By Luke Voogt
Geelong moved a step closer to a finals berth with a thrilling two-wicket win over St Kilda last Saturday.
The Cats’ all-rounders and part-timers chipped in with the ball while captain Eamonn Vines again led the way with the bat.
St Kilda batted first after winning the toss, getting to 34 before Josh Garner dismissed Michael De Iacovo for 16.
Fellow paceman Brody Couch dismissed Josh Manning for four, caught behind, with the score at 41, but opener Patrick Rowe and Jonathan Merlo hung around for a 78-run partnership.
All-rounder Hayden Butterworth dismissed Merlo for 39 (off 49), caught and bowled, before dismissing Rowe for 57 (off 109) in the same fashion nine runs later, bringing the Saints to 4/128.
The Saints’ middle order batsman managed several starts but none posted a big score.
Part-time spinner Gus Boyd cleaned up most of the tail taking 3/49, with the Saints making 9/211.
Butterworth finished with 3/47, while Couch took 2/40 and Garner 1/20.
Geelong started shakily with newly-promoted opener Tom Jackson making just two.
The up-and-coming batsman was averaging 50-plus batting at four but has managed just 24 runs in two innings opening.
Vines and Josh McDonald steadied the ship before McDonald went for 33 with the Cats at 2/54.
Vines batted on without his fellow batsmen making a significant contribution, until leg-spinner Tom Connell arrived at the pitch with the Cats on 6/142.
O’Connell provided much-needed support for Vines with the pair putting on 40 for the seventh wicket.
When the skipper fell for 76 with the score at 182, and Couch was dismissed for a duck, Geelong, at 8/187, looked at risk of a heartbreaking loss.
But O’Connell fought on for 40* with Garner chipping in a vital 8*, including a leg glance for the winning four to get the Cats over the line with just two wickets and seven balls left.
The Cats advanced to sixth on the ladder after the win, with just a game separating them and ninth-placed Essendon.
The win was even more vital given Cricket Victoria has decided not to replay an earlier round lost to the state’s snap lockdown last month.
Geelong had been set to play the struggling Camberwell Magpies that round.
Tomorrow’s game at home against 11th-placed Richmond is important for Geelong’s finals hopes, with the Cats to play Prahran (third), Fitzroy Doncaster (fourth) and Northcote (seventh) in their last three.
In GCA division one Newtown-Chilwell and South Barwon played a thrilling tie.
Newtown-Chilwell won the toss and batted first, managing 182 all-out.
South Barwon needed a run a ball off the last over but managed just five off Jordan Tegelhuter, including a run out, finishing level with two wickets in hand.
Sam Hall’s 108* helped North Geelong to victory over St Joseph’s, while Vishesh Malhotra’s 105 helped Lara defeat Highton.
Sean O’Neil (averaging 75.4 this season) backed up his century in the previous round with 93* in East Belmont’s 87-run thrashing of Murgheboluc.
Leopold was the other winner for the round, with North Geelong leading the ladder followed by Lara, East Belmont and South Barwon.
Alexander-Thomson, Bell Post Hill, Bell Park and Torquay picked up wins in division two.
Marshall’s loss on Saturday means Bell Post Hill now leads by percentage, with Geelong City third and Torquay fourth.
In division three Waurn Ponds-Deakin, Geelong West, Manifold Heights, Corio and Thomson picked up wins.
Geelong West leads the ladder, followed by Lethbridge, Corio and St Albans-Breakwater.