It may have taken 36 years, but the Forest Hill Zebras finally claimed another McIntosh Shield title, defeating Vermont by 46 runs at Morton Park on Saturday.
Under overcast skies the Shield game started early, to make up lost time from day one. With all other finals completed, the crowd almost doubled on last Saturday’s patronage.
Forest Hill v Vermont
Forest Hill 2/317 (B. Johnston 147*, J Taun-Henderson 124*) defeated Vermont 270 (M. Scott 61, B. Taylor 53, B. Cullen 43, B. Ferguson 6/50, R/McManus 4/54) by 46 runs
What followed was a blistering and pure 92 runs in 10 overs and the green-clad spectators on the Morton Park hill was sent into a frenzy. A mixture of sixes, fours, hard running and risks – combined with a couple of major Vermont errors – gave the Zebras a total that even Vermont was challenged by.
Johnston and Taun-Henderson never looked flustered, and no breakthrough from the Eagles frustrated the bowlers.
Vermont was keen to reel the total in quickly, and the start was so fast Forest Hill got caught on the back foot, trying to get a wicket. Blackburn’s top ground – with its cut grass – quickly became a road, and openers Brad Cullen and Jarrod Moody took full advantage, scoring at more than five runs an over.
Both took the score to 77, before Moody came unstuck by a Russell McManus half volley. Johnston, calm as ever, ran back in the slips to claim a brilliant catch – and Vermont’s free flowing score rate was stifled.
From there, the next 22 overs became a struggle for Vermont. Enter Brian Ferguson for Forest Hill, who finished the match with important figures of 6/50.
Just 28 runs came from the next 19 overs before tea, with Cullen, Adam Byrne and Matt Scott all falling in a period of tight bowling from the Zebras.
As far as finals go, Forest Hill was looking to wrap it all up soon after tea. Vermont had other ideas. Eagles skipper Bradd “Tank” Taylor lost Trent Fitzgerald after he played onto his stumps at 5/137. Then the tables began turning, and with Mitch Scott at the crease, it was mission “score-runs-without-getting-out.” It was a success for 78 runs, until McManus struck again, trapping “Tank” LBW for 53.
Tails were up in the Zebras camp, and Vermont quickly tried to curtail the mood by scoring quick runs. Each over brought collective gasps, cheers and cries from the crowd as the gap closed and the overs remaining diminished.
Only one killer blow was needed, and having dismissed Taylor, Forest Hill found their weapon man in Ferguson. Mitch Scott was sent back to the pavilion with more than 50 runs to get, and from there, Forest Hill pounced. No-one had an answer to Ferguson or McManus, both clocking up economy rates of less than three runs per over.
Celebrations were electric from the middle, and Johnston still could not believe it at the celebrations.
“The committee at Forest Hill had to push me long and hard to become the captain…last minute I decided (to take it), and lo and behold, I’m a premiership captain. It’s a dream come true.”
Vermont’s strong finishing in recent years gave the Zebras even more motivation to chase down both the title and break the drought; the latter of the two records, however, was only made known to Johnston a few weeks before the finals.
“Thirty six years…a few of the older blokes (from that game), they’ve come up from Tocumwal for the game. It’s great to be a part of history and bring it back.”
All Forest Hill wanted was to get their hands on the McIntosh Shield, and having worked to a plan on the second morning to score quickly and score big, the faithful were confident.
President Peter Rosenthal
The 2013-2014 season saw the McIntosh Shield finale played across a Saturday-Saturday format, rather than all other BHRDCA Grand Finals (Saturday-Sunday). Having this format sees “all the focus on McIntosh one and McIntosh Two.”
Live streaming was once again a feature of the day, and there are some definite plusses, said Rosenthal.
“The company love it because they haven’t covered cricket before. Vermont had it running on the TV in the social rooms…it’s been really well received and adds another dimension to a fantastic day.”
Having such a great turnout for the game amplified the spirit of the association, as well as providing the perfect backdrop for a thrilling match.
“It’s a really good community feeling, running into people you play against…Forest Hill haven’t won one since ‘77/’78. Seeing people out and supporting the competition adds to the environment.”
A seesawing affair was the conclusion; a rampant team that could hardly be stopped laid the foundation for the victors.
Both sides finished on 48 points for the season, an indication of the depth Forest Hill and Vermont has in the club. Grand Finals are meant to be a spectacle, and a spectacle was delivered.
Congratulations to Forest Hill, 2013/2014 BHRDCA McIntosh Shield Champions
(Read week one here)