Murray Valley Cricket Association claimed their first Bendigo Country Week crown since 2012 last week.
Murray Valley’s undefeated week was capped off with a 32-run victory against rival Goulburn Murray Cricket in the Division One final played at Queen Elizabeth Oval, Bendigo in searing temperatures on Friday.
Allrounder Andrew Hogan — who played in last year’s final loss to GMC — said it was a feeling of relief.
‘‘There were a few nervous moments for us (in the final),’’ he said.
‘‘Initially we thought we’d stuffed it up again by not making enough runs. But our bowlers did enough in the end and it was a special win.’’
Friday’s final was reduced to a 35-over game due the heat, and after winning the toss and batting first, Murray Valley were bowled out for 155 — their lowest total for the tournament.
Nathalia’s Liam Evans (58) again led the way with the bat, but when he lost his wicket with MVCA at 2/76, the wickets continued to flow.
Hogan (7) and Zeniffe Fowler (17) were unable to repeat their innings-saving performance from the previous game and when both were dismissed, MVCA were left sitting at 5/108.
Lower order resistance from Ash Quinn (20 not out) and Jesse Trower (10) proved crucial in getting the score to a reasonable total.
In reply the Murray Valley bowlers did a superb job, knocking Goulburn Murray over for just 123 in the 32nd over.
Evans (3/20), Trower (2/19) and Kane Goldsworthy (2/20) snared wickets at regular intervals, while Hogan chimed in with the key wicket of Matthew Hinks (23 off 26 balls) to swing momentum back in favour of the MVCA late in the innings. When Hogan bowled Hinks, GMC were 8/113.
A run out in Hogan’s fourth over ended the GMC innings, with the Deni paceman finishing with 1/22 off 3.4 overs.
‘‘Shannon O’Brien (17 off 10 balls) and Hinks were going berserk for a few overs, so when we got both of them out we felt like we would win,’’ Hogan said.
MVCA opening batsman Evans’ all-round brilliance was a distinct theme of the week. The rising star smashed 264 runs at an average of 66 and strike rate of 75.6 (with a top score of 119 not out) to top the batting charts for the carnival, while also taking 13 wickets at 16.69 to place second in the bowling ranks.
GMC had their own all-round superstar at the tournament in Alistair McCann, who claimed 14 wickets at a cost of 7.29 apiece to top the bowling table, and also hit 218 runs at 43.6.
The Country Week Division One final didn’t come without some drama however, after almost farcical scenes played out the night before Friday’s decider.
The Bendigo District Cricket Association had disqualified Goulburn Murray Cricket from the final after claiming they had used more than the permitted 17 players in the preliminary rounds.
But just a few hours later the BDCA backed down and reinstated the side, with further investigation revealing no wrongdoing by GMC.