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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Andy Sheehy's 3rd Grade Final Report - with reprint authority

Match: Kiama vs. Lake Illawarra - Grand Final
Place: Bonaria Street Oval, Kiama
Date: 25/03/06 and 26/03/06

The grand final was here and if we didn't realise it for ourselves, the overwhelming feeling of anticipation would have told you that this was going to be a high pressure game. With the hill already beginning to populate, Lake Illawarra and Kiama set up their respective camps at Bonaria Street Oval readying themselves for the biggest game of the 3rd grade season. With only 3 losses between both team for the whole season, and Kiama looking to exact some revenge for an earlier season loss at the hands of the Lakers, it was pretty much a flip of the coin to who was going into the match as favourites. Kiama were coming in as minor premiers and on the back of comprehensive semi final win against Albion Park. Lake Illawarra however, lost only one game throughout the season, but fewer outright wins, would see them come in third place. They snuck home against Gerringong in the semi final, but in the only meeting of the season, Lake did give Kiama a cricketing lesson, flogging us by an innings and plenty!

So the stage was set for what would be an epic encounter. With both sides at near full strength, Kiama lost the toss, and were sent in by the Lake Illawarra skipper, in a move that surprised many in the Kiama camp, who were of the belief that it is always better to bat first and get the runs on the board in high pressure games like this. Kiama started out with the usual opening pair of electrifying Tommy Mayes and the experience of Joe "Spud" Murphy. Kiama got off to a quick start with Tommy Mayes getting off to his usual quick start but was dismissed in the second over after ballooning a full toss to mid on. Spud was joined at the crease by Simon Pearson and the two began to build a useful partnership, before Spud drove a ball straight to mid off and Kiama were not exactly travelling well at 2/21.

With Simon looking much better than he had in previous weeks, and looking more like the batsmen who began the season with a classy ton, and Jeff beginning to take charge of the young Lake bowling attack. I didn't actually see Simon get bowled because I was in the process of taking a piss when I heard a cheer and had to stop mid stream (that shows commitment) and sprint back to get my gear. Simon was dismissed for 9 and with the Cavs sitting shaky on 3/46. Things got a whole lot worse (no not because I was now at the crease!) when Jeff Lawler top edged an attempted pull shot and held out in the deep and Kiama went to drinks at 4/46.

Soon after drinks and the Cavalier collapse continued as I was dismissed without troubling the scorers and Kiama were in deep trouble at 5/51. Kiama still had hope of a revival with Mr 165, Russell Park, coming to the crease to join Bombaci. But this hope was soon dashed as a pearler of a delivery knocked Russell's off stump out of the ground and Kiama were 6/61. In a near mirror image of our semi final 1st innings, Kiama were crumbling while Luke Bombaci held strong, hitting out and giving hope to another miracle Cavalier recovery. However unlike the semi final, Lake Illawarra obviously knew Bombaci's strengths which is mighty suspicious since in the only game this season he played against Lake, he didn't actually do anything with the bat (conspiracy theory #1).

But unfortunately for Kiama, Bombaci couldn't match his semi final heroics with the bat as he was unlucky in chopping one back onto his stumps with his score on 26 and Kiama slumped to 7/81. With the Cavaliers staring grand final disaster in the face, grand final disaster dead set gave us a swift backhand to the face when Nathan Simpson was bowled for 4, as Kiama shook their head in disbelief as they looked at the scoreboard that read 8/85. After receiving a well deserved promotion to #10, Matt Cook came to the crease and got more respect from the Lake Illawarra team than anyone expected. How? Well you don't normally immediately send a couple of players to the boundary for a #10 batsmen unless you know something (conspiracy theory #2).

Well the respect shown to Cooky must have worked because the semi final batting sensation was dismissed for a duck and Kiama were in the tragic position of 9/86. Whilst some of us on the sidelines were praying for Robbie Wakeham to re-live his 56 not from earlier in the season, and getting off the mark was a great start. However any chance of seeing Robbie blast the Lake attack was cut short when Jason Horley was bowled for 8 and Kiama's innings came to a close on the grand total of 94.

Kiama attempted to regroup in the short break between innings, clinging to the self belief that we had no less than 7 days ago, skittled Albion Park for 45 on this same ground. Once again Kiama were to look to our stellar bowling attack to bail us out of trouble once again. As the 3rd grade Cavs came out to a thunderous reception from the very rowdy hill, including a booming rendition of "Beneath the Southern Cross", Kiama were set for the carnival atmosphere that included the rollercoaster ride that was expected.

