Slammin' Sam plays the innings of his life
By ADAM HICKS
CASINO Cavalier's Sam Irvine hit a chanceless double century to steal the Far North Coast LJ Hooker League cricket premiership in a bloody and brilliant final against Tintenbar-East Ballina at Kingsford Smith Park South, Ballina.
Set a monstrous 396 for victory by a gallant 'Bar outfit, Irvine batted for more than 90 overs yesterday and hit the winning runs with five balls to spare.
The Cavaliers won the toss and sent the 'Bar in to bat, only for Phil Dalli and Mick Warburton to put on a 139-run opening partnership.
When Warburton fell for 63, captain Brett Crawford picked up the pace, smashing 76 from 69 balls before being caught off Al Nowlan.
Dalli fell soon after for 105 and his century was overshadowed only by the efforts of Irvine.
Kane Hamilton added 41, Kent Shay 39 and Luke Shay posted an unbeaten 36.
With those contributions, the minor premiers blasted 100 runs from the last 10 overs to reach 7-395.
Set the biggest target of the season, Casino struggled at the start, losing both openers to the swing bowling of Lucas Wagland.
Irvine came to the crease in the fourth over with Casino at 2-3.
He and Wes Koskela steadied the ship to take the visitors to 46 before Mark Newstead bowled Wes Koskela, the hero of the Cavs' win in the semi-final the previous week.
Sam Dietrich managed 32 but built an important 78-run partnership to carry Casino into lunch.
Todd Summers posted 24, Scott Shephard returned from a broken finger to score 24 and captain Mal Hancock added 28.
Wade Sweeney came to crease with Casino at 7-323 and needing more than a run a ball with 11 overs remaining.
Sweeney opened his account with a six, hit straight over the bowler's head.
He cracked three fours and another six before he holed out for 26 - scoring at nearly two runs a ball - trying to reach the boundary again.
Sweeney left the field bitterly disappointed, but having taken the pressure off Irvine and bringing the target within reach.
Al Nowlan came out at 8-369 and with about five overs remaining he needed to keep the strike ticking over.
He got bogged down for four balls before taking a single and giving Irvine the strike.
The next ball brought up Irvine's double century.
The ball after that halted Irvine's celebrations when he cracked a Newstead delivery back down the pitch which ricocheted off the bowler's hand and into Nowlan's head.
Nowlan went down with a one-inch gash above his right eye.
But with the match balanced on a bail, he wore a sticky bandage on his head and faced down a determined Brett Crawford in the following over.
He got bogged down for a couple of balls before he lashed out and cut for four.
Casino reached 8-394 with one over remaining.
The first ball was a wide and Irvine pumped his fist knowing they'd at least secured a tie.
The next ball he cut and run, and Nowlan threw his bat and helmet and bounced across the crease for the winning run his bandaged head bobbing like a brown bouy in the wake of a super tanker.
The Cavaliers' fans stormed the field.
The 'Bar players dropped to their haunches.
The Cavaliers had won their third LJ Hooker title and their first since 1999-2000.
Irvine said scoring 215 not out in his last match in local cricket was something he almost dreamed about.
"Last night I had a dream; I woke up and told mum we got the runs but with six down," he said.
"I didn't care how many runs I got, I just wanted the boys to win in my last game with them.
"I would've swapped my 200 for one as long as we still won.
"I'm lost for words. This is the best feeling I've ever had in my life. I've never been in a team that's chased down more than 280."
Even Nowlan - with a gaping wound in his head - said he felt fantastic.
"I'm just that pumped, I've never felt anything like it," the veteran fast bowler said.
"The boys dug so deep I couldn't feel any better."
Brett Crawford said his team was understandably disappointed but recognised the quality of Irvine's innings.
"It took a special innings to win and he is a special batsman," he said.
"It was a controlled 200. He just played each ball on its merits.
"He gave no chances, nothing. It was brilliant.
"Overall it was a good advert for local cricket. We had a great crowd. Nearly 800 runs were scored and it was a really good deck."
Dalli said that despite the loss, it had been a great season for the club.
"We lost today but we've had a great season. We've only got two teams and they both won the minor premiership and lost the final," he said.
"You deserve to get beaten if a bloke can score 200. If they can chase down 395, they deserve to win the premiership."
TINTENBAR-EAST BALLINA v CASINO CAVALIERS (Kingsford Smith South, Ballina)
TINTENBAR-EAST BALLINA innings: P Dalli, c Hancock b Sweeney 105 M Warburton, b Nowlan 63 K Hamilton, c Innes b Mison 41 K Shay, st Dietrich b Mison 39 B Crawford, c Irvine b Nowlan 76 T Porter, run out 1 L Shay, not out 36 D Elphick, run out 18 S Hogden, not out 0
Sundries (5b 6lb 4w 1nb) 16
Fall: 139 254 254 336 339 341.
Bowling: W Sweeney 19-3-64-1, A Nowlan 24-4-81-2, M Mison 20-3-93-2, J Innes 7-0-26-0, M Hancock 7-1-30-0, W Koskela 18-3-90-0.
CASINO CAVALIERS innings: M McDowell, c Warburton b Wagland 2 T Bennett, c Hogden b Wagland 0 W Koskela, b Newstead 15 S Irvine, not out 215 S Dietrich, c Warburton b Wagland 32 T Summers, c Warburton b A Crawford 24 S Shephard, b Newstead 24 M Hancock, c Elphick b Wagland 28 W Sweeney, c Dalli b B Crawford 26 A Nowlan, not out 8
Sundries (5b 12lb 2w 3nb) 22
Fall: 0 3 46 124 190 260 323 369. Bowling: B Crawford 19-4-67-1, L Wagland 17-4-70-4, L Shay 14-3-67-0, M Newstead 23.2-3-101-2, A Crawford 8-2-20-1, D Elphick 7-0-28-0, P Dalli 6-0-26-0.
Casino Cavaliers won.