Melbourne claims chocolates in top four clash

THIS past weekend saw the Victorian Men’s Premier League Cricket competition return for another round of exciting action. There were some big wins around the ground, with the ladder starting to take shape with nine rounds in the bank. There were some excellent bowling performances around the grounds, with a number of players taking three wickets or more in their respective matches. In one of the most significant results of the round, it was Melbourne who emerged victorious in their blockbuster clash against a top four rival.

MELBOURNE (8/275) def. NORTHCOTE (242)

In what was the most anticipated matchup heading into Round 9, Melbourne proved too good with bat in hand, defeating Northcote to the tune of 33 runs at Albert Ground on Saturday. Both sides are enjoying strong starts to the season, so this was tipped to be a high-quality clash, and it certainly lived up to this expectation.

Northcote won the toss and opted to send Melbourne out to the crease first. This looked to be a terrific move early on, with Melbourne openers Sam Harper (caught) and Will Pucovski (run out) dismissed very early in the innings. Blake Thomson proved to be the steadying factor, coming in and providing a solid knock of 55 runs to get his team back on track. However, he was soon upstaged by teammate Jack Harper, who came in and dominated during his time at the crease. After his side was off to a poor start, Harper was able to get the team up to a respectable score thanks to his 124-run innings. With Jack Prestwidge adding 68 runs of his own, the side was able to get to a very nice total of 275 runs.

Northcote certainly had the firepower to reach this total, but it was a matter of execution. They had some consistency in their batting lineup, with four players reaching 35 runs or more in their time at the crease, but they lacked the ceiling to push for a massive score. The highest individual score from any of their batsmen was 52, and there were two Melbourne batsmen who passed this total in the first innings. Their order began to collapse as the match went on, and although they battle valiantly right to the last ball, they ultimately fell short and Melbourne were awarded a well-deserved win.

Around the grounds now, Richmond emerged victorious in its clash against Casey-South Melbourne, knocking them out of the top eight when the two sides faced off at Central Reserve North on Saturday. The partnership of Richmond batsmen Zac Sleeman (51 runs) and Andrew Humphries (59 runs) set their side up for a respectable run total, and in the end, there were too many disappointing performances at the crease for Casey-South Melbourne to produce a strong total.

Moving east for the next match, Ringwood claimed a dominant win in front of their home crowd at Russell Lucas Oval, taking down Footscray to the tune of 88 runs on Saturday. A mighty 136-run effort from Ringwood opener Thomas Rogers set his side up for the win as they stormed to an opening innings total of 255 runs. Footscray could not match this with bat in hand, especially with Ringwood bowler Jackson Freeman taking four wickets as he ripped through their batting order.

In a low-scoring affair, Frankston Peninsula had no problem chasing down the required run total set by the Greenvale Kangaroos when the two sides faced off at AH Butler Oval on Saturday. The Kangaroos batted first, but struggled to get any momentum with bat in hand. From their 50 overs, they were only able to muster up 152 runs in this time, and it took their opponents 26 overs to reach this total themselves in what was an efficient and well-executed performance with both bat and ball.

St Kilda have continued to be the benchmark of the competition, taking down Essendon to the tune of 95 runs at CitiPower Centre on Saturday. The home side chose to bat first, and were able to produce a magnificent performance with bat in hand, demonstrated by three players scoring 74 runs or more. They set the required total of 311 runs, with Essendon given a mountain of work to do. They ultimately could not complete the unlikely upset as St Kilda remain undefeated.

In one of the biggest upsets of the round, Prahran were able to take down Melbourne University quite comfortably when the two sides went head-to-head at University Main Oval on Saturday. Prahran entered this match as underdogs against one of the top five sides in the competition, and had only won two games themselves. However, they delivered their best performance of the year as they claimed a 51-run victory to get their season back on track with their third win of the season.

A pair of strong performances led Carlton to an impressive win over Fitzroy Doncaster at Schramms Reserve on Saturday. Fitzroy Doncaster won the toss and headed out to bat first, but were ultimately undone by this decision shortly after. Carlton bowler Xavier Crone was terrific with ball in hand, claiming four wickets as the opposition batting order quickly collapsed. It did not take his side long to chase down the required total of 156, especially with batsman Harrison Smythe delivering a knock of 89 runs (not out).

Geelong’s set run total proved too much for Dandenong when the two sides locked horns at Shepley Oval on Saturday afternoon. The visitors won the toss and decided to bat first, which worked wonders given how strongly they performed at the crease. Opener Hayden Butterworth led the way with 85 runs as his side quickly climbed to a total of 245 runs. The result was all but sealed when the Dandenong batting order began to collapse at the top, leaving too much work for the bottom order batsmen, as the side fell 24 runs short.

The final match of the round saw a thrilling match, as Kingston Hawthorn fell painfully short in their clash against the Camberwell Magpies at Walter Galt Reserve on Saturday. The Magpies batted first and set a strong total of 247, thanks to a 100-run knock from Liam Fitzpatrick. The home side looked a fair chance to chase this down, with Shorye Chopra reaching triple-figures at the crease, but they sadly fell 10 runs short of a comeback win.

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