By Lance Jenkinson
Hoppers Crossing has enjoyed a happy start to the new year in Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association action on Saturday.
The Cats dusted off the cobwebs with a strong all-round effort to cruise to a seven-wicket victory over Malvern in their first game back from the mid-season break.
Cats coach Greg Kennedy said it was important for his side to make up some of the ground lost in the standings prior to Christmas.
“To have a nice clinical all-round performance is excellent,” he said.
“We dropped a couple of points in December, so we’ve put that behind us now and we’re starting to make a push in 2019.”
Fifth-placed Hoppers Crossing is now 12 points clear inside the top six.
With a tough four rounds to go, there is still plenty of work for the Cats to do to book their ticket to the finals, but their destiny is in their own hands.
The Cats have a must-win game against bottom side Moorabbin in a two-dayer at Moorleigh Community Village Reserve starting on Saturday, before running the gauntlet against top three sides Werribee, Oakleigh and Caulfield in the lead-up to the finals.
“This is really the final push, the business end,” Kennedy said. “You’ve just got to control what you can control and that’s your job.”
Hoppers Crossing’s bowling unit shows no signs of rust as it restricted Malvern to 9-136 off 45 overs.
Both pace and spin had success for the Cats, with new ball user Brett Smith charging in to take 3-25 before spinners Nick Keast (2-30) and Luke Goegan (1-22) completed the job.
“The spinners were a big part of our game today, which is less usual at our place,” Kennedy said. “We had two spinners bowl 17 overs and took a combined 3-50. The quicks either side of that did well too. It was just a really good performance with the ball and in the field.”
Hoppers Crossing calmly plotted its run chase, passing the target with five overs to spare.
The chase was led by Goegan, who finished with 50 not out. By no means was it a lone hand though with Keast (24), Jack Rhodes (25) and Trent Said (22 not out) making valuable contributions.
In past seasons, Hoppers Crossing had a reputation as a side that struggled chasing small totals, but that appears to be a thing of the past.
“The old Hoppers Crossing of two, three or four years ago would’ve sort of panicked,” Kennedy said.
“Because of the effort with the ball and our new-found maturity with the bat, we rode it through.”
Meanwhile the Cats JC Craig Shield under-15 team had a tough week, losing all three of its matches.
Saaransh Mahay was a bright spot for the Cats, taking six wickets at an average of 11.
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