St Albans captain Rob Nikolic conveyed one important word to his players at stumps on day two of an enthralling four-day Victorian Turf Cricket Association senior division grand final against Yarraville Club at Hansen Reserve: “believe”.
In what is turning into an instant classic, Nikolic is adamant the game is there for the taking for his underdog side, but it needs to strike early and often with the ball on day three.
Having set a strong total of 259 on the first day, St Albans took two late wickets on day two to have Yarraville Club on 4-165 and get the game back on level terms.
Neither could be defined as a clear front-runner, so it will be all to play for in the first session on Saturday.
“It’s been a really good game,” Nikolic said.
“It’s kind of ebbed and flowed back and forth.
“One side is on top for a bit and the other side comes back and then the momentum shifts back the other way.”
Nikolic took the St Albans players aside on Sunday evening and urged them to believe in themselves.
The Saints have a valuable commodity in a grand final, runs on the board.
If the Saints take early wickets, particularly the scalp of Will Sheridan, who is on 80 not out for the Clubbers, an upset could be in the works for the side that went into the finals as the fourth-ranked team.
“Anything can happen,” Nikolic said.
“If we come out next week and get a couple of early wickets, it’s going to be really hard for them to chase.
“Runs on the board are really valuable.
“I said to the boys, get to training, work hard, go next week and be ready to take a couple of early wickets and see what happens from there.
“I asked the boys to believe that we can do it.”
St Albans relied on its middle order to post its competitive score.
After an uncertain start, which saw the Saints slump to 4-71, Thilina Masmulla (53) and Shanaka Silva (28) combined for an important 77-run partnership.
Not only did Masmulla and Silva get the scoreboard ticking over, they occupied time at the crease, tiring out the Yarraville Club bowlers.
Arosh Janoda, who made a scintillating 41 off 39, including five fours and two sixes, and Yuvraj Singh (27), took it to a tiring Clubbers attack.
“There were times when we were really under the pump, but Masmulla and Silva got us back in the game,” Nikolic said.
“They just dug in and that’s exactly what we needed at the time.
“If we lost another couple of wickets then we would’ve been bowled out for not too many.”
Janoda’s knock was a sight to behold.
“He’s got so much ability and firepower,” Nikolic said.
“It was brave and it worked out for us.”
Expect the first innings result to go down to the wire when play resumes for the third day on Saturday.