The Demons went down to the Lions by 43 runs after a tense battle in the men’s Premier 1sts three-day final played at Princes Park. There were many fine efforts by players from both teams during the seven sessions of play however there were none better than that of our captain, Matthew Brown, who remained unbeaten on 134, having faced 251 balls in his stay that was two minutes shy of six hours, laced with 12 fours and two sixes. Matthew’s innings saw him awarded the John Scholes Medal for Player of the Match; true testimony to the quality of his innings in a losing side.
Play commenced on Friday in good conditions where Fitzroy-Doncaster had no hesitation in batting first after winning the toss. The openers put on a steady 40 - amongst a couple of confident LBW shouts that went unrewarded - before Pat Smith broke through with an edge to 'keeper Jack Harper. Another 42 passed before Jackson Coleman (2/73 off 29 overs) rattled the stumps and when he repeated the dose not long after the lunch break, the Lions were 3/94.
With the match back on an even keel, Zac Mevissen joined in the wicket taking, courtesy of a spectacular Matthew Brown catch at slip and, at 4/119, perhaps the scales tipped our way for the first time. The Lions steadied before Sean Sturrock enticed an edge that saw Brown take another very clever grab at slip, the score now 5/174 just before tea. Unfortunately that was the last joy for the day and Fitzroy-Doncaster went to stumps a far more comfortable (for them) 5/279.
As they’ve done throughout the finals series, the bowling group bounced back with a vengeance on the second morning, led by Pat Smith (4/82 off 24 overs) in his 100th 1st XI match for the Demons. Patty took three wickets in the space of a couple of overs including two in two balls to have the Lions 8 down for 290. Sean Sturrock (3/51 off 14.2) took care of the last two bats with little damage to the scoreboard to set up a chase of 309; a significant chase at any time but as good as what the Demons might have hoped for at the close of play on day one.
The rub of the green didn’t seem to go our way when Jack Harper fell LBW at 1 for 4, and fellow opener the same way with the score on 36. This brought Brown to the crease but he found it hard to retain a batting partner. Unfortunately there was a slight reshuffling of the batting order due to a hamstring injury suffered by finals star Blake Thomson whilst fielding. Blake showed a lot of fight but when he was caught in close for 20, the board read 5/95.
Not long later we were 6/106. Sean Sturrock helped add 45 before he departed and Zac Mevissen managed to hang in there to stumps with the Demons a precarious 7/156 with Brown not out 74.
On day three Zac continued to support his skipper who was batting delightfully, showing a power of concentration that took away nothing from his brilliant stroke play that was not often matched throughout the course of the match. The partnership was broken just on drinks after 53 was added but the Demons still sat 105 adrift of the Lions’ target, with Brown 95 n.o. Jackson Coleman was a more than willing and able ally and saw Brown through to his three figures (with perhaps one of his few false shots as he edged for four over the keepers head).
The score pushed to 250 before Coleman edged. Pat Smith hit a couple of nice boundaries to take us within realistic sight of victory however another feather to the ‘keeper with the score on 266 gave the Lions a 43-run win, with skipper Matthew Brown unconquered on 134.
After the match Andrew Kent announced his retirement, having played a club record 325 1st XI matches (4th on all time District/Premier Cricket list) and 11,032 runs (6th all time). More tributes to come…
Men's Premier Firsts Final
Fitzroy Doncaster 309 (L Mash 96 MP Frith 44 L Banthorpe 42 PJ Dickson 26 PJ Smith 4/82 S Sturrock 3/51 J Coleman 2/73) defeated Melbourne 266 (MJ Brown 134* Z Mevissen 26 M Bullen 4/59 CA Moore 4/59) at Princes Park No. 1 Oval