By James Brosnan
LEONGATHA and District Cricket Association (LDCA) has finished on top of the Gippsland Cricket League ladder following a 38-run win over Sale-Maffra at Leongatha on Sunday. The LDCA will start warm favourites in the play off for the GCL title against Sale-Maffra in Sale on February 3. Sunday’s win was set up by a good opening with the bat after being sent in on the dry Leongatha surface. The LDCA got a look at their future with first-gamers Eli Richards and Tom Wyatt in the top three of the batting order. Richards opened the batting with Phillip Island teammate Shane Murdoch, but was the first out on nine, followed by Wyatt who was bowled on eight. Murdoch was the third batsman back in the grandstand after a classy 41 which included five boundaries and one six with the LDCA at 3/89. LDCA debutant Amila Ratnayake came and went for five, bringing Dylan Clark to the crease to join the inform Gavin Britt. Britt and Clark lifted the run rate with an 85-run stand which put the home side in a great position heading into the last 10 overs. Britt, who made a century on Saturday, fell just short of the feat again when he was caught in the deep trying to add to his eight fours and two sixes on 85. Clark departed soon after caught on a better than a run a ball 52, with one four and two sixes. Some handy contributions in the lower order, including 22 from Tim Wightman got the LDCA to 9/264. Jack Tatterson was the best of the Sale-Maffra bowlers with 3/56 from his 10 overs. Sale-Maffra’s run chase got away to a good start led by opener Brett Lanigan who posted 55. Michael Dowson top scored with 58 and Daniel Bedggood was solid but was trapped leg before by spinner Clark on 49. Some tight bowling from LDCA saw the required run-rate for Sale-Maffra continue to increase, with the visitors in the end falling short at 8/226. Clark was the only multiple wicket-taker with 3/29, while Ryan Thomas, Luke Rogers, Tim Wightman and Guru Kedernath claimed one each. LDCA team manager Kristian Gray said the side is looking good before next weekend’s final. “The boys certainly had the game under control all the way, it was a good performance,” he said. “It was great to see the young guys Eli Richards and Tommy Wyatt play as well as Amila Ratnayake, they certainly enjoyed the step up. “It’s certainly going to be a hard job picking our best 12 for next week’s final.” The location for the final was yet to be announced. Gray said despite LDCA finishing on top of the ladder, the GCL final was always scheduled to be played within the Sale-Maffra Cricket Association area regardless of who was competing. “I don’t think the boys mind too much about the travel, the only advantage we have this year is if it rains, we win,” Gray said.