Positive result leaves Echuca second on ladder despite not having hit peak form yet.By Geordie Cowan
Echuca maintained its pressure on Rochester United at the top of the Goulburn Murray Cricket ladder after it completed an outright victory against Bunnaloo on Saturday.
The result also gives Echuca a full 12-point gap to third-placed Rochester Tigers as it seeks to solidify a top spot as the competition approaches the Christmas break.
Last week, Echuca bowled Bunnaloo out for 86 and had reached 6/191 at the end of play, but left open the possibility of batting on during the second day at Vic Park.
However, Echuca captain Brendan Prendergast announced the declaration before the start and Bunnaloo began its second innings.
The visiting side displayed more resilience in this week’s innings, with opening batsmen Luke Hartshorn (32) and Wendell Vagg (33) putting on 53 runs for the first wicket.
It was Prendergast who provided the breakthrough, capturing both openers, before Brad Jones and 17-year-old Angus McKindlay (16) added 38 runs for the fourth wicket.
However, when Taylor Beard bowled Jones for 29, the end came relatively quickly for Bunnaloo with the final seven wickets falling in 14 overs for 39 runs, with the team bowled out for 148 in the 54th over despite some late runs by Damien Russell (17).
Beard again bowled well to claim 3/24 from 14 overs — making it match figures of 8/52 — while Brandon Dixon was effective with the tail, finishing with 3/25.
Prendergast (2/42) and Josh Preston (2/14) were the other wicket-takers.
This left Echuca 43 runs behind and a healthy 23 overs in which to achieve the outright result.
However, the run chase was not without its drama as Echuca stumbled to 3/8, thanks to two wickets from Adam Thompson, before Fraser Buchanan (18) and Brandon Dixon (21 not out) guided the team to a six-wicket victory — its fourth straight win.
Prendergast was thrilled at the final outcome, believing the win helped put the team in a terrific position as it prepared for the second half of the season.
‘‘It’s a good result for us and it could be pretty important at the end of the (season),’’ he said.
‘‘It gives us a bit of an advantage over the other sides with the extra eight points and, hopefully, it still gives us the opportunity to finish top if we play well enough.’’
Somewhat ominously, Prendergast believed the side is yet to perform close to its peak, but was mindful of the relatively tough run it has after Christmas.
The captain praised his bowlers’ consistency and focus throughout the day, not wanting to highlight any individual over another.
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