The Irishtown Canaries bucked their finals form slump on Saturday, following two years of Circular Head Cricket Association premiership disappointment.
Marrawah captain Shane Babcock won the toss and nominated to field, leaving Irishtown openers Joel Keep and Zaryn Monson to pad up.
The boys in green and gold have finished atop the association ladder three years in a row, with a record of 31 victories and five losses during that time – two of which were Grand Final defeats.
Looking to keep the Canaries’ cagey finals form in tact, the Bulls toiled hard with the ball and were rewarded with two early wickets.
Scott Fisher (2/23) shattered the stumps of Keep for four, before his deceptive in-swing dismissed Monson for one. The Canaries were 2/11.
Isaac Perry and Matthew Febey were off to much stronger starts.
After a knock of 91 in his previous outing at this ground, Perry put away eight fours to gain 47 runs while Febey’s 27 runs helped to steady the ship.
A tricky spell for Steven Fisher (1/16) eventually made a breakthrough resulting in a visible shift in momentum. A screamer from Jaiden Popowski kept the ball rolling, much to the dismay of Paul Nichols, who contested the decision.
After drinks, Josh Else and Shaun Hammond stood at the crease and a bold captaincy decision left Rylee Popowski (3/31) to reopen the day’s play.
Batting with the breeze and downhill, Hammond was delighted to take to the youngster managing 17 runs off his first over. A confident effort in the second over led to a top edge, and Hammond was on his way after a quick fire 31.
Pressure from Aiden Coombe forced a middle order collapse, with help from Popowski who managed two shickets in the chaos. The Canaries were bowled out for 140.
A good start was at the forefront of power pair Matthew Saward and Babcock’s mind, but a high energy field environment made runs difficult to come by.
Frustrated, Babcock resorted to going aerial. Soon after, Saward was caught on the backfoot heading into a quick single and was removed with no runs to his name.
Babcock’s demeanour changed visibly, batting with a new sense of responsibility. A good nut from Paul Nichols (2/21) ensured he didn’t have to worry for long, and the Bulls were suddenly 2/17.
With the two danger men gone and 140 runs still left to find, Rocky Poke and Coombe felt the scoreboard pressure. The pair batted time but were unable to capitalise, earning four runs each.
Jotham Saward and Jaiden Popowski also felt the squeeze, earning just one run to share and leaving the match on the shoulders of Steven Fisher and Mitchell Heald with the Bulls on 6/46.
Fisher and Heald placed high value on their wickets as the pair produced a plethora of good shots as they edged towards the total. The pair reincarnated the Bulls’ belief.
Disaster struck Fisher on 29, handing Febey (1/22) a wicket and Luke Hochman the reigns with the game poised in the balance.
Shortly after, Heald humbly celebrated 50. His celebrations were cut short, though, as a screamer from Nichols removed him for 52.
Tail ender Scott Fisher, a man not known for his prowess with the bat, adjusted well and produced some high quality shots with partner Hochman as the innings came to a close.
With six balls left to play, the duo were asked to find nine runs to win.
Swinging as hard as they could, the pair found runs between the wickets, but two swing-and-misses left the fate of the game resting on the shoulders of Hochman. One ball left, four runs to draw, six to win.
A big swing towards the vacant square leg region had the Marrawah batting shed holding there breath, but the ball caught the top edge and was sent high in the sky, handing the Canaries a four-run victory and their first taste of premiership success since 2013.
The Irishtown Canaries were stoked to taste Circular Head Cricket Association premiership success after two years of chronic underperformance in the big dance. Picture: Ashleigh Force.