By Lance Jenkinson
Footscray captain Dylan Kight was sweating bullets as the hours turned into minutes in the countdown to the end of the Victorian Premier Cricket regular season.
The margin of the Bulldogs finals-shaping 46-run victory over Carlton in a low-scoring match at Princes Park seemed comfortable on paper, but it was anything but for Kight and his teammates.
Two aspects concerned the Bulldogs, firstly, the late 5.15pm start to the second day’s play, which, at some points, looked as though play might not even get under way, and, secondly, the scoreboard, which Kight felt was tighter than it actually was.
With the Bulldogs needing a win to secure a top two finish and avoid missing out on a double chance, Kight was certainly a relieved man when the final Carlton wicket fell, knowing his side’s small total of 161 would not be captured.
“It was pretty tense at the end there,” Kight said.
“It didn’t feel like we won by a whole lot and we were probably lucky to get on the ground in the end.
“Even starting at 5.15, the umpires were cautious because of player safety, but it turned out to be good for us.
“Carlton were just sitting above us by percentage, so it was in our best interests to play.”
The difference between final round success and failure had a huge bearing on the finals outlook. Footscray leap-frogged its opponents into second, taking hold of a double chance.
Carlton went into a tail spin, tumbling to fifth and facing a finals full of cut-throat games.
“It was a pretty draining and tense few days, but it sets us up well for finals,” Kight said.
“It’s big, it’s exciting. It means we know it’s not a do-or-die first week. We can shape up for a good solid block of finals.”
Footscray was a little underwhelmed by its score of 161. Getting bowled out early proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Bulldogs though as they managed to take seven wickets before stumps on day one.
With Thomas Smyth injured and unavailable to bat for Carlton, it left the Bulldogs with two wickets to take on the second day.
Jordan Buckingham struck first, removing Xavier Crone, then Siddhesh Dixit completed the job, sending Cameron Stevenson on his way.
Buckingham finished with match-best figures of 4-47. Footscray will host Melbourne in a mouth-watering two-day qualifying final at Merv Hughes Oval this weekend.
The winner will advance to a preliminary final, while the loser will take the long route via the semi-finals.