Wakeling Pilots Pennant Win In The Ultimate Team Effort
In an incredibly tense and high-scoring encounter which went down to the wire, the mighty Moonee Valley prevailed to win the 1995/96 Luscombe Shield.
The Valley batting line-up, led by semi-final hero Mark Wakeling, boasted nine players who got among the runs.
On arrival at the ground, the Moonee Valley brains trust observed that the Pascoe Vale pitch was worn and full of sand. Experience informed us that quick runs would be difficult to accumulate, and that all the bowlers would be in for a long, hard slog. Patience would be a key factor in this match.
Taylors Lakes started with an extremely attacking field. Veterans Warwick Nolan and Mick Harvey took to the crease and absorbed 40 minutes of grand final pressure before Nolan popped up a simple catch to short leg off his gloves in the twelfth over.
Bill Loughron joined Harvey and the pair batted superbly for nearly an hour and a half, taking the score to 78. Harvey was batting with his customary skill and technique, and Loughron accepted to challenge to attack the bowling while the ball was relatively new. This ploy worked well and the Valleys had advanced into the 70s by 3 o'clock.
Sadly however, the Valleys lost two wickets in consecutive overs shortly before tea. Loughron was caught behind off the seemingly-insipid Harley for an invaluable 36. Harvey followed in the next over, cleaned up by a clever delivery from Campbell.
Captain Greg Peters and the inimitable Ian Denny found themselves together and in familiar territory.
Typically, Denny defied the pressure by crunching a six to get off the mark. He followed this with another in Campbell's next over, and a pair of boundaries thrown in for good measure.
Thanks to Denny's brilliance, the Valleys raced past the century mark but it was Peters' innings which was the key here. A naturally aggressive player, Greg's role was clearly to support the rampaging Denny. As courageous as ever, Greg played smart cricket as Moonee Valley worked themselves into a handy position. The partnership advanced to 49 in even time, until Denny's demise. Characteristically, he lost his wicket looking to take the fight to the enemy. When he was caught in the deep for 41, Moonee Valley was reasonably well placed at 127 for 4.
Semi-final hero. Mark Wakeling joined his skipper in the middle. Mark had had a memorable innings the week before, carrying Moonee Valley to a remarkable win against Tullamarine. Last week counted for little now, however.
Wacka and the Cockroach batted appropriately on the very slow wicket. They knew that runs were hard to come by and that discipline was the fundamental requirement. Taylors Lakes had set a defensive field, making runs even harder to come by. From this moment on, the match became an arm wrestle.
At 156, the hard work from the Taylors Lakes bowlers and fielders paid off as Peters was caught behind off Harley. The skipper was disappointed but his innings had been a valuable one for his club.
With an hour to go until stumps, Moonee Valley took a risk and sent night watchman Terry Nagle to the wicket. He planned to play without risk in an effort to hold out until the end of the day. It was risky, but still a great plan. Tex soon added his own variation to the no risk strategy when he jumped down the track to Harley five minutes before stumps and promptly added six more runs to the total.
Wocka farmed the strike for the last three overs despite protestations from Terry that he should go after the bowling as they were tired and that he was on a roll. Moonee Valley finished the day at a very healthy 176 for 5.
Terry and Mark were simply brilliant the next day. They played straight at every opportunity and their long friendship was evident in their support for each other. Mark was continuing his fine achievements from the game before and was fast becoming the matchwinner.
Terry Nagle was the loose cannon for Moonee Valley. Rising to the occasion, Tex was finding his best batting form of his career and Taylors Lakes was wondering how much longer this night watchman would be in their face.
And in their face he was. With ones and twos being the order of the day, Terry was even able to punctuate their partnership with a couple of boundaries. Their partnership lasted for almost two more hours and had added a further 78 runs by the time Tex was caught behind off Balzan.
At 234, Brett Lewis joined Wacka and played with authority. It was time to smack this tiring attack and put the total out of the opposition's reach.
When Mark brought up his well-deserved half century, the Valleys stood as one to salute a long-serving player whose performances in the First XI were never as conspicuous as those of his well credentialled team-mates. A steady contribution throughout the season had been rewarded with match-winning hands in both finals.
Mark was eventually out for a splendid 51, just before tea and Moonee Valley was 7 for 263.
Shortly after the break, Brett Lewis was out too, but not before he had helped advance the Moonee Valley score to 278. He was caught on the long off fence assertively pursuing runs.
The Valleys had a lot of runs on the board but it was still uncertain as to how many runs was going to be enough. The track was very worn and offered nothing to any bowler, and the Pascoe Vale ground was dry and getting faster all the time.
The scene now saw keeper Greg Meyers paired with stalwart Darren Nagle. Darren was a great fighter in
these circumstances and Schuma had a terrific record in finals. Two of the greats of this Moonee Valley
dynasty were left with the responsibility of getting the total to 300.
The couple batted for nearly an hour an a half, adding 58 to an already massive target. Schuma's 33 was not the first time that he had made a significant contribution for his team at this very ground.
With half an hour until stumps, the Valley camp did not fear the loss of the final wicket, preferring instead to consider the prospect of bowling at two very tired Taylors Lakes opening batsmen. Darren Nagle and Shane Westlow had other ideas.
While all the other nine team-mates had surrendered their attentions to fielding warm-ups, our two strike bowlers had not finished with their batting opportunities yet!
They toyed with the opposition, lasting the half hour until stumps, and bringing up the 350 in the second last over.
The Valleys would spend the week in contemplation of a huge score in the bank, and still with a wicket in hand. Taylors Lakes would have to spend the same week with the same contemplation.
Eight more runs were scrounged on the third day before Westlow was cleaned up by Bennett. The courageous Spud Nagle was left not out with 42 next to his name. Another notch on his belt for this champion all-rounder.
For Taylors Lakes, the ask of 359 seemed less likely when Schuma caught Taylor of Egbert in the second over. Thorley and Gordon both looked uncomfortable, particularly against Westlow, and it was no surprise to see them both depart within the next half hour. Westy had further joy when he had Harley out first ball and the Lakers were now in tatters at 4 for 37.
With nothing to lose, the new batsman Campbell went after the bowling. It was a terrific innings considering the state of the game and he was well supported by the classy Ellis.
It was Terry Nagle who broke the partnership, courtesy of a fifth Greg Meyers catch. Ellis was joined by Balzan and the onslaught continued.
Moonee Valley had plenty to worry about. At 5 for 242, Brett Lewis prepared to bowl the last over of the day. Firstly, Balzan nicked the second delivery to Meyers and his replacement was cleaned up two balls later, and Taylors Lakes was seven down at stumps.
Victory seemed closer when skipper Bennett was skittled early on the fourth morning, giving Lewis a third crucial wicket in the space of just 15 deliveries.
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