As we have become used to, Matt Cook and Luke Bombaci opened the bowling and terrorised the opening partnership. However the gritty Lake openers kicked, scratched and clawed their way through the storm. With runs extremely hard to come by and the hill letting each other batsmen know it, Lake were able to move into tea with no damage and a fair chunk taken out of the target. Kiama's dismal day was beginning to eat away at the self belief that had sent us to the minor premiership. It seemed that nothing was going our way. Edges went wide of desperate, outstretched hands, run out opportunities missed by the smallest of margins and LBW cries were turned down over and over again.

After tea, a double bowling change putting Nathan Simpson and Russell Park into the attack did little to ease the Cavalier frustration. As the scoreboard slowly ticked over, the confidence of both Lake openers grew and grew. Neither Nathan or Russell could break through and the introduction of Robbie Wakeham's off spin was also unable to break the partnership. A tough chance was grassed by Simpson with the score on 85 that could have proved helpful, but it was not the Cavaliers day on Saturday as Lake managed to cruise past Kiama's 1st innings total, with no wickets down. Though one opener could not really dwell too long on passing the total as the very next ball he was struck in the jaw by a vicious Bombaci bouncer (hey it was a highlight for us on day 1!)

With both openers passing their crucial half centuries, captain Lawler was unable to find the right answers to break the partnership. Until he threw the ball to one of the "A-team" crew and with Jason Horley's first ball he clean bowled the Lake opener. After toiling away in the hot sun, the 3rd grade bowling union could only shake their head in disbelief as Horley did what they all couldn't do, and he did it with one ball (The A-Team rules). Soon after Horley the Destroyer took the prize scalp of the remaining opener as he got one to rise up early on the batsmen who could only deflect it straight to Matt Cook at 1st slip. 2 quick wickets, but the damage was already done. Despite a some what comical send off from the hill for both players (we were laughing on the inside), and though it wasn't always "pretty", the Lake openers did their job perfectly. Maybe if some of the Kiama batsmen decided to follow suit and tough it out, instead of playing like our logo, and attempting to look "pretty" we may have been able to add a 1 in front of our dismal 1st innings total of 94. The Lake openers deserve all the credit because even with the barrage and sometimes embarrassing abuse they were copping from the hill, they hung tough, exactly what you need in finals cricket.

The day came to a close with Lake 2 down for 140 odd and in a commanding position. The two camps could not be anymore of a contrast. Kiama were hanging their heads in shame thinking about what could have been. On the other hand, Lake were celebrating their day one victory... But did they celebrate too much too early? Because cricket is indeed a funny game and only a true blue, one eyed Cavalier could have predicted what would happen next!

Day two arrived and it was a bright, sunny day, similar to the day before, and Kiama were looking to restore some pride, though only a miracle would see Kiama pull out a victory. Talk before the start of play was that we need quick wickets and knew with the average age of the Lake Illawarra team being quite young, if momentum began to swing in our favour, we could begin to claw back. With Bombaci and Cook beginning the day, it wasn't long until Bombaci ripped one through the #3 from Lake before clean bowling another Lake youngster. The run of wickets continued with Bombaci capturing another Lake player LBW. And the Lake foundations were further shaken when Matt Cook clean bowled another Lake youngster who was looking dangerous.

This brought to the crease were the father and son combination that destroyed us during the previous match up early in the season. When the Lake skipper skied a ball, everyone wanted to know were Robbie Wakeham was, hoping history would not repeat itself. However instead of going to Robbie, the ball went directly to Simon Pearson and Lake had fallen to 7/172 and it was soon 9/172 when Bombaci put himself on a hat-trick clean bowling one of the Lake tailenders and picking up his 6th wicket for the morning after picking getting a LBW decision the ball before. Kiama ended the Lake innings picking up the 8th wicket in the morning session with Nathan Simpson picking up his first wicket for the innings trapping the Lake #11 in front and Kiama had fought back from Day 1 disaster to roll Lake for 173, with the morning destruction resulting in 8 wickets falling for 30 runs.

All credit has to go to our bowlers, especially Luke Bombaci who rebounded from a bad day on Saturday to capture 6/18 in the morning session in one of the most devastating bowling spells third grade has ever seen. He had excellent back up initially from Matt Cook, followed by Nathan Simpson but the innings, well the Sunday morning part of it belonged to Bombaci. We needed early wickets and we got them all, a feat that we did not think was possible seeing as though we could only manage 2 wickets in double the time less than 24 hours beforehand. But now going into Kiama's 2nd innings, momentum was in our court, only being 79 runs behind and with plenty of time still left in the day.

