By Tara Murray
Melton South Royals bowler James Robertson delivered when it was needed, as the Royals won a thriller against Sunshine YCW in the Victorian Turf Cricket Association division 5 Russell Pollock Shield.
The match came down to the final ball, with the YCW’s needing two runs off the final ball for the win.
Robertson was tasked with bowling the final over and he produced the perfect final ball.
The ball knocked out middle stump to see the Royals hold on for victory.
Royals captain-coach Matt Kozole said it was a nervous final few overs.
“It’s the first time I’ve been in that position as a captain,” he said. “They needed 22 off 18 balls and then needed two off the final ball for a win, or one for the draw.
“I said to him [Robertson] aim for the bottom of middle stump and don’t worry about what the batsman and what he’s doing.
“He bowled their number eight.”
Earlier in the day, the Royals made 136 in a shortened innings due to rain.
Kozole said they were on and off throughout the innings.
“We started half an hour late,” he said.
“We were 3-40 off after about 15 overs. After you lose a half hour of play, you start to lose overs.
“We decided to make it a 30 over game. At that stage we had about seven overs left and we went out to make quickfire runs.
“We had two guys make 30-odd.”
Matt O’Brien and Keshara Lasith Lakshan were the ones who pushed the score up late.
Like the Royals, the YCW’s hit late runs to make a game of it, but just fell short.
They finished 9-135.
The win is the Royals second for the season. With two of the three rounds interrupted by poor weather, early wins are even more important.
Only three of the five matches got results on Saturday.
“With two games drawn, games like this really count,” Kozole said.
“We’re now 2-1 and we haven’t been in this position for a long time.
“The fixture plays a big part in it. It’s meant to rain heavily again on Saturday.”
The Royals kept most of their playing group from last season together, but had three big losses.
Last season’s captain-coach Paul Hetherington has come to Gellibrand, while they’ve lost Ben Toyne, Nathan D’Antonio and Jonathon Caderamanpulle.
All four were big contributors.
Kazole said Hetherington spent the off season playing cricket in England and only returned just before the VTCA season started.
The club decided that they needed a captain-coach who would be there throughout the whole pre-season.
On the other side, the Royals have added imports for the first time.
Sachika Udara and Lakshan have come out from Sri Lanka. Kozole said they had looked at getting imports last season.
“We tried last year, but we left the process too late,” he said. “We were always going to try again this season. Melton Centrals had two imports last season and it worked really well.”
Kozole said they were hoping the addition of their two imports would help them bridge the gap with the top four.
The Royals finished seventh last season, but threw away wins against both the eventual grand finalists. “We probably should have been in the top four,” he said. “It’s my third year at the club and we’ve always gone into the season thinking we have a strong side.
“Last year and the year before we lost games we should have won. Hopefully those games go our way this year.”