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By Richard Millott

A year after being promoted from Division 2, Ferntree Gully progress through to the Melbourne Country Week Provincial Finals despite a narrow loss to Sale-Maffra.

Electing to bowl first, Cameron Wheeler struck early before Sale-Maffra toiled hard to rebuild, sitting at 3/117 as Aaron Brunner and Todd Burley joined the wickets. Sale-Maffra continued on their way to building a competitive score at 4/176 after another run-scoring pairing, however the Gully fought back, claiming the next 6 wickets for 53 runs to end the score at 229. Blake Walter continued his form with the ball, his 3/21 coming from 6 overs whilst earlier Wheeler claimed 3/36 from 10 overs. Todd Burley (2/28 from 5.2 overs), Aaron Brunner (1/11 from 2 overs) and Johnathon Levell (1/24 from 5 overs) concluded the wickets.

Early wickets stifled the chase with the top order departing early to be 3/29. Matt Mulcahy begun to build a recovering middle-order, who teamed with Jayden Bradbury (13) and then with Zac Wilson, the latter notching up 50 from 44 balls in another whirlwind innings that put Ferntree Gully back on track at 6/168. Mulcahy retired following a calf injury, bringing Pete Dunlop to the crease. However a steady flow of wickets fell around, bringing Mulcahy back to the crease with a runner who eventually finished not out on 54. Dunlop was the last man out for 33 as Ferntree Gully fell short, dismissed for 217.

Despite the narrow blemish to the record, skipper Tom Boxell was proud of the way the team fought back into the contest. “With the ball, we struck early but the others were able to string together a handy partnership when they needed one, so credit to them.

“We tried a few different things with quite a few people with the ball today, and great to see Blake and Cam getting amongst it with everyone in support."

“Losing wickets early is never a good start to a chase but the way the lads fought back is a credit to how strong we are together. Matt and Zac gave us a massive boost to get back in the game, but we fell a little short. “We’re still in this – a Provincial Semi Final knowing we are good enough and that we belong here playing finals.”

FTGDCA will now play Geelong CA, who finished atop the Blue Pool with a 2-1 record. The Semi Final fixture will commence at Caulfield Oval #1 from 10am on Thursday.

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