• A Grade Division 1
THERE was nothing easy about Tom McQualter’s pivotal century in last weekend’s A Grade Division One semi-final between Inverloch and Korumburra.
But there’s little doubt he’s batted his Inverloch team through into this weekend’s grand final.
Even getting back on his feet again following knee surgery last September, after being a late withdrawal from Inverloch-Kongwak’s footy grand final team, has been a battle for McQualter, barely able to walk before Christmas, and playing only three games of cricket to qualify.
And he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in those matches either with scores of 22, 5 and 37 in his only three digs for the season.
But Saturday was his day and didn’t Inverloch need it.
With backs to the wall at 3/27 on Saturday morning and the Korumburra bowlers right on top on their own deck, it was a very hard graft for McQualter and his captain Kit Rotthier to protect their stumps against the miserly lines of Luke Zanchetta and Shane Dole, much less eke out a decent score.
But with some of the strong defensive pushes by McQualter managing to make it to the boundary, across the fast Korumburra outfield, the score started to build, and by the time Rotthier 35 departed, the team’s total was up to 4/122 and optimism had returned to the camp.
It was a short-lived reprieve and McQualter watched the next four Inverloch batsmen go for the addition of just 20 runs and things looked decidedly shaky again at 8/142.
One of those dismissals, the loss of Ozzie Williams for 4, caught Zanchetta bowled Dole, injected some extra heat into the contest, as if it needed any, when a push and shove erupted between Williams and some of the exuberant Burra players as he left the scene.
It didn’t faze McQualter.
And he found some unexpected support at the end of the batting order from young Elijah Cousins and the last man in, Ryan Thomas, to add the vital partnerships of 37 and 23 respectively for the 10th and 11th wickets which Rotthier acknowledged later had been crucial in the final analysis.
It was in the last of the day’s 90 overs that McQualter brought up his ton with a six, going on to make 112 not out, with another six in a final over of 16 runs. He finished with 12 fours and 5 sixes on the day.
Shane Dole 4/85 off 40 overs and Luke Zanchetta 5/68 off 39 overs carried an incredible workload.
But it was a moral victory of sorts for Inverloch and buoyed by McQualter’s heroics, their pacemen Lewie Rankin 2/15 and Ryan Thomas 3/23 steamed in on Sunday to quickly cut down the Korumburra response, taking the first five to fall and having them in all sorts of trouble at 5/40.
Ilan Osman 40 and later Daniel Salmon 39 not out stood up to the barrage but ultimately Korumburra lasted only 51 overs to be all out for 123.
Warren Williams redeemed himself, taking a sharp catch in slips to dismiss Dole and it was left to McQualter to deliver the coup de gras, claiming the final wicket of the match, Pierre Dunlevie, to finish with 1/15 off 5.5 overs.

Club all over Town
WHEN you finish on top, you get the choice of venues and there’s no doubt Wonthaggi Club is favoured by the use of their ground and the deck they play on almost every week, at Butch West Oval.
But the wicket’s not going to win the match for you. Your bowlers have to hit the right areas and Club’s bowlers certainly did that from the outset on Saturday morning in their semi-final clash with Town.
And some uncertain Town batsmen obliged, playing expansive shots when technical defence was called for and wickets fell at disastrously regular intervals.
When the game is going your way, though, tough chances tend to stick as well, like the stunning catch taken by Mark McCall, 30 metres from the bat at midwicket, to dismiss Town’s danger man, 2016 cricketer of the year, Amila Ratnaike for 9.
Amila had hit the ball at full power, sending it swerving and rising to McCall’s right. He put up his hands and clutched the hot sphere above his shoulder to reduce Town to 3/29 as the rot set in.
But in sport, as in life, you make your own luck and 20 minutes of sharp catching practice immediately before the game, directed by Club captain James Sheerin, proved to be important.
Matt Borschman 18 initially and later Josh Schelling 14 and Steve Fixter 19 provided some resistance but all of Club’s frontline bowlers produced the goods.
Jakeb Thomas 3/19 off 12.5 and Ryan Birkett 3/15 off four, including Madura Weerasinghe, Matt Smith and Scott Browne in devastatingly quick succession, were the pick but there was no slackening of the pressure when Zane Macdermid 2/27 off 12 and Ryan Thomas 1/23 off 11 had the ball.
Sheerin, a potential match-winner in his own right, was barely required to bowl.
Having despatched Town in the 46th over, Club had more than 40 overs on Saturday to wipe off the deficit and despite losing early wickets themselves, they’d sailed well past Town’s total of 97, and then some, by stumps, with Ryan Thomas’s 59 the feature.
Town brought them back again on Sunday in the hopes of getting early wickets but Jake Wallace 33 not out and James Sheerin 48 not out were untroubled in killing off the contest.
The match was called after only 15 or so overs on Sunday.
So, it’s a Club versus Inverloch grand final at the Butch West Oval this Saturday and Sunday with both teams having tasted the ultimate success in recent years.

