HEATHCOTE cricket team’s winning run is over after it fell to a 32-run defeat at the hands of reigning premier Dingee on the weekend.
The loss ended a run of three consecutive victories for Heathcote who sit in third spot on the ladder at the end of round five in the Northern United Cricket Association.
Following heavy rain mid week it was always going to be a challenge to prepare the Heathcote cricket ground for the weekend’s game against Dingee.
The talents and tireless efforts of pitch doctor Grant Baker were on display as he managed to salvage a wicket for the game.
This was despite the rain and captain Corey Gilmore turning on the sprinklers late Friday night as he struggled to put together a team.
The washout that was hoped for did not eventuate and the home side had to resort to some washed up players to make up the side.
Gilmore won the toss and elected to field on a pitch that was going to guarantee a result.
He then turned to Osicka to open the bowling with Ring for the first time in about four years.
Osicka repaid this faith by bowling a ball so poor it was reminiscent of former Prime Minister, cricket tragic and tragic cricketer John Howard’s infamous delivery.
Playing for Heathcote one gets used to your teammates openly laughing at your failings but it takes something pretty special to get the umpire to chortle.
Luckily Pat Ring was tight at his end and soon had one of the Dingee openers out.
With captain Gilmore off the field injured, former premiership captain Joel Condon stood up to make the on-field decisions.
Decisive as ever he was quick to inject Brenton Conforti and Nick Malavisi into the bowling attack.
Bowling is about partnerships, as distinct from marriage which is about refraining from saying what you actually think.
The bowling partnership between spin and pace can be unconventional but it must be remembered that the pairing of McGrath and Warne was integral to the success that Australia used to have.
Likewise it was with enigmatic pace bowler Conforti and left arm off-spinner Malavisi that Heathcote was able to pressure Dingee.
They proved as effective as the Australian greats. The only difference was Conforti exhibited greater ferocity than McGrath and Malavisi more swagger than Warne.
If you have seen Malavisi in the past few weeks you would be well aware the bowler produced a six-wicket spell, including a hat-trick, earlier in the season.
The week afterwards the town awoke to headlines of “Marvellous Malavisi” and “Saint Nick”. Malavisi had responded by declaring himself unavailable since, mainly to protect his bowling average.
In fairness he has also struggled to fit into his cricket cap, though it is uncertain whether this is due to sudden appearance of a halo or rather his cranium swelling after that performance.
Fortunately for Heathcote, Saint Nick was able to return this week. With each well-flighted finger spinner there was a minor miracle, as the ball turned past not only the bamboozled batsman but also the keeper and first slip.
Keeper Chris Slattery was so drained at having to read the bowling he needed a nap at drinks.
What was witnessed on the turf has the club considering making the title of Saint Nick official with a request for canonisation sent to the Vatican.
Pope Francis wants to be the Pope for the unfortunate and downtrodden and it is with this vision he would be perfect as the number one ticket holder for Heathcote Cricket Club.
It also would mean his holiness would get to hang with 11 other guys dressed in white.
Saint Nick is not unprecedented either.
There has already been a Saint Nicholas who among other things is the patron saint of pawn brokers. His legendary habit of secret gift giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus. This is a perfect fit for our Saint Nick, who is not only the first one selected for the cricket side, but if captain Gilmore needs someone to play the role of a big, bearded jolly dude with a red sack he knows exactly where to look.
While Malavisi produced ball after ball of heavenly delight, from the other end Conforti had fire and brimstone raining down on the Dingee batsmen with his thunderbolt deliveries.
At the end of their spells, both Conforti and Malavisi each had two wickets and had moved the initiative Heathcote’s way.
Des Gilmore produced some tidy overs and Pat Ring again bowled well to continue the pressure on Dingee.
On-field captain Condon positioned himself carefully out of earshot of actual captain Corey Gilmore. This meant Condon was able to bowl himself at the far end of the ground.
Osicka returned to bowling but despite the presence of miracle man Saint Nick, Lazarus did not rise.
Ben Connelly finished the overs for Heathcote taking the prized scalp of S. Lawry care of an outfield catch by, well, you can guess who.
Despite some determined fielding by Carl Obst, Dingee got away in the last 10 overs and were able to finish with a respectable 6 for 143.
Malavisi and Condon opened the batting for Heathcote. Both were measured in their approach, rather uncharacteristically so in the case of Condon.
Both batsmen were sticking to Corey Gilmore’s rather inventive plan of batting out the overs and scoring the runs to win the game, demonstrating that even when not on the field how pivotal Gilmore’s strategic nous is to the team’s success.
The plan faltered when Malavisi was bowled with the team score on 30 and then with Condon out for 29.
The team soon found itself four wickets down for 42 runs when Conforti incorrectly assumed everyone is as quick between the wickets as he is and he ran out Des Gilmore for a diamond duck.
Conforti, tiring of all the sound about “Malavisi this and Malavisi that”, took to his innings with an extra degree of determination.
It was time to return Heathcote cricket back to its natural order where Conforti alone sets the team’s agenda for success and that the weekly cricket write-ups can again become long-winded love letters about Conforti’s brilliance.
The batsman played a controlled innings of balance, with value placed on his wicket and not allowing the required runs per over to get out of reach.
Unfortunately the middle and lower order were not able to stick with Conforti to allow him to get the job done.
Dingee set a field around the new club rooms in anticipation of collecting the ball off the roof when Conforti really opened up.
Unfortunately, this was not to be as the final Heathcote wicket fell and Conforti was left on 51 not out.
The team failed to follow Corey Gilmore’s rather simple instructions and were all out for 111 in the 37th over, thus allowing Dingee to secure victory.
Conforti was elected the Heathcote player of the day (sponsorship rights pending) and the King returns. Long live the King.