Bridgewater against Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in last September's Loddon Valley Football League grand final.

The Mean Machine beat the Bears by eight points in a grand final where Axel was the difference, booting seven goals in a performance that earned him the best on ground medal (pictured right).

Axel almost single-handedly turned the grand final Bridgewater's way when he kicked four goals in the second term as the Mean Machine quickly reeled in the Bears' 27-point quarter-time lead.

Axel is one of the great characters of central Victorian sport - there's not too many other footballers who wear pink boots - but it seems the bigger occasion and the higher the stakes, the more he thrives.

Axel's big-game heroics were also evident at Bendigo Country Week back in January when he averaged 60 with the bat and took nine wickets for the carnival as the EVCA won its first division two title since 1957. 

At the same time the Collins' boys were belting Emu Creek into submission at Club Court on Saturday, back in town at the QEO, Bendigo United's Matt Pinniger also further enhanced his reputation with an outstanding Bendigo District Cricket Association grand final ton against Golden Square.

From the moment he faced the opening ball of the grand final from Square's Luke Baird, Pinniger had that steely look of resolve.

Pinniger is one of the most lethal batsmen in the BDCA from a pure strike-rate point of view. But Saturday's 115 was all about patience and settling in for the long haul.

Pinniger showed all his years of experience in a knock in which he never looked like going out until after more than four hours at the crease, an attempted pull shot was skied to point and caught by Tim Wood.

Pinniger's finals record for BUCCs now reads 482 runs from nine innings at an average of 68.9.

Four of Pinniger's past five finals knocks have yielded scores of 126 n.o., 67 n.o., 67 and 115, which is the hallmark of a top-class batsman who thrives when it's all on the line.

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