John's heroics leads to unthinkable outright
CRICKET: The betting agencies had long paid out all wagers. The fans had given up.
But it did not stop the boys of GDSC Easts from fighting to the final ball.
After the match appeared a foregone conclusion at 5-2 after only three overs last week, not even Easts captain Sam John could predict a fightback.
But it would be the inspirational leader, who had a mid-innings detour through the X-ray machine for a cracked radius, to lead his side to one of the club's more unlikely comeback tales.
After they were bowled out for 85 last week, Westlawn would go on to secure first innings points before declaring at 9-147 for a late afternoon shot at the shaky Easts' top order.
It would prove to be a critical declaration decision for captain Nathan Blanch, as Easts, led by Brad Knight (30) and wicket keeper John Martin (37), would go on to hit a total of 187, and give themselves a 120-run lead and a chance to dream.
"We knew it was going one way or the other, we were always going to go hard at it with the ball,” John said.
"We had about two hours left in the afternoon, we had to go for it, I think we ended up bowling about 24 overs.”
Young rising talent Hugh Cameron (3 for 45 off 13) put in a lionhearted effort with the ball, bowling 13 overs straight from one end while John rotated his quicks.
Jason Harrison and Ryan Gillett, who had kept the dream alive for Easts with a late-innings 50-run stand, would take a couple of early wickets, before the captain ripped off his sling to bring about a major collapse the Westlawn middle-order.
Despite a searing pain in his forearm, John persisted with his spell to finish with a personal haul of 4-15 as Westlawn lost 5-22 in the middle overs.
Westlawn veteran Rick Bender (19) attempted to lead a late-innings fightback of his own as he and Jayden McLaughlin (5) put on 22 for the final wicket, but it would be John who had the last laugh as Westlawn were all out for 101.
"I don't know what to say about it, it was looking pretty bleak at 5-2 last week. I think Sportsbet were offering 150-1 odds for us to win it,” he said.
"That partnership from Jason and Gillett was invaluable in the end. They kept the game going just long enough and kept us in with a chance and then it just happened.”
It was a very personal victory for the Easts skipper after he dedicated the match to his late grandfather, Bill Heyne, who died while John was on the field last weekend.
"That was a pretty horrible weekend. He was a big supporter of my cricket growing up so I promised I would go out and play for him,” John said.
"It was good to get a win for him and keep our chances of playing finals cricket very much alive.”
The full outright points has helped Easts leapfrog Tucabia-Copmanhurst GI Hotel back into second spot 30 points behind Brothers who also enjoyed an outright win. It was also a special moment for the club as it celebrated its 70-year reunion.
More details on Page 30.