Carlton advance to big dance with upset win

HOW good is the unpredictability of finals? The Victorian Men’s Premier Cricket competition held its preliminary final round over the weekend, with four sides vying off for a spot in the grand final. An entertaining 2021/22 season is nearing conclusion, and the excitement carried over into Saturday, with a pair of ripping contests taking place around Metropolitan Melbourne.

The first match to take place saw a battle between the competition’s two best sides face off as Carlton took on St Kilda at Princes Park, with the match kicking off late in the morning. St Kilda were the side to beat all season, but proved beatable in the first week of the finals as they fell to Casey-South Melbourne. Despite that result, they still entered this clash a massive chance to book a spot in the big dance a week later, having bounced back against Footscray in the semis with a massive total proving to be the catalyst. They were facing a formidable opponent in Carlton in the prelim final matchup, but home-and-away season form suggested the ladder-leaders should be favourites. However, this did not go to plan as Carlton produced a magnificent showing with both bat and ball (led by the efforts of one of their openers) to claim a whopping 86-run triumph and head into this week’s decider as the favourites.

Carlton won the toss and opted to bat first to try and get the upper hand over their opponents. It ended up being a fantastic decision, with their opener setting up the side for a big score. Evan Gulbis was far and away the most prominent figure here, kicking things off for his side with a powerful showing of 94 runs, picking up the slack after fellow opener Mackenzie Harvey fell for a golden duck. Gulbis steered his side out of a dire position and got them into a cracking spot. He had some strong help from Nicholas Ross and Thomas Smyth, both of whom racked up over 50 runs during their time at the crease. By the time Carlton’s 10th wicket fell, they had posted a score of 270 runs, which was more than defendable.

St Kilda headed to the crease on the back foot, but with plenty of confidence given the powerful showing they displayed in the semi final. Things didn’t look great when opener Michael De Iacovo was dismissed for a duck, but his partner in crime in Josh Manning picked up the slack with 70 runs. He was terrific at the crease, particularly when his teammates began to fall in rapid succession. Ultimately, these efforts were not enough, with St Kilda finishing their season in disappointing fashion by falling well short of the required total. To top things off for Carlton, Gulbis performed incredibly well in the second consecutive innings by also taking a game-high five wickets with ball in hand in one of the most impressive individual outings this season.

The other match to take place this weekend saw Casey-South Melbourne prove too classy for Richmond at Casey Fields on Saturday. Richmond were gutsy in making it so far in the finals, but Casey-South Melbourne have been terrific of late and it showed, advancing to the grand final and setting up a blockbuster clash against Carlton.

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