AFTER a dominant display of the game of cricket at the weekend, Heathcote beat Elmore to secure a place in the Northern United Cricket Association grand final this Saturday.
This will be the team’s third grand final appearance in five years.
For Heathcote captain Corey Gilmore the plan has always been about finding form at the right end of the season and the side has done this as it has finally been freed of the hindrance of weddings for the rest of the season.
Gilmore, with his left arm in a cast, has been the fabric that has held the side together this year as it has struggled with numbers throughout the season.
In the early hours of Saturday morning he would be using his good hand to text anyone in the hope of finding five or six extra players to at least field a side, often filling in himself on the field having to sacrifice his torso or face to protect Nick Malavisi’s bowling average if the ball went to his left.
In the backrooms his contribution to this year’s success also cannot be underestimated, the nous he has provided with his “cricket brain” has been critical.
Cricket is a game deep in superstitions — the score of 87 being the devil’s number, Alan Border not allowing anyone to move at critical points in the game or Steve Waugh having a special red blanket in his pocket.
Heathcote though ignored the ritual of superstition in organising its second bus trip ever to play in the critical final against Elmore, as the last bus trip resulted in a 10-wicket loss.
But this Heathcote cricket side is different, full of what Australian cricketer Cameron Bancroft would describe as “rare units” and confident of finding form at the right time it was prepared to put the conventions of the game to one side.
Arriving by bus to the ground, Gilmore lost the toss and thus failed at one of his two jobs for the day.
Elmore sent Heathcote in to bat and to be honest, your correspondent turned up late and missed the first innings.
On arrival he sought out Ben Connelly, an avid observer of sport, to get the lowdown on the Heathcote innings. “Joel Condon got out for one in the second over, then Luke Bell came in and batted til the end and saved the day,” was his explanation.
So efficient in his description, Connelly could be considered Heathcote’s Hemingway, even to the point he could condense the entire ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ novel into “some old dude that didn’t land the fish”.
Reviewing the score card to get some detail, Ben Harris was batting like it was 2013 and hit a commanding 36 before being caught on the boundary.
Kyle Seidel added 24 runs, Shane Cox 25, and Malavisi 11 not out, all making valuable contributions to the Heathcote total of 167.
The mainstay was Bell’s 61 runs as he batted for almost all of the Heathcote innings.
Critical to Bell’s resilience with the bat was an incident in the 27th over when he was involved with a mix up that saw Brenton Conforti run out for one.
Following this, Bell’s focus was on not getting out knowing it was much more pleasant in the middle than facing the outburst spewing from Conforti that was waiting for him on the sidelines. The side batted out the overs, seeing out Gilmore’s plan and finishing the innings with 167 runs for eight wickets down.
Gilmore excelled at his second job for the day, telling the Heathcote side to “bowl tight with lots of dot balls”. It should be noted that Gilmore’s talk went for five minutes but Connelly was able to condense the message for the reader by removing all expletives.
Opening the bowling, Pat Ring was rewarded with his consistent nagging line and length with three Elmore wickets. Brayden Klemke opened the bowling for Heathcote at the other end and his pace this season has provided a real X-factor to the Heathcote team.
With Elmore 3/39 after 12 overs on field, captain Bell looked to consolidate Heathcote’s position. Kyle Seidel and Shane Cox were bought into the attack for Heathcote. Seidel bowled a tight line with good pace and Cox with leg spin provided plenty of pressure at the other end.
Oliver played on to give Cox a wicket and see the home side four down. The middle overs proved crucial as the Heathcote bowlers began to suffocate the Elmore batsman.
As Cox finished his seventh over, Bell noticed an exasperated Nicholas Malavisi warming up on the boundary. Malavisi, you may recall, is Heathcote’s Saint Nick. Following the miracle of five wickets earlier in the season and then six wickets against Raywood, our Saint Nick is only one miracle off canonisation.
Malavisi strode to the crease with his usual swagger but he was exhausted both mentally and physically after 27 overs of warming up and seething about not yet being given a bowl.
Coonawarra has Mary McKillop and Heathcote needs our Saint Nick. Imagine the boom in tourism if Malavisi could just step up and deliver that elusive third miracle.
But in the last week the closest thing to a miracle was last week’s write up in the McIvor Times, which made Saint Nick sound humble.
Saint Nick though understands the theatrics of the game, and no doubt is saving the defining moment for the grand final.
Conforti bowled tight from the other end and was rewarded with two wickets. Bell soon injected Ring back into the bowling attack and everyone’s favourite cricketer picked up another two wickets.
Slattery took another sharp catch behind the stumps off Conforti to finish the Elmore innings on 123.
In a great team effort, the best on ground goes to Pat Ring for his five wickets and the fact that both Malavisi and Conforti are still dark on Bell.
The Queen Elizabeth 2 is massive, slow moving and a sight to behold, referring here to the ship, not Her Majesty.
She is made of numerous components each doing their own small job but acting in unison to achieve an incredible outcome of driving the 70,327-tonne vessel.
Likewise the Heathcote cricket team has shown what can be achieved as individuals all contributing in the team effort this weekend. Each player focusing on their own job with ruthless efficiency but backing the team as a whole.
Just like the QE2 it takes a while to get momentum but with a head full of steam the Heathcote cricketers will be difficult to stop as they head into the grand final.
The team is ascending and takes on Bagshot this weekend at Elmore.
We can look forward to Connelly condensing the Hemingway Classic ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ into one sentence next week, the tale of onfield captain Luke Bell leading the team to victory.