A LEG-SPINNING masterclass from Liam Bowe has catapulted Sandhurst to a 28-run win over Strathdale-Maristians on an action-packed day in the Bendigo District Cricket Association on Saturday.
In what was the game at Bell Oval where the Dragons at one stage early on day one last week were languishing at 4-12, Sandhurst again had to dig deep to topple the ladder-leaders.
Chasing Sandhurst's 219, the Suns with their much-vaunted deep batting line-up were tracking along solidly at 4-152 in reply in the 61st over.
But just over 20 overs later Bowe had run through the Suns' middle and lower-order, finishing the day with eight wickets as Strathdale-Maristians was bowled out for 191.
After Taylor Beard and Ben Evans claimed the first two scalps of the day, Bowe took the last eight of the Suns' innings to finish with the phenomenal figures of 8-31 off 31.4 overs.
"I don't have enough words to say about Liam Bowe... he is just extraordinary," Sandhurst captain Dylan Gibson said.
"For someone who bowls the hardest discipline in cricket and to consistently land the ball wherever he likes - whether it's a leg-spinner, a wrong-un, a slider or whatever - he's just incredible and we're just so fortunate that he's a Sandhurst man."
Bowe's eight wickets featured six caught, one stumped and one lbw.
Bowe and fellow leggie Evans (1-76 off 21) combined to bowl 52.4 of the Dragons' 82.4 overs.
After what has now proven to be a match-winning century on day one with his 121, Beard followed up with 1-31 off 15 overs with the ball for the Dragons, who remain 10 points clear inside the top four with two rounds to play, putting Sandhurst on the cusp of its first finals appearance since its premiership season of 2017-18.
Captain Cameron Taylor (67) and coach Grant Waldron (61) both scored half-centuries for the Suns and put on 108 together for the second wicket following the early loss of opener Daniel Clohesy (0), who was bowled by Beard third ball of the day.
Having won their first eight games of the season, the Suns have now lost two in a row in which they have failed to capitalise on positions of dominance.
Last round the Suns were unable to defend 215 against Kangaroo Flat when the Roos had been 7-58, while in this game the Suns were beaten after having had the Dragons on the ropes at 4-12 on day one.
BENDIGO UNITED v EAGLEHAWK
A Miggy Podosky hat-trick was the highlight of Bendigo United's demolition job on Eaglehawk at Harry Trott Oval.
The Hawks didn't give a yelp with the bat in their first innings, all out for just 48 in reply to Bendigo United's 9-287 in a huge result for the Redbacks, who are part of a three-way fight for fourth spot.
Podosky led the rout for the Redbacks with his bag of 5-9 off nine overs his second consecutive five-wicket haul having taken 5-55 the previous round against Golden Square.
Podosky's day out with the ball included his first A grade hat-trick spread over two overs.
Off the final delivery of his fifth over Podosky bowled the Hawks' Nick Farley (0).
And then on the first two balls of his sixth over he trapped Josh Williams (0) lbw and had Taj Taylor (0) caught at slip by skipper Clayton Holmes, leaving several long-time Bendigo United supporters to ponder when was the last time a Redbacks player took an A grade hat-trick?
It was a brilliant hat-trick catch at first slip by Holmes, who held it after second slip Riley Treloar dived to his left in front of him.
The Eaglehawk innings lasted less than 25 overs, with the Hawks all out in 24.4 overs for their lowest score this century.
The Hawks had got through the first seven overs unscathed and had been 0-17 before losing 10-31, including five players making ducks, while only opener Harvey White (14) reached double figures.
With a lead of 239 runs the Redbacks enforced the follow-on, with the Hawks 2-157 in their second iinings when stumps were pulled after 44 overs.
Angus Chisholm (70 n.o.) and Ben Williams (33 n.o.) had put on 90 for the second wicket.
BENDIGO v KANGAROO FLAT
On what was a rare day in the BDCA where two teams were routed for less than 60, Bendigo didn't fare much better than Eaglehawk in its first innings against Kangaroo Flat.
In fact, it was a disastrous day with the bat for the Goers, who only narrowly avoided avoided an outright loss, while the two sides they are jostling with for fourth spot - Bendigo United and Strathfieldsaye - both won.
After making 6-334 against White Hills last round the Goers followed it up by losing 19 wickets for 152 runs on the one day against Kangaroo Flat, which was defending 8-266 at Atkins Street.
