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By Richard Millott

The action in Norm Reeves Shield is starting to come alive at the end of an eventful Bushfire Relief Round, with key results up and down the ladder.

At Fair Park, Johnson Park broke through for their first win of the campaign chasing down FTG Footballers. Set 154 to claim their maiden 6 points, Liyan De Silva set about the chase, guiding the Sharks from an early setback with a classy 74 to be dismissed at 2/110. Not to be outdone, Gerard Petrie (42*) also contributed in a key 100-run partnership to see the home team in the winner’s column. The win keeps the Sharks in 9th, whilst the Griffens now slip 2 matches outside of the top 4 with 3 rounds to play, the next against Lysterfield at Picketts Reserve next week.

With Johnson Park claiming a vital 6 points, Upper Ferntree Gully required nothing less than a win against Upwey to keep the pressure on. The Kings made 9/173 last week, and a slow start from the Tigers saw the visitors to 2/30 at the drinks break before Cameron Wheeler swung the game with 48 to be 4/102 at the tea break. However Tom Roleff ran through the lineup, his 4/19 key to the Kings dismissing the visitors for 146 to claim their first win of the season. Despite the win, given Johnson Park’s win earlier in the afternoon, ladder positions remain unchanged, whilst Upwey’s chances of playing Finals are now a mathematical prospect from 7th place. Upwey host The Basin next round, whilst for the Kings they travel to Knoxfield.

Knox Gardens closed out a quality win over The Basin as the Falcons continue to consolidate towards the top of the ladder. With 287 on the board from last week, it was up to the bowlers to close out. Scott Vozzo (34) and Adam Masters (33) both gave the Bears a start, however Michael Casement was the man of the day, his 5/19 helping to keep The Basin in check before dismissing the home team for 143. The Falcons remain in 2nd place, whilst for the Bears they slip to 4th but still a win clear. Knox Gardens play host to Johnson Park, whilst The Basin will aim to return to the winners list in an away assignment at Upwey.

Knoxfield had all the answers against Eildon Park in a win that sees the Knights return into the Top 4. Set 218, the Panthers lost early wickets to be 3/27 as Trent Atkinson made early inroads to the top order. A steady supply of wickets saw the Knights quickly gain the upper hand, with the Panthers dismissed for 136. Atkinson ended the day with 4/28 as the pick of the bowlers. The Win, sees the Knights jump from 5th to 3rd ahead of hosting Upper Ferntree Gully next round, whilst for Eildon Park they sit in 5th place looking to make up the match difference when they take on Belgrave.

Lysterfield have all but assured a Finals appearance in their promotion season after defeating Belgrave. Set 266 last week, the Pies were well served by Aaron Brunner who notched up another half century before departing at 3/115. Luke Spence provided runs through the upper order also, with his 68 leading the scoresheet. However Brad Paull (4/42) and Adam Kinniburgh (3/50) were able to take charge for the Beavers, dismissing the Pies for 164. Lysterfield leads way, whilst Belgrave remain in 8th place and will look to keep their season alive against Eildon Park next week.

Round 9 may prove to be a pivotal round in Decoite Shield as a new leader emerges out of a very tight pack, with just 0.018% the difference between being in the Top 4.

Monbulk are now on top of the ladder after withstanding a spirited chase against South Belgrave. In an interesting affair, Todd Burley (62) and Thomas Marks (33) helped to guide South towards the 223-run target. However Duncan Maher had a day out for the Hawks, claiming 5/65 to help dismiss South for 205. South Belgrave sit in the 4 by the slimmest of margins, and will aim to consolidate when they travel to Ferntree Gully next round. The Hawks will host Rowville next week.

St Johns Tecoma returned to their earlier season form with a win over Ferntree Gully. The Saints, having made 254 last week, made early inroads as the Blues top order fell cheaply as the visitors were 6/35. Rhys Hayes-Rosario (37) provided some stability through the middle order, before Jake Evans (43) and Pat Mastertoun (60) gave the Blues some late runs to take through to 194. Steve Barcham was economical and impactful, sending down 16 overs for a return of 4/16. Ferntree Gully now drop to 2nd, whilst the Saints sit in 6th place a game back albeit with superior percentage. Ferntree Gully will host South Belgrave next round whilst St Johns Tecoma will travel to Mountain Gate.

Knox Gardens consolidated their percentage against Mountain Gate. Chasing 143, the Falcons continued on as Dylan Wylde brought up an unbeaten century, walking off at 135 not out. Earlier, Matthew Bell reached 82 before being dismissed as the Falcons reached 2/242. The hosts sent the Gators in to bat again, with Sanitha De Mel (39*) the only Gator to get a start with Josh McGowan (3/51) completing a 10-wicket match in the Gators’ 5/101. Knox Gardens sit in 3rd place ahead of playing Olinda next round, whilst Mountain Gate will be looking for victory at HV Jones against St Johns Tecoma.

Rowville continue their chase to play finals with victory over Olinda. Set 178, the Bloods got underway with Hunter Greenall (47) leading the way at the top of the order as the visitors looked the goods at 3/102. However the innings ticked along slowly as Olinda lost 4/2 in the final stages to be dismissed for 135, with Monto Perera claiming 4/61 from 25.4 overs. Darren Hill wound the clock back, sending down 23 overs - 12 maidens – to claim 3/16. Rowville travel to Monbulk next week whilst Olinda play hosts to Knox Gardens.

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