Warwick Nolan Century Buries Keilor Park
After steering Moonee Valley through the semi-final with an unbeaten century, Warwick Nolan scored another ton to set up a grand final victory. A match-winning partnership between Nolan and Greg Peters left Keilor Park with a big run chase. Skipper Geoff Thompson bagged five wickets to secure the flag.
Keilor Park captain Greg Murray won the toss and sent Moonee Valley in to battle the overcast conditions. The Tullamarine ground is quite big and boundaries were going to be rare with the long grass that was being allowed to grow in preparation for the coming football season. The game started 20 minutes late because of some light drizzle.
Openers Darren Nagle and Craig Purcell battled through the opening five overs before Nagle was bowled by a beautiful ball between bat and pad. Butterworth was bowling superbly and his opening spell of nine overs cost just nine runs.
A double bowling change brought about the demise of Craig Purcell. Butt's first delivery was short and down the leg side but Purcell's attempted hook shot collected the batsman's gloves and provided a simple top edge which was easily taken at square leg. His innings had been very steady and productive until then.
David Callendar and Warwick Nolan survived a tense period in the game and pushed the score to 52 at tea. Callendar was a fine stroke player who had made many big scores and Nolan was a very experienced and proven performer in this type of situation, so the Valleys were quietly optimistic about their chances at this stage.
However, the very first ball after tea brought drama. Seizing a short and wide ball, David Callendar cracked a square cut straight to the gully fieldsman who held an excellent catch. Callendar had been a prolific run scorer throughout the season and a big score was anticipated from him in this final. His loss was a major setback to the team's chances.
A determined Greg Peters cleverly combined hard-nosed defence with some occasional aggression, hitting the only boundaries of the day high over square leg in successive overs. Greg Peters and Nolan set about preserving the innings and batted through the entire final session.
Nolan was playing very straight and with typical discipline. His 50 arrived with a two through mid wicket. He never looked likely to lose his wicket. The outfield was extremely slow, the light was poor and the bowling was tight. With solid defence and clever running between wickets however, the pair was able to take the score to 143 before bad light stopped play. Only 72 overs had been bowled and with Nolan on 58 and Peters on 43, the Valley was well placed overnight.
Play again began 20 minutes late on the second day because of showers, and Nolan and Peters had to endure no less than four interruptions in the opening hour and a half.
Although the new ball was available, Keilor Park used their spinners early in an attempt to break the partnership.
This move was unsuccessful as the pair took the score beyond 150 and brought up the 100 partnership. Peters brought up his half century with a quick single to square leg. After 81 overs Keilor Park took the new ball. Once again Nolan and Peters were able to combat the opposition, which included a towering pull for four by Peters. This was only the third boundary in a day and a half of play.
It was Warwick Nolan's second century in succession, having destroyed Airport West the weekend earlier in the semi-final.
In the hour before tea, Keilor Park got back into the game. Peters was dismissed at bat pad for an excellent 63 to give the dangerous Butterworth his first wicket.
Ian Denny came to the crease under the ever-present pressure of expectation only to fall to an excellent diving catch at mid wicket. Although picking the length of the delivery early, the ball did not really get up on the damp pitch and his pull was slightly mistimed and elevated. Keilor Park rejoiced at the prospect of being premiers.
Four overs later, captain Geoff Thompson was bowled and Moonee Valley had slumped to 6 for 193. With Warwick Nolan not out on 84, Greg Meyers came to the crease under enormous pressure with a vital 23 minutes before tea to negotiate. As he has proved on numerous occasions, Meyers was up to the task.
After tea Meyers and Nolan set about destroying the Keilor Park attack. The weather had picked up, and although the outfield was still ridiculously slow, the sun was shining through for the first time in the match. Meyers was particularly harsh on anything short and Nolan was driving and cutting with precision.
The pair added 50 runs in 55 minutes culminating in Warwick Nolan's square cut for three to bring up his century. Tragically, Greg Meyers’ important innings ended just two balls later when he flicked at a ball which came back at him off the pitch and was caught in the gully.
The euphoria of Nolan's milestone probably overshadowed the importance of Meyers' innings at the time, but this proved to be a decisive partnership in the destiny of the game.
Sandro Capocchi came to the crease and played with enormous determination to support Nolan, and the pair added a valuable 28 runs. before a tiring Nolan feathered an attempted cut into the wicketkeeper's gloves. Capocchi then combined with Terry Nagle to add a few more valuable runs while Keilor Park considered the possibility of having to bat for a few overs before stumps. This was not to be however, despite Nagle and Gary Irons being dismissed in successive balls.
The third day was breezy and sunny, and opening bowlers Ian Denny and Gary Irons were surprised to see the Keilor Park openers lofting the ball over covers and mid on in the opening overs. Frustration soon turned to success however, when Denny bowled Wilson off his pads.
Irons had bowled with typical economy in the opening hour but it was a bowling change 30 minutes before, tea that gave Moonee Valley further success.
Geoff Thompson brought himself into the attack and soon had both batsmen playing and missing. However it was the hard-working Denny who achieved the breakthrough when Liddy was beautifully caught by David Callendar in the gully. This was followed in the next over by a magnificent low return catch by Thompson to dismiss Coleman. Keilor Park went to tea at 64 for three.
Immediately after tea Thompson claimed his third wicket when Darren Nagle held a smart slips catch. When Murray was brilliantly caught at second slip by Terry Nagle for a duck, Keilor Park was in trouble at 5 for 72.
With Ian Denny resting from the attack, the opposition went after the bowling, adding the next 70 runs in even time, punctuated only by a much-needed Terry Nagle wicket.
Ian Denny was brought back into the attack and had immediate success, having the hard-hitting Hall snapped up behind by Greg Meyers. At 7 for 141, Keilor Park was in trouble. There was a suggestion that the game may even be over that evening, but sensible and disciplined batting from tailenders Butterworth and Cunningham held out until stumps.
The next day, the sensible and dedicated approach to survival continued. Both Butterworth and Cunningham placed immense value on their wickets and conceded nothing. The opposition had clawed their way back into the game and at 7 for 202, with both batsmen batting superbly, Keilor Park was still a chance. But the game ended swiftly.
A pair of neat catches to Greg Meyers off successive Geoff Thompson outswingers all but ended the chase. Twelfth man Ian Sutherland, substituting for Callendar took the final catch in the gully to seal the game and the premiership. Skipper Geoff Thompson's modest season ended with a five wicket haul in the grand final.
It was a well deserved victory to a team that improved as the season went on and played their best cricket for the
season at finals time.
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