From bottom two to premiers

Sunshine United premiership team. picture supplied

Tara Murray

Twelve months is a long time in cricket, just ask new Victorian Turf Cricket Association senior division premiers Sunshine United.

This time last year, the Tigers were staring down relegation after finishing in the bottom two of the top grade.

A competition restructure gave the side a second chance, with no teams relegated, and they made the most of it, claiming the 2020-21 senior premiership.

Tigers president Mark Dalrymple said they could have never imagined claiming a premiership this time last year.

‘It’s a terrific achievement,” he said.

“We were fortunate the VTCA restructure from eight teams to 10 teams, so we stayed up… We took it in our stride.

“To be playing in a best of three grand finals series is unheard of. And then to do it after being one down, is even better.

“This would be our best premiership. We never thought it would happen this time last year.”

The Tigers started the season with a massive boost to the playing group, with three key signings.

Kaushal Lokuarachchi, one of the premier players in the competition crossed from Keilor.

Former captain-coach Neetan Chouhan returned after several seasons off and captained the side, while Michael Glowacki, returned after a couple of injury-interrupted seasons.

All three would play major roles throughout the season.

The Tigers started the best of three grand final series on the back foot dropping game one. Game two was postponed to the second weekend due to rain.

Dalrymple said the game being postponed was a blessing in disguise for the side.

“We didn’t perform well,” he said.

“Being washed out helped us regroup. You never know what will have happened if the game went ahead.

“It gave us a bit of breathing space to do a bit better planning and it took the nerves out of it.”

In game two, the Tigers managed to restrict Doutta’s three big guns, bowling them out for 87.

They finished 5-88. Thomas Duxson top scored with 43.

It set up a game three to decide the premiers.

The Tigers batted first making 163. Duxson made 56.

Dalrymple wasn’t sure that would be enough runs on the board to defend.

“In hindsight I wanted more runs,” he said.

“Speaking to the players they were happy enough with 160.

“Selwyn Reserve has been a bit slower with an increase of dew. It turned out to be enough.”

The match would go down to the final over.

A run out would seal victory for the Tigers, with Doutta bowled out for 151 with two balls remaining.

Duxon was named player of the grand final series. He also had praise for all-rounder Nalin Amarathunga who did a great job despite playing through an injured PCL.

The premiership joins the two T20 finals they’ve won in the last three seasons.

Dalrymple admits that the shorter format suits them better, so a new challenge is likely ahead of them next season, when two-day cricket could return.