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By Richard Millott

Some big individual efforts across the grades highlighted Fire Relief Round, with some vintage performances helping the push for season-defining results.

Knox Gardens posted 287 across the day at The Basin. The Falcons made it though the first session against the home bowlers to be 0/60 from the first 22 overs, with Pete Dunlop consolidating a big day at the top of the order. The visitors continued to find runs, with Jarrod Butcher (33) and Mitch Gregory (34) helping the middle order, as Dunlop lead the way before being dismissed for 94. For the Bears, Nick Freeling claimed 4/54 as the lead of the attack.

Johnson Park got themselves in a great position for their opening win after dismissing Ferntree Gully Footballers on Day 1 at Fair Park. The Griffens were 3/39 early as Steve Devenish removed both openers, bringing Ben Rawlings to the crease. Rawlings top scored across the afternoon for the visitors with 43, however it was Devenish that impacted the scorecard, sending down 33 overs for a return of 4/48 to dismiss the visitors for 153. In reply, the Sharks faced 10 overs, reaching 1/34 in reply.

Likewise, Upper Ferntree Gully showed plenty of fight with the bat in their encounter against Upwey. The Tiger bowlers were at their best as they made early breakthroughs at 3/37 from 22 overs, later restricting the home team to 6/77 from 43 overs. Steve Gannell claimed 5/75 with the ball whilst Cameron Wheeler took 3/47. However the Kings took on the challenge, with Jay Collee reaching 58 to help the home team reach 9/173 at the end of the day.

Fresh from his highly-successful Australian Country Cricket Championships campaign, Lysterfield’s Nathan Walsh fell one run short of a century as the Beavers posted big. The Magpie bowling attack had no answer as Walsh showed his talent with the willow, with only Jarrod McPhee (3/54) being able to cause issues for the home side. Walsh fell heartbreakingly short on 99, with Jake Arundell (34) providing scoreboard assistance also to reach 9/266 at the end of play.

Trent Scholfield hit an unbeaten 91 not out against Eildon Park to put Knoxfield in a strong position on Day 1. With the stakes high and the winner to remain in the Top 4 at the end of the round, the Knights won the toss and took the opportunity to post a score to bowl at, reaching 3/98 at the tea break as the Panthers rushed through overs. Scholfield cashed in after the interval, reaching 91* by the days’ end as the visitors posted 7/216 from the 80 overs at the crease. For the Panthers, Jurgen Andersen (3/61) and Jake Evans (3/84) proved the keys to wickets amongst a rotated bowling attack.

In Decoite Shield, Aaron Grenda finished the day as an unbeaten centurion as St Johns Tecoma returned to form against Ferntree Gully. Batting first, the Saints reached 1/40 as Jake Sali was dismissed for 29, soon turning into 3/60. Kyle Chandler spent over 3 hours at the crease for 43 at the top of the order before Grenda blazed away against the Blues bowlers. Grenda ended at 103 not out at a run-a-ball pace, including 10 fours and 5 sixes as the home side set Ferntree Gully 6/254. Josh Henry lead the way for the Blues, sending down 15 overs for a return of 3/44.

Josh McGowan hosted a Bowling Masterclass at Knox Gardens Reserve against Mountain Gate as the leading wicket-taker dominated the scoresheet. After the Gators saw off the opening attack, McGowan and Daine Vernon (3/38) were introduced and turned the match in the fortune of the hosts. Sanitha De Mel (41) provided resistance for the visitors however it was Knox Gardens on top, with McGowan claiming 7/55 from 19.5 overs to dismiss Mountain Gate for 143. In reply, the Gator bowlers tried everything for Day 1 breakthroughs, however the Falcons remained unbroken at stumps on 0/103, with Dylan Wylde not out on 72.

Olinda fought back well against Rowville at Seebeck Reserve. The Hawks were off to a solid start as both Alex Walker (70) and James Rogers (68) took the home team to 0/123 before Rogers fell. The Bloods then begun to claw back into the game, with Josh Langer (4/19) and Taf Kamungozi (3/83) instigating a middle-order collapse to dismiss the Hawks with 178 on the board. Olinda took to the crease for the final 15 overs of the day, reaching 0/30 in reply.

South Belgrave hosted Monbulk in the final match of the day, with the Hawks reaching 9/222. Jason Fraser (65) and Shane Cosstick (43) both helped Monbulk post a competitive total, despite best efforts of Harley McDermott who claimed 4/43.

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