Palmer blasts Alvie into decider

• A Grade Division 2

Poowong-Loch’s Paul Dyer on his way to a half century against Wonthaggi Miners in the A Grade Division Two semi-final at Leongatha on Saturday. m241217

A CRACKING century from Paul Palmer followed by a stellar bowling effort has seen Glen Alvie reach its first grand final since its 2010/11 premiership.
Batting first against Koonwarra-Leongatha/RSL at Scorpion Park Turf, Glen Alvie had a few hiccups at the start of its innings to be 3/60.
Palmer was joined by John Reid and the pair batted their side into a winning position with a 135-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
Palmer was particularly brutal, hitting 23 fours before he was caught off the bowling of Sam Hughes for 119 off 138 balls.
Glen Alvie crumbled from there, with Reid departing for 41 as they lost 7/26 to be all out for 221 in the 76th over.
Jason Kennedy bowled with fire throughout the innings and finished with 5/40 off 20.2 overs including seven maidens, while Hughes’ introduction to the play in the latter stages proved worthy with 3/26 off nine overs including three maidens.
But their efforts meant nothing, with the Cougar batsmen offering little resistance to be all out for 84.
Quick Daniel Hales removed openers Ben Davison (6) and Sam Hughes (21), before consistent wickets continued to fall.
Spinner Kelvin Simpson cast a spell on the Cougar batsmen, snaring 4/11 off 8.5 overs including four maidens to win a spot in the grand final.
The Cougars were all out for 84 in the 45th over, with Jack Hale top scoring with 42.
Jamie Glen also bowled well for Glen Alvie with 3/18 off 11 overs including five maidens.
Bardwell brilliance at Leongatha Turf
SUPERB batting through the middle order by Jacob Bardwell has set up a strong win for Poowong-Loch against Wonthaggi Miners to advance to the grand final.
Runs on the board are always vital in finals, and Poowong-Loch won the toss and proved the theory at Leongatha Turf.
After a slow start with Colin Knox and Wilson Pollock back in the shed at 2/34, Aaron and Jacob Bardwell set about steadying the innings with a 56-run partnership.
Aaron was bowled by Clint Honeysett for 32, before Jacob found a new ally in Paul Dyer.
The pair kept the scoreboard ticking over with a 76-run stand, before Jacob finally came undone when he was caught behind off Adam Honeysett for a well-made 84, which including 10 fours.
His knock put his side in a strong position, with Russell Greaves hitting a quick-fire 39 including six fours in a 67-run stand with Dyer.
Dyer was eventually caught behind for 57 including six fours.
Adam Fisher (22) and Al Jenkins (21 no) saw Poowong-Loch to 7/278 at the end of 90 overs.
The Miners used seven different bowlers without much luck, with Jayden Loos the best with 2/52 off 22 overs.
Their run chase didn’t start well on day two at 2/35, before brothers Blake and Josh Andrighetto toughed out a 65-run stand – both dismissed by Greaves.
Blake departed for 48 including five fours and Josh was later removed for 57 including eight fours.
Cam Thomas battled for 40 including six fours, but Poowong-Loch was in control, bowling the Miners out for 187 after 65 overs to book a grand final berth.
Jenkins was the pick of the bowlers with 3/59 off 19 overs including eight maidens, while Matt Loader (2/34 off 10.3 overs), Greaves (2/29 off 11 overs including four maidens) and Knox (2/6 off six overs including three maidens) provided great support.

A2 results: Poowong-Loch 7/278 (JM Bardwell 84 P Dyer 57 R Greaves 39 A Bardwell 32 J Piasente 2/45 J Loos 2/52) v Wonthaggi Miners 187 (J Andrighetto 57 B Andrighetto 48 C Thomas 40 AC Jenkins 3/59 C Knox 2/6 R Greaves 2/29 M Loader 2/34) at Leongatha Turf.
Koonwarra-Leongatha/RSL 10/84 (J Hale 42 K Simpson 4/11 J Glen 3/18 D Hales 2/32) def by Glen Alvie 221 (P Palmer 119 JA Reid 41 J Kennedy 5/40 S Hughes 3/26 J Hoy 2/18) at Scorpion Park Turf.