Trinity Old Scholars’ A grade is through to a second-straight grand final, thanks to a gritty final-wicket partnership between Brad Schaper and Stef Lainas on Sunday.
Chasing Flinders Park’s 172, the TOSers had slumped to 9/152 following a collapse that saw us lose 4/8.
This team has always prided itself on batting deep and it needed every reserve of self-belief to get over the line against the Parkers, who could smell an upset.
However, they didn’t count on a bowler who wants to prove himself as a batsman at all times, and a veteran who never takes a backward step.
Fresh off a highest score of 43 off 16 balls in his last match, Schaper showed a more restrained side to his batting as he eked out run after valuable run.
With the wind howling, the sky grey and the opposition all around him Schaper first tied the scores with a pull shot to square leg for four, soon followed by a cover drive for the winning single – sending the nervous crowd into raptures on both occasions.
It was the TOSers’ own version of the great escape.
Before all of the drama came the opening acts, with Flinders winning the toss on Saturday and taking the the tried and tested finals route of putting runs on the board.
Our opening bowlers Austin Smith and Jace O’Hara produced fiery spells that saw both openers sacrificed with the score on just four.
And when Schaper later scored a double break-through within 10 runs to have the visitors 4/51, an early kill seemed there for the taking.
A missed run out opportunity that would have seen opposition reeling gave them the opening they needed to stabilise.
Captain Johnny Stevens showed grit to form two half-century partnerships that got his team to 7/170 – a run out from Brad Cameron ending his stand on 55.
Amongst the wickets to fall during this period was an exceptional one-handed reflex catch from Jarryd Furnell that will be long remembered by all who saw it.
From there, Flinders lost 4/2 as they sized up the opportunity to get a few overs in at our batsmen at the end of the day.
Schaper (3/32) and Lainas (3/21) claimed the pick of the wickets.
We made it to 0/20 from eight overs before stumps, with Ali Forwood surviving an all-but-convincing catch behind the wicket as the dark clouds set in.
The stage is set
Day two saw Eythan Barraclough (22) and Forwood (22) resume and take the score to 40.
Parks had a plan and much of it involved aggression at the batsmen and it seemed to work as a further two wickets followed.
Alex Cotter (24) tried to stem the rising confidence of the underdogs and when he was the first of two wickets to fall on 91 the chance of an upset was in the wind
The experience of Tim Viner-Smith (21) and the firepower of Austin Smith, who scored an eventful 28 (that included a massive six and a knock where no man wishes to be hit) settled the nerves, but not for long.
The pair was dismissed within two runs of each other and we were suddenly 7/144.
Within quick succession further wickets fell and we were 9/152, paving the way for Schaper and Lainas’ moment of glory.
With nerves of steel Schaper finished unbeaten on 20 and Stef made the most valuable zero he’ll ever make.
It was a moment of which both players could be proud, with the pair receiving a standing ovation from a very relieved bunch of players and supporters as they left the field.
The next challenge
We now take on Marion, who will be ultra-confident after dismantling Fulham in the other semi-final, at Waldeck this Saturday and Sunday.
If it is anything like our last two finals matches, it will be one to remember.
NOTE: A women’s semi-final report will be provided once the scores have been entered. And, cover image from Grady Hudd.