‘‘CONSIDERING the circumstances that’s the best I’ve ever seen him bat,’’ was the glowing praise from Kyabram Fire Brigade skipper Daniel Kent on another Paul Newman century on Saturday.
Newman and star late recruit Michael Mattingly batted the Flames into their fifth successive Goulburn Murray Cricket grand final, with a 173-run sixth-wicket stand against Cooma in last weekend’s semi-final.
Newman finished with a swashbuckling 106 retired and Mattingly made a superb 89.
But Newman’s dominant century was achieved under great difficulty as he was suffering an attack of gastro which had also affected two of his teammates, English imports Henry Charlton and Sam Kershaw.
‘‘They were all pretty crook. Paul never got to the game until tea and batted at seven but I don’t think I’ve seen a better innings from him considering what he was going through,’’ said Kent.
When Newman retired after crashing eight fours and seven sixes he had to leave the ground and head for home to the sick bed.
Kent is now even toying with the idea of batting the maestro in the middle order this weekend when the Flames take on Rochester United for the flag.
United is attempting to win a hat-trick of premierships at Fire Brigade’s expense in the season decider but Kent is confident without being cocky his team can reverse the past two seasons’ results this time.
‘‘We have a lot of batting depth, and we are a better side than we were last year, but they are too,’’ he added.
The premiership showdown is being contested at Moama on Saturday and Sunday with play to start at 12.30pm on both days.
Kyabram Fire Brigade flexed its ample batting muscles against Cooma to barge its way into the season decider.
Another Newman century and a superb supporting innings from Mattingly set up the Flames’ first day thumping score of 320 while their bowlers delivered the win on Sunday, dismissing Cooma for 202.
The Flames recovered from 2/24 to post the imposing score with Tom Kershaw (22) and Brett Andison (43) initially leading the recovery before Newman and Mattingly joined forces. In a matchwinning sixth-wicket stand of 173 they took the score from 5/144 to 317 before Mattingly fell for a stylish 89, which included 11 fours and a six.
In another dominant knock Newman pierced the boundary on eight occasions and went over it on seven occasions before retiring after making 106.
At one stage in reply Cooma was 4/9 but skipper Michael Hill and Liam Barrett dug in to get some respectability into the scoreline with a fighting stand of 78 before Hill fell, run out for 43.
Barrett went on to top score with 75, with seven boundaries, and with some late support from young Sam Langley (23), Mitch Barrett (18) and Brad Power Cooma was able to sneak its score to a respectable 202 off 69.4 overs, but well short of its target.
Brigade bowling spearhead Brodie Unwin’s 4/30 off 13 overs, which included the Cooma openers cheaply, started the early Cooma batting rot. Unwin was well supported by Jack Donnell with two wickets while Shannon O’Brien, Michael Mattingly and Paul Newman all picked up a wicket to book the Flames’ spot in the final.
■ Tongala’s batsmen suffered a severe bout of finals jitters in the other semi-final against reigning premier Rochester United at Rochester, bowled out for a disappointing 122 in 63 overs.
Wickets fell regularly and only opener Darin Ohlsen and Joel Regan made any worthwhile contributions.
Ohlsen, who made 26, saw off six partners and was at the crease while 82 runs were added to the Tongala score, while Regan gave the total a late and welcome boost with an aggressive 45 that featured four fours and two sixes.
Clayton Thompson and John Copeland were the other Tongala batsmen to get to double figures.
United lost one wicket late on Saturday while 36 runs were wiped from its run chase and on Sunday rounded up the Tongala score in 45 overs for the loss of five wickets.
KYABRAM Fire Brigade is also into the final in this grade, taking on Cooma for the flag after a seven-wicket win over Moama in its semi-final at the weekend.
Veterans Steve Thomson and Jarrod Chapman set up the win with the ball for the Flames, grabbing seven wickets between them to dismiss Moama for 80 in 31.4 overs.
Thomson conceded only 11 runs off 8.1 overs to claim four wickets while Chapman picked up 3/11 off 8.1 overs to have the Moama batsmen on the back foot from the start. At one stage Moama was 6/21.
It took the Brigade batsmen just 16.3 overs to reel in the Moama total and book a spot in the season decider.
Opener Mick Kent was the mainstay with an unbeaten 56 off 58 balls, including nine fours, and with Ben Langley (14no) guided the Flames to a seven-wicket win.
■ Cooma caused an upset in the other semi-final, downing minor premier Northern United at Bunnaloo.
Cooma bowlers, led by Sam Barbagallo with 3/22 and Tom Holman and Chris Tindale, each with two wickets, restricted Northern United to just 104. The Cooma batsmen covered this score in 37 overs for the loss of three wickets.
Most Cooma batsmen got a start but it was an unbeaten 33 from young Ethan Palma-Ludeman that provided the batting platform for the win.
KYABRAM Fire Brigade’s batsmen, led by opener Brendan White, had no problems chasing down Echuca South’s respectable score of 9/203 to progress to this weekend’s season decider.
White blasted 89 off 68 balls, with eight sixes and six fours, to show the way along with fellow opener Justin Elliott, who made 40, in the clash at Moama.
This experienced duo put on 82 for the opening stand and then White and Mitch Dunne added 78 for the second wicket before White finally fell.
Dunne, with an unbeaten 30, and Michael Mott, with 22 not out, picked off the runs needed to secure the win in 31.3 overs.
Fire Brigade’s rival in the season decider this weekend is Moama, who had an eight-wicket win in its semi-final against Echuca.
RUSHWORTH booked its place in the decider and prevented Fire Brigade from being represented in every grand final, with a comfortable semi-final win over Kyabram Fire Brigade White at Rushworth.
With Regan Hanson the destroyer, Rushworth bundled out the Flames in 28 overs for just 84.
Hanson took a devastating 5/13 off eight overs and with Shannon Jarrett picking up 3/8 off four overs and Ryan Patten also chipping in with two wickets, Brigade White was out in 28 overs, with only Matt Wild, with 34, and Scott Fleming (18) getting into double figures.
The Wild and Fleming second-wicket stand produced 49 runs and seemingly had the Flames on course for a reasonable score but when they both fell to Hanson within three runs of each other it was the beginning of the end for the Flames.
There were a few anxious moments when Rushworth went to the batting crease, losing its first two wickets with only four runs on the board, but evergreen Peter Raglus and Callan Chillingworth took the pressure off with a 58-run stand for the third wicket.
Raglus fell for 23 and Chillingworth batted his side into the final with an unbeaten half century.
Rushworth now takes on Moama, who won its semi-final against Echuca, for the flag.