With about half hour before lunch on day two, Spud and Tommy were sent out with the hope of coming back at lunch still with their pads on. And returned they did and Kiama went into lunch looking much happier than day 1, with Lake now holding a 50 odd run lead, and Kiama still having all 10 2nd innings wicket remaining. However soon after lunch, just as Tommy was looking as though he was going to unleash, he was dismissed for 20 and Kiama were 1/36. Soon after Simon Pearson was dismissed for 1 after a good catch in the covers and Kiama were 2/39. In the quest for quick runs, Nathan Simpson was bumped up the order and he and Spud began ticking the scoreboard over before Nathan was dismissed and Kiama were 3/52 still needing 27 to make Lake Illawarra bat again.

The Cavaliers were hoping that Jeff Lawler and Spud could guide Kiama to the 79 target before unleashing hell, but this was not the case because soon after Nathan's wicket Spud was given out LBW and soon after that Jeff was bowled and Kiama were 5/61. In a continued effort for quick runs, big hitting Robbie Wakeham was promoted from his #11 spot and was joined by bowling hero Bombaci and these two were able to guide Kiama past the 79, but were not able to extend the Cavalier lead much with both men being dismissed soon after passing the total, Robbie for 11 and Bombaci for 15.

At the crease for the Cavaliers was myself and Russell Park. Somehow Lake knew I hadn't scored runs for weeks, a sledge (maybe it was an educated comment) that was riddled with errors, since I hadn't scored runs all year, but scored runs last week (take that wicket keeper!). However knowledge of my lacklustre season means one thing... Conspiracy theory #3! How would they know that considering I am not famous, nor am I usually a threat to opposing teams... Very interesting, and a point I will get to later.

Back to the game and Russell and I decided that with the fall of quick wickets, we should try and hang around to tea and tick the scoreboard over. Quick singles were taken and some singles were made into doubles as Russell and I ran between the wickets like maniacs. One personal highlight was a silent call from Russell that resulted in a second run being taken whilst the Lake skipper had his back turned, which seemed to delight the hill, who had no hesitation in hurling a couple of sledges his way. In between the sneaky singles, Russell and I were able to hit the odd boundary before the game was nearly called off due to hell freezing over.

Now I am not one to usually sledge a young, up and coming bowler, not because its against my nature, but usually I have already been dismissed by them and it is hard to get a good, credible sledge on your way back to the pavilion. However the left arm bowler opening bowler from Lake needs to have a good look at himself in the mirror, not because he did an unsavoury sledge towards me, but because I hit him for six... YES I HIT A SIX! The crowd erupted and children cried in admiration (OK maybe a bit of a stretch) because I finally found out that my bat does have a middle. From all accounts someone was fishing the ball out of the Norris backyard afterwards, but then again I did have a lot to drink on Sunday night, so that may be exaggerated. Unfortunately for the crowd who was still in disbelief, I was dismissed 2 balls later for 28 and Kiama were 8/127, after Russell and I put on 44 valuable runs.

The two remaining wickets were picked up quickly with Jason Horley stumped for a duck and Russell being bowled in an effort for more quick runs with his score on 16, leaving Cooky stranded on 0 not out, possibly robbing him of another 2nd innings 50 (He was using my bat and it is due for one). Kiama's innings came to a close with the score on 128 an overall lead of 49 runs. An early tea was taken and Kiama were geeing themselves up for one final onslaught. After the events of earlier in the day, and momentum heavily in our court, there was a feeling that we could pull this off, but knowing that everything would have to go off perfectly for the Cavaliers to pull of the miracle win.

The Cavaliers got off to a great start when Bombaci picked up an early wicket, trapping one of the openers who nearly broke us on day 1, and Lake started off not how they wanted as they were 1/7. Soon after the game plan to rid the other opener worked perfectly and Kiama were starting to move towards the unthinkable. With the crowd building by the minute and the pressure all on Lake Illawarra, two of their youngsters were out at the crease and the #3 was being terrorised by Bombaci and Simpson (as well as the fielders) before his middle stump was uprooted by a pearler from Simpson and Lake were 3/18. Next ball and another wicket as Simmo caught Scott Usher plumb in front and Lake were on the brink of disaster at 4/18.

