The Vic 1 side began its defence of the John Hammer Cup at Penrith’s Howell Oval, the home of Penrith Panthers in the Sydney grade competition. Playing the ACT Galaxies, skipper Trevor Saker lost the toss and Victoria were asked to bowl first. Rex Bennett and debutant Dale Thornton shared the new ball, and big Rex had immediate success dismissing one of their opening bats then the number 3 batsman in successive overs for ducks.  A partnership then developed between Steve Marshall and Tom Purcell.  The ever reliable Ian Southall was then introduced into the attack and in his first over had Marshall LBW for 30.  Aussie skipper Murray Harrison then came to the crease and he along with Purcell both managed to advance to their mandatory 50 retired.  But they were kept in tow fairly well by some tight bowling, especially Southall who finished with 1/24 off his 8 overs. A flurry of runs late by Steve Siggers (36) and Peter Jacobson (16) saw ACT finish at 6/216 off their allotted 45 overs. Bennett returned the best figures taking 3/30 off his eight overs.

In reply the Vics started steadily with openers Chris Carr and Paul McDonald moving the score to 33 before Carr was bowled for 22.  When Ray Smith fell LBW for 0 four balls later, the Vics were feeling nervous.  Barry Hopper then arrived at the crease and he and McDonald steadied the ship and advanced the score to 106 before Hopper ran himself out for 33. The injured Kevin Lanigan then arrived at the crease and took the game by the scruff of the neck.  He smashed an unbeaten 50 in just 31 balls, and with McDonald (50 retired), Dave Cordy (19) and Peter Robertson (28 no), the Vics cruised to victory in the 43rd over, finishing 4/217. Victorian man of the match went to Kevin Lanigan.

Day 2 saw the Vics travelled to Penrith Panthers number 2 ground at Bill Ball Oval to take on Western Australia, where this time the skipper won the toss and elected to bat. Disaster struck first ball when Chris Carr slipped over as he took off for a run first ball and was run out. Ray Smith then joined Paul McDonald and this pair combined in an 88 run partner ship before Smith was controversially stumped for 32. Disaster then struck the Vics middle order which saw both Barry Hopper (3) and Dave Cordy (0) both given out LBW.  With the retirement of McDonald following another well compiled 50 Victoria was virtually 5/92.  Enter the ever reliable Wayne Stokes who set about resurrecting the innings, batting the remainder of the innings scoring 42 no off 59 balls.  He found a great ally in the new boy Dale Thornton, who showed great poise in peeling off a delightful half century in 48 balls including one towering six. After another mini collapse Trevor Saker combined with Stokes for the last 7 overs, scoring 15 in a 23 run partnership.  Ian Southall came in with 5 balls to face and managed to slightly tear his groin while running a two, which put the Vic camp in turmoil. The prospect of losing one of its best bowlers for the rest of the week was going to put pressure on the whole team. Victoria finished it innings on 7/212, a pretty good effort from what it may have been.

Southey was able to take the field but with the likelihood of him breaking down whilst bowling the skipper Saker turned to off spinner Peter Robertson to share the new ball duties with Rex Bennett.  This proved a masterstroke with Robbo taking a wicket with his second ball and finished his 8 over spell taking 2/18.  Combined with Bennett’s miserly 1/9 off his opening 5 overs, the Vics were well on top with the WA reeling at 3/15. Ian Scrimshaw and Lloyd Dungy then dug in, and while being more intent on survival for the time being, they were proving hard to get out.  But a piece of Chris Carr magic behind the stumps after Trevor Saker introduced himself into the attack began a collapse. Carr brilliantly stumped Scrimshaw (39) down the leg side, and when Saker bowled Dungy shortly afterwards for 31,  the rest was history.  Saker finished with 3/28 off his eight overs, and with a tight display of leg spin bowling Ray Smith help mop up the tail with figures of 2/21 off eight.  Dave Cordy and Barry Hopper took a wicket each to see WA all out for 98. Another good effort, and with a few players taking up some overs so as to rest Southall, the spirit in the team was high.  Victorian man of the match went to Dale Thornton.

Following a well received rest day the Vics travelled Hawkesbury’s home ground at Benson lane to take on Tasmania. A drizzly morning saw a late start, with the game reduced to 40 overs each. Tassie skipper John Bailey won the toss and in what seemed a surprising move given the conditions, he elected to bat. Some spirited batting by opener Roger Wilcox incurred the wrath of Rex Bennett’s tongue after he was despatched for some unorthodox boundaries to the cow corner boundary. Tasmanian top order had got off to a flying start despite losing their star test player Glenn Richardson to another Carr legside stumping, again off the bowling of Trevor Saker. A double change of bowling proved successful in the 10th over. Peter Robertson replaced Bennett and once again had immediate success. He bowled the dangerous Wilcox for 21, and bowled an economical spell taking 1/23 off his eight overs.  The moment of truth came with the introduction of Southall from the other end, would he stand up?  He not only was able to bowl his eight overs, he ended up with the amazing figures of 2/15.  John Bailey proved a tough nut to crack though, and he batted beautifully for his 50 retired, swinging out lustily towards the end of his innings to give his side a competitive total of 6/151 off their 40 overs.  Trevor Saker completed his eight overs taking 1/23, while Dale Thornton did a great job for his team bowling 7 overs pushing through the pain barrier taking 1/35 and executing a magnificent one handed catch at mid-wicket.

