Sale-Maffra’s abrupt end to Melbourne Country Week campaign

Liam Durkin

SALE-MAFFRA suffered an abrupt, and equally farcical, end to their Melbourne Country Week campaign last week.

The Sharks, having made the top grade Provincial semi-final, lost to traditional powerhouse Geelong.

Unfortunately last Thursday’s semi-final became a laughing stock, as no umpires turned up and the wicket at FJ Kirk Oval, Altona was drastically underprepared.

The solution from the powers at be was to ‘umpire yourselves’, making the match the furthest thing from a Provincial Country Week Final.

Geelong took advantage of conditions at the toss, promptly electing to bowl first in a match reduced to 40 overs per-side.

The Sharks were soon in all sorts of trouble at 4/22, but managed to scratch out a respectable total of 9/157 as the wicket improved.

Ben Jones had to reel in his usually attacking batsmanship, and made 44 off 81 balls, while Zac Hurley contributed a gritty 30 off 49.

Geelong had issues of their own against the new ball, and were 3/28 before getting a chance to stabilise.

Sale-Maffra remained in the hunt right until the last over, which saw Geelong win with five balls to spare.

Stratford pair Bohdi Walker and Jack Tatterson both struck with the new ball, taking 2/35 and 2/37 respectively.

Geelong went on to win the Provincial title, beating Ferntree Gully by six wickets.

Despite the result, Sale-Maffra enjoyed a successful Country Week, finishing their Pool (Pool B) on top of the ladder.

Leongatha District also competed in Provincial, and survived relegation with victory over Wangarratta in their last match.

Bairnsdale won Division 2, and will join Sale-Maffra in the top flight next year.

Gippsland Cricket League premier Latrobe Valley, finished fourth in Division 2, and will remain there for next season.

Warragul District did not send a team down for this year’s instalment – a move met with some disappointment from players.

Given the nature of how Country Week ended, there has been renewed calls to revisit the structure of the tournament.

Wickets were reportedly underprepared across the board by host clubs, meaning a large number of games were toss-decided.

The fact associations such as Geelong, Casey Cardinia, Ferntree Gully and a Victorian Premier Club in Kingston Hawthorn competed in an event know as ‘Country Week’, also caused some consternation.

While Country Week is designed to give players a sense of what city cricket is like, the issues mentioned above, which have been ongoing, are sure to leave a sour taste in people’s mouths.

A possible solution is to take country week to regional areas – a view held by many in local cricket circles as the most practical solution.