By Lance Jenkinson
The stage is set for a gripping final round encounter between Footscray and Carlton in the Victorian Premier Cricket.
To the winner goes a top two spot and a finals double chance, while the loser could tumble out of the top four in a worst case scenario and face cut-throat finals all the way through March.
The stakes are high for both premiership contenders in the two-day blockbuster starting on Saturday at Princes Park.
“Top two is where you want to be,” Bulldogs captain Dylan Kight said. “It’s massive to finish top four too.
“If you can nick that double chance, you put yourself in a great position moving into March.”
Footscray had a hard-fought 29-run win over Fitzroy Doncaster in the penultimate round at Merv Hughes Oval on Saturday.
The Bulldogs had a stop-start innings with the bat, eventually settling on 8-191 off 50 overs, a score that Kight assessed as defendable.
Conditions for batting were not the best as more mid-week rain wreaked havoc on pitch preparations and forced the curator to work abnormal hours.
“There was a lot of rain around and the curators weren’t able to get on the wicket realistically until Thursday,” Kight said.
“Our curator was there while we were eating dinner on Thursday night selection and got off the roller at about 8.45pm and same on Friday night at 8.30pm.
“They put in a massive effort just to get us on.”
One player who had no issues with the conditions was talented Footscray youngster Dylan Brasher.
Batting at No. 3 in place of Travis Dean, who was on Victorian state duty, Brasher was a cut above the rest on the day, making 93 not out off 134 balls.
“In Trav’s absence, Dylan was lucky enough to take that No. 3 spot and he took his chance,” Kight said.
“He really looks comfortable at the top of the order and that’s where he plays his best cricket.
“Dylan’s role was pretty much to be the anchor and bat the innings.
“He just sort of nudged and pushed them around everywhere on both sides of the wicket and later on he cashed in a little bit and picked up that run rate.”
Kight offered support through the middle order with 35 off 65.
Siddhesh Dixit (13) and James Muirhead (12) provided vital late runs.
Slow bowling was the key ingredient in Footscray’s successful defence, which saw Fitzroy Doncaster bowled out for 162 in the 44th over.
Pace off the ball, provided by Dixit (3-30), Muirhead (3-35) and Dean Russ (2-28), contributed to eight Lions dismissals.
“We thought that the spinners would be the hardest to score on with the new ball, so we took a bit of a risk and it paid off,” Kight said.
Left arm paceman Max Birthisel and right arm medium paced Ben Roosenboom took the other two wickets.