BENDIGO United won its second Bendigo District Cricket Association premiership in three years with an emphatic seven-wicket win against Eaglehawk yesterday.
A superb fightback in the field on Saturday followed by a brilliant 108 from star batsman Heath Behrens and an equally valuable 81 not out from skipper Nick Crawford saw the Redbacks stun flag-favourites Eaglehawk in front of a large crowd at Canterbury Park.
Eaglehawk's score of 276 would normally win nine out of 10 grand finals, but a super-quick outfield and intelligent batting from the Redbacks' top-order saw the underdogs home with six overs to spare.
Behrens 108 came from 159 balls with 13 fours and two sixes. He had one life on 22 when Jason Abbott dropped the classy left-hander in the gully.
Crawford was at a loss to describe the epic grand final triumph . . . and who could blame him?It's a tough ask to sum up the biggest comeback since Lazarus.
``Yeah, I don't know what to say,'' Crawford mused.
``It's amazing. It hasn't sunk in yet, and it probably won't for a few days.
``So much has happened this year, it's hard to know where to start.''Four months ago United were a rabble, and that's putting it lightly.
Cemented in bottom position with only one win from their first six outings, the Redbacks were ravaged by in-fighting and on the cusp of self-destruction.
Their gun recruit, Evan Behrens, had pulled the pin and the side seemed destined for the embarrassment of winning the wooden-spoon.
There was even a crisis meeting.
Last night, though, that was all ancient history as the side revelled in the spoils of victory.
So what inspired the dramatic turnaround?``We sat down and laid out some home truths before Christmas, and from then on things just seemed to click,'' Crawford said.
``We got the momentum going and when you're winning and everyone's confident, you're tough to beat.''United headed into the grand final as rank outsiders, despite having not lost a game since the Christmas-New Year break.
Fittingly, Crawford hit the winning runs with veteran Redback David Bicknell at the other end.
Not surprisingly, Crawford was delighted with his innings and even rated it as his best knock in Bendigo cricket.
``I've never made a first-XI hundred. I've got a lot of 70s and 80s, so yeah, that's probably my best innings,'' he said.
``I've always considered myself a good player in the big games, so it was pretty satisfying.
``I knew if I hung in there with Heath and just pushed the ball around, then we'd go pretty close to getting the runs and winning the premiership.'' Victory was even sweeter for Bicknell.
A stalwart of the club, Bicknell missed the 2000 premiership because of chronic fatigue syndrome and at one stage he doubted if he'd make it back into first XI cricket.