Helensburgh’s Ryan Morris plays a straight bat during Saturday’s semi-final. Picture: Dave Tease/Illawarra Mercury

Minor premiers Helensburgh and second-placed Balgownie will face off in the Illawarra cricket grand final at North Dalton Park this weekend.

The two teams won through to the premiership decider after both sides’ lower orders dragged them to victory in their respective semi-finals.

After being 7-94, Balgownie skipper James Fleming (34) and club coach Dean Merola (46) saved their team’s blushes, helping the side to a total of 196 against Keira at Figtree.

The two men then starred with the ball, taking a combined 9-119 off 60.1 overs, limiting Keira to just 177 and securing Bally a place in the competition’s showpiece event.

Fleming told the Illawarra Mercury that the tough hit-out would be positive coming as the team heads into the pressure-cooker atmosphere of grand final week.

“When the pressure was on, we responded, which is great going into a final”, he said.

It was a similar story at North Dalton Park, where a top-order collapse saw Helensburgh struggling at 3-14 against Wests, before Steve Blissenden (28) and Ben Merciante (46) sparked a middle-order fight-back as the Burgh’s tail added 92 runs to the team’s score, pushing it to 182.

Despite stiff resistance from Wests’ batsman Shannon Crewdson (23), Helensburgh’s bowlers tore through the opposition’s batting line-up, with Merciante (4-10 off 14 overs), Blissenden (3-6 off 5.3) and Luke Falkiner (3-18 off 5) the pick of the bowlers as Wests collapsed to be all out for 81.

As current holders of the one-day and minor premierships, Helensburgh are looking to complete the treble this weekend, a feat not achieved since the all-conquering University team won all three competitions in 2006/07.

Words by Dale Roots


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