By Luke Voogt
A match-saving 65-run seventh wicket partnership has propelled Geelong Cricket Club into the Victorian Premier Cricket top four.
The Cats defeated Richmond on Saturday despite a three-wicket collapse earlier in their innings.
An unbeaten half century from left-hander Tyler Larkin helped Geelong recover, with leg-spinner Tom O’Connell again playing a vital support role with the bat.
O’Connell had already contributed with the ball after Richmond won the toss and decided to bat.
Paceman Josh Garner and Brody Couch took the first two for the Cats, but Richmond opener Shobit Singh provided some resistance until O’Connell dismissed him caught behind on 41.
The tigers reached 3/105 and were still a chance to set a large chase for the Cats – prior to losing their fourth wicket.
The wicket was the first of seven for just 42 runs.
Aside from Tim Goodman (36), none of Richmond’s other batsmen made a significant contribution, with Geelong bowling them out for 147 off 43.2 overs.
O’Connell topped the bowling figures with 3/32 off 10, with the rest of the Cats’ bowlers chipping in, taking at least a wicket each.
Geelong started reasonably, despite captain Eamonn Vines being trapped LBW for 15 – his lowest score of the season and a rare batting failure for the in-form opener.
Hayden Butterworth made 31 before Marcus Berryman bowled him, triggering a 3/0 collapse (2/52 to 4/52).
Berryman dismissed Josh McDonald too, while Shobit Singh and Sam Mills combined to run out Gus Boyd for a diamond duck following a mix up.
The Cats managed just 10 more before Mills snared Thomas Jackson caught-and-bowled, and another 24 before Joshua Larkin was stumped for 9.
But Larkin’s older brother Tyler and O’Connell batted on, with their unbeaten partnership getting the Cats over the line (6/151) in 43.2 overs.
The win propelled Geelong past Dandenong and Fitzroy Doncaster to fourth on the ladder. The Cats face third-placed Prahran in Geelong on Saturday for a chance to advance further.
Geelong would move to third with a win against the True Blues, who defeated Casey-South Melbourne by four wickets last Saturday.
In GCA division one South Barwon, incredibly, recorded its second tie in a week, after drawing level with Newtown-Chilwell on February 28.
This time South Barwon batted first, making 7/187.
Lara needed about two runs a ball in the last over and managed to get that down to three off the last ball, according to club vice president John Speirs.
In a dramatic final delivery, Robbie Pehar hit the ball past the fieldsman at point.
“It probably went within a metre of the boundary,” Speirs said
He and Mitchell Heyward ran two before Heyward was runout at the striker’s end coming back for the third.
In Saturday’s other matches St Joseph’s Leg-spinner Billy Hyde took 6/17, helping his side to a 15-run victory over Grovedale.
Tom Meredith stood out with the bat, scoring 106* in Newtown-Chilwell’s win over Murgheboluc.
Leopold and East Belmont won the other two games.
After losing to Leopold, North Geelong is neck-and-neck with Lara and the two will play each other in the final round on Saturday for top spot.
East Belmont leads South Barwon by three points in the battle for third, while Newtown-Chilwell could still knock South Barwon out of the finals if they win and the Swans lose.
In GCA division two Bell Park, Bell Post Hill, Geelong City and Marshall recorded wins.
Bell Post Hill and Marshall are tied on points, with both a chance to take top spot in the final round on Saturday.
Geelong City sits on third and Torquay on fourth, with Bell Park still a chance to knock out Torquay and make the finals.
In perhaps one of the best all-round performances GCA division three has ever seen, Thomson’s Jayden Hicks made 140 (16 fours, seven sixes) and took 6/12 in his side’s 129-run triumph over Guild-Saints.
Geelong West, Manifold Heights, St Albans Breakwater and Corio also picked up wins.
Geelong West leads the ladder by an unassailable margin, while Lethbridge leads Corio by three points in the battle for second.
Thomson is a game behind St Albans Breakwater in the battle for the fourth and last finals spot.