The Goers were bowled out for 53 in their first innings in just 20.1 overs and then clung on by the barest of margins to stave off the Roos' outright attempt, finishing their second innings at 9-99.
Across the two innings the Goers had six players dismissed for ducks and of the 19 wickets to fall, 15 were for single figures.
Captain James Ryan did his best to steady the sinking ship for the Goers, but didn't have enough support.
Ryan scored 31 in the first innings and 58 in the second off a combined 144 balls, meaning he scored 89 of Bendigo's 152 runs for the match.
Highlighting the fickle nature of cricket, following his 152 the previous round gun Goers' all-rounder Kyle Humphrys was dismissed for scores of 0 and 1.
Roos' bowler Luke Stagg warmed up for his first trip to Melbourne Country Week with nine wickets for the match, bagging 4-12 in the first innings and 5-10 in the second for a combined 9-22 off 17.1 overs.
The Roos took their ninth wicket in the second innings on the third-last ball of the day when Dylan Johnstone (11) was caught by Daniel Barber off Stagg at short leg.
That left No.11 Bailey Goodwin (0 n.o.) to negotiate the final two deliveries of the day to prevent the outright defeat, which he was able to do.
STRATHFIELDSAYE v WHITE HILLS
After a narrow miss the previous round Strathfieldsaye's Chathura Damith now has his maiden BDCA first XI century.
In a performance reaffirming his status as one of this season's favourites for the Cricketer of the Year, Damith's unbeaten 101 led the Jets over the line against White Hills at Tannery Lane.
In a crucial result as they held on to fourth position, the Jets answered the Demons' 123 with 7-177.
Damith's unbeaten 101 came off 123 balls with 13 boundaries and two sixes and follows his 97 against Huntly North the previous round.
He's also now the leading run-scorer in the competition with 537.
Having started the day 0-25, the Jets lost three early wickets to be 3-35 when Damith began his innings.
Rhys Irwin (3-73), who sent down a marathon 32 overs, was the leading wicket-taker for the Demons.
HUNTLY NORTH v GOLDEN SQUARE
Following a 0-6 start Golden Square has now won four games in a row.
Golden Square successfully defended its score of 4-280 against Huntly North, bowling the Power out for 197 at Strauch Reserve.
Scott Trollope (3-28), Dylan Robinson (2-35) and young spinner Will Bowles (2-29) were all multiple wicket-takers for Golden Square.
No.3 Sandun Ranathunga spent 192 balls at the crease in making 89 for the Power, with he and Shiran Kulathunga (36) putting on 63 for the seventh wicket.
BDCA TO HIT OFF MELBOURNE COUNTRY WEEK CARNIVAL
THE Bendigo District Cricket Association begins its Melbourne Country Week campaign on Monday.
The BDCA will again be competing in Provincial Group, with its opening game against Wangaratta at Greenvale from 10am.
Bendigo is being coached by Tony Ryan and skippered by Strathdale-Maristians' Grant Waldron.
This year's squad is one that is heavily dominated by the BDCA's two top sides in Strathdale-Maristians and Kangaroo Flat.
The squad's 14 players includes a combined 11 from the Suns (six) and Roos (five).
Among the five Kangaroo Flat players is stalwart Adam Burns, who was last year inducted into the Melbourne Country Week Hall of Fame.
This will be Burns' 18th trip to Melbourne representing the BDCA having first done so in 2002.
Conversely, there's two debutantes in the squad in Roos' bowler Luke Stagg and Bendigo United batsman Riley Treloar.
BDCA Melbourne Country Week squad - Grant Waldron (Strathdale-Maristians), Jack Neylon (Strathdale-Maristians), Daniel Clohesy (Strathdale-Maristians), James Barri (Strathdale-Maristians), Sam Johnston (Strathdale-Maristians), Matt Wilkinson (Strathdale-Maristians), Dylan Klemm (Kangaroo Flat), Jake Klemm (Kangaroo Flat), Adam Burns (Kangaroo Flat), Brent Hamblin (Kangaroo Flat), Luke Stagg (Kangaroo Flat), Liam Smith (Golden Square), Kyle Humphrys (Bendigo), Riley Treloar (Bendigo United).
BDCA draw - Monday: v Wangaratta at Greenvale. Tuesday: v Mornington at Doncaster. Wednesday: v Sale Maffra at Brunswick. Thursday: TBC. Friday: final if make it.