Next over and Bombaci clean bowled another batsmen and Lake were 5/19 and when a dicey run was taken as the batsmen took on my arm (usually that's a safe bet), but not this time as I rocketed it into Spuds gloves, only to be hit by despair as the ball bounced out of Spuds gloves. When we turned around, the square leg umpire had his fingers up. Now most of us were in shock, and the gobful that the umpire copped made it safe to assume that Lake thought he same way, however after the game, the umpire told me that the ball had bounced off Spud's gloves into the stumps before Spuds gloves wrecked the stumps... A stroke of luck for the Cavaliers and maybe someone upstairs was wearing a Cavalier shirt!

After day one, Lake Illawarra had one hand and 4 fingers on the 3rd grade trophy... The Sunday fightback from the Cavaliers has seen those 4 fingers taken off and replaced with the hand of the Cavalier, because at 6/23, this game was well and truly back on. 4 wickets remaining and 27 runs still to get with Kiama well on top. However with the Lake skipper still at the crease, Kiama knew they couldn't rest for one second. After a somewhat steadying partnership by the Lake skipper and his son, Bombaci shattered the Lake Illawarra camp when he caught the Lake skipper in front and Lake had fallen to 7/36.

At this time, Bombaci and Nathan were running on empty. Both men were drawing from something inside that kept them giving 150% on every ball despite being totally exhausted. Bombaci was dillusional as he thought I was the umpire (maybe he was drunk?) and Nathan was struggling with a calf injury. Bombaci was called upon to work through the exhaustion barrier and young Matt Cook was thrown into the pressure cooker as he replaced Nathan Simpson and it proved extremely worthwhile when Cooky clean bowled another Lake batsmen and Lake were now 8/41.

A close LBW shout off Bombaci and a hard caught and bowled attempt that went down by Cooky were the only chances before Harry Webb smacked a six onto the Bonaria hill to pick up the victory and let the celebrations begin. Hats off to Lake Illawarra for winning the 2005/06 3rd grade premiership, as they totally outplayed us on Day 1 and managed to hold their nerve in the thrilling ending. However Kiama Cavaliers have nothing to be ashamed of. The fightback that we showed on Sunday was legendary and if we pulled off the victory it would have gone down in Cavalier history books. We showed true character and team spirit. Everyone thought we were down and out and that included most of the 11 players. But it was the team spirit that kept us fighting and nearly pulled of a great victory in one of the greatest grand finals of all time.

Luke Bombaci deserves a bloody medal for the way he bowled on Sunday. I was at mid off late in the day and I can tell you, Luke was cactus... He had nothing left at all, but kept bowling with the same intensity every ball. 10 wickets in a match, let alone a day is a terrific effort and capped off a great season were he led both the batting and bowling aggregate at the end of the season (thankfully for all of us, he wasn't ahead on the batting aggregate at the end of the regular season... I don't think we could have survived the off season if he had won them both). Simmo battled through the pain of a calf injury for a few overs and that picked up vital wickets in the 2nd dig. And Cooky... What a rookie season! These three and Russell Park, who may or may not have played his last game of cricket for the Cavaliers were the reason we were minor premiers and nearly became premiers. Countless times they bailed us out of jail with terrific bowling spells. They were the backbone of our team this season and deserve all the praise that can be thrown their way.

But you may or may not be asking about these conspiracy theories I have been referring too... How did Lake Illawarra know so much about the Kiama 3rd grade Cavs. Was their Lake Illawarra spies watching our matches, making a database on each player in preparation for the Grand Final? Probably not, though I would like to see mine if that theory was correct. Are the 3rd grade Cavs just that famous that everyone knows about us? Well besides Bombaci thinking he is, it probably isn't the case. No my theory is one that was very hard for me to believe... Lake Illawarra 3rd grade were using my reports to gain knowledge on our players! DAMMIT! Despite my reports being famous, and I am starting to build my cult following before I take on world domination, it still hurt us... Next year I am thinking of writing a decoy report that says I have been hitting sixes left right and centre and watch all the teams go on the boundary.

That being said congratulations Lake Illawarra (I know you are reading this, hence proving my theory correct), and congratulations to the 3rd grade Cavaliers for a great season!

Man of the Match: Luke Bombaci (Match figures of 10/68 off 42 overs and 41 runs for the match)

Special mentions:

3rd Grade Cavaliers (nearly the fightback of the century)
The Hill (for some top calls throughout the weekend)
Me (for hitting a six!!!!)

Well that's the way the season ended. I can't write a report on what happened back at the Grand because I can't remember a bloody thing, besides a lot of beer being drunk!

I'm Andy Sheehy writing off for season 05/06!

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