A relatively stress free run chase ensued, with openers Chris Carr (21) and Paul McDonald (30) pushing the score to 52. Ray Smith batting number 3 showed his best form compiling a tidy 50 off 51 balls, and Barry Hopper was solid scoring 33.  The Vics hit up the winning score in the 34th over, finishing at 3/153.  With news filtering to us that NSW were our opponents in the final, preparations for the following day began almost immediately. Victorian man of the match went to Ray Smith.

Final Day saw the game played at the Howell Oval, the venue for our first day win. A good hard wicket and a fast outfield greeted the team, with skipper Trevor Saker hoping to win the toss and bat. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, NSW did and elected to bat without hesitation. Rex Bennett and surprise opening bowler Peter Robertson shared the new ball and the NSW openers got off to a bright start.  But in his third over Robbo snuck one through the defences of opener Chris Crowell, trapping him LBW for 10. Bennett and Robertson then tightened their lines restricting the NSW batsmen to mainly singles.  This took its toll on the normally aggressive Eric Higgins, who had been the stand out bat for NSW for the week. Trying to up the run rate he lofted an on drive to Robertson at mid on, who was able to latch on the catch fully stretched above his head. When Bennett trapped the steady Simon Lyons in front for 28, then had the NSW skipper Doug Trigg well caught at mid on for a duck (Robbo again), the two blues were in a world of pain at 4/56. But as usual the depth of the good sides came to the fore, as Peter Jensen and Ken Hall steadied the ship for NSW.  Taking no risks, they took batted with patience. Big Rex bowled out his 8 overs, taking 2/31, then Ian Southall (still carrying the groin) and Kevin Lanigan did the bulk of the bowling in this period, Southall bowled an amazing spell of 8 overs, taking 1/18.  Lanigan, also on one leg, took an equally impressive 1/13 off 7 overs. Following Southall 8 overs the skipper took over to bowl the remaining 7 overs from that end.  Shortly after, with the score on 116, that man Chris Carr did it again.  A slick leg side stumping off Saker had Jensen departing for 31. Saker then trapped Barry Everingham first ball LBW, and again NSW were in trouble.  Ken Hall weathered the storm, and with good support from David Jurd (18 including two 6’s in row off Saker) and Colin Hoving (16 no), NSW managed to score 7/175 off the 45 overs, Hall finishing 49 not out. Saker finished with 3/49 after copping some tap late, and Paul McDonald (0/27 off 7 overs) completed a full spell of 22 overs of off spin from one end. A very gettable score but runs on the board have won many a final.

Chris Carr and Paul McDonald started the run chase quite steadily, but with the score on 28 Carr was bowled by Terry Herbert for 12.  Enter Ray Smith, who then proceeded to take the game away from NSW.  In just 43 balls Smith raced to 50 runs retired, belting ten boundaries in the process.  Ken Hall, one of NSW best bowlers, was hit for three 4’s off his first three delivery’s by Smith.  To Hall’s credit he bowled his remaining 7.3 overs for just 12 runs to finished with 0/24. Smith took toll of anything loose and found the gaps with ease.  It was a majestic innings and set up the Victorian win.  McDonald proved a solid partner, working the singles to give Smith the strike. When McDonald was dismissed for 27, and Smith retired the Vics were in a commanding position. But the dismissal of Kevin Lanigan for 0, and then he arrival of light rain combined with darker conditions, runs became hard to score. Barry Hopper and Dave Cordy pushed and prodded for ones and twos interspersed with the occasional boundary, and the NSW bowlers tightened their lines accordingly. When Barry Hopper was run out for a patient 27 (off 60 balls), with 8 overs remaining the Vics still needed 35 runs for victory. Pete Robertson was summoned to the crease, and in true Robbo style, upped the ante and managed find the boundary a few times.  He along with Cordy got the score to 175 before Robertson holed out for 19 (off 14 balls), with just over 3 overs remaining.  The game was Victoria’s, and it was left to Mr Reliable Wayne Stokes to score the winning runs. The field set for Stokes did not employ a fielder backward of point, so it was quite obvious to all Victorians assembled at the ground that the winning runs would be that classic Stokes dab/late cut.  Stokes didn’t let them down, tapping the ball through the vacant slips cordon for two runs and the victory.

The victorious team assembled in the rooms after the game and were addressed by the proud VCV president Greg Johnson, and then the equally proud skipper Trevor Saker. Both commented on how the whole group had come together and played as a tight knit team.  Everyone had played their part during week. The commitment shown by everyone in the field including something not seen to often in over 60’s cricket, diving to stop balls, was a big part of the team’s successful week.

The NSW team graciously came into the Victorian rooms about 20 minutes after the game ended, where both teams mingled and both skippers had their bit to say. Ray Smith was rightly awarded the man of the match for Victoria, while Ken Hall received the same honour for NSW.

Another great week by the Vic 1 team, lets hope they can come back next year in Adelaide and make it 4 wins in a row.

Trevor Saker