STRATHDALE-MARISTIANS’ captain Linton Jacobs has praised the character of his players after the Suns yesterday captured their second Bendigo District Cricket Association premiership in a row.
At tea on Saturday, the grand final against Bendigo United at Harry Trott Oval hung in the balance after the Suns had just lost 4-8, dramatically crashing from 0-93 to 4-101 at the break.
However, just like last year’s grand final, the Suns’ middle and lower-order stood up after the tea break to lift the side to what proved to be a winning 270.
“I couldn’t be more prouder of the group... we’re a really tight bunch with huge character,” said Jacobs, who made 19 on Saturday and was yesterday involved in three dismissals behind the stumps.
“There’s a lot of talent and skill in the side, but you’ve also got to work hard and these boys have worked hard.
“There was obviously a bit of relief there at the end, and we’ll really enjoy this one.
“We’ve really worked hard for this and we deserve it.”
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The key partnership of the Suns’ innings was a 100-run stand for the seventh wicket between Taylor-Walsh medallist Ben DeAraugo (72) and the evergreen Craig Howard (42).
“We had the momentum early with Cam Taylor and Travis King getting us off to a great start (93-run opening partnership), but before tea we lost our way a little bit with four quick wickets,” Jacobs said.
“We just needed to get a partnership going after tea, and I was hoping Dom (Taylor) and I could have done that.
“But to their credit, Ben DeAraugo and Craig Howard were terrific with their 100-run stand, and that’s what has probably won us the game in the end.”
With 270 on the board, the Suns yesterday dismissed Bendigo United for 236 to win by 34 runs.
Jacob DeAraugo (2-15) put the Suns on track for victory when in his second over and the 20th of the innings, he dismissed opener Mark Di Fede (27) and dangerman Heath Behrens (0) in consecutive balls to leave the Redbacks 2-46.
“Jacob was massive for us today. He’s a huge talent, but sometimes he doesn’t know where the ball’s going,” Jacobs said.
“But today he got it right and that one where he got Puggo (Behrens) was huge for us and probably swung it our way.”
Yesterday’s triumph completes a set of three flags for the Suns this season after they had previously won the one-day and Twenty20 titles.
“We’re the first club to do it, so it’s a terrific effort,” Jacobs said.
“We love all forms of the game, but we use the other two to get us in good nick for this.
“Going back-to-back for the first time is huge for the club.”
This was the Suns’ fourth grand final in a row and the win the club’s fourth premiership behind their success of last year, 1995 and 1981.
For Bendigo United, it’s the second grand final in a row the Redbacks have lost to the Suns after losing last year’s premiership battle by 94 runs.
“They batted really well yesterday, and that partnership (DeAraugo and Howard) hurt us,” Bendigo United captain Leigh McDermott said.
“We let them get a few too many runs although, I thought we pegged them back late after it looked like they could have got around 300 the way they were going.
“At tea today we were three down (3-92), which was probably one more wicket than we wanted to be, although, the runs were around about where we needed them to be.
“But we lost a couple of wickets after tea (Wayne Fidler and Nick Crawford) and that put us back.
“We fought it out to the end, but finished 30-odd runs short... I suppose that’s cricket.”
While the Redbacks fell short of winning their 17th premiership, the club defied the odds of many pre-season predictions to not only make the finals for the 10th year in a row, but get through to another grand final.
“I think we’ve certainly improved this season,” said McDermott, who top-scored for the Redbacks yesterday with 44.
“There were a lot of people who doubted us at the start of the season, so to finish where we have is something we can build on.
“The pleasing thing is a lot of blokes have had career-best seasons. This season was about us fostering that environment for players to improve.
“You look at guys like Joel Spry, who has come to the club and had a really good year.
“Marcus (Smalley) has taken the most wickets he has in a season, and Patty Naughtin and Zac Mona have stood up for us, so it augurs well for the future.
“We knew we had the depth, but we just stumbled at the final hurdle, which was unfortunate, but we’ll look to bounce back next season.”