Keira takes title in controversial finale

CRICKET

Keira have ended their 26-year premiership drought in Illawarra cricket following a confusing, anticlimactic and controversial finish against University in Sunday's final at North Dalton Park.

A dramatic day of more than 115 overs ended with Keira claiming a draw after umpires Dave Dobinson and Neil Findlay elected to stop the game due to bad light seven minutes before the scheduled 6pm finish time.

Dobinson said the light had "deteriorated" to a point where play had to be curtailed.

The decision to effectively end the match seven minutes early followed 25 minutes of steady rain and fading light and came after Uni - at 7-142 - had just lost their seventh wicket and still needed 24 runs to win off 20 balls.

The umpires' decision was contentious: many supporters in the grandstand were baffled, others were angry, while for some it was the correct ruling even allowing for the unfortunate late timing.

With a full day on Saturday lost because of rain, Keira always held the upper hand of needing only a draw to secure their first title in more than a quarter of a century, by virtue of being the higher-placed team.

Sent into bat, Keira were determined to bat Uni out of the game by batting through their entitlement of 90 overs.

Though Uni made regular inroads into the Lions' order, they couldn't dismiss Lions skipper Graeme Batty, who saw through the 90 overs for a patient and ultimately match-winning 83no off 270 balls.

Keira posted 8-165, leaving Uni 30 overs in the final two hours of the day to win the match.

Uni made 182 off 63 overs to knock over the unbeaten Balgownie in their semi-final and looked on target at 2-72 after 12 overs.

Amit Balgi made a fine 52, but with his dismissal, Keira were able to turn the screws with the ball.

Tight bowling left Uni needing 37 off five overs, but with rain persisting, Mitch Hearn clubbed 13 off the next over to cut the target to 24 runs off four overs.

Then Neel Honovar bowled an inspired four balls, with three dots before the fourth dismissed Ryan Holcroft LBW.

But before No 9 VJ Karthik could face a ball, the umpires met and the game was halted.

Lions skipper Batty said it was the right call.

"We were urging the umpires to come off and Uni in our position would have done the same thing," Batty said.

"It was absolutely the right call. It was dark, very wet, the ball was wet and hard to grip.

"It wouldn't have been right to go on."

Uni skipper Mitch Calder said that with only seven minutes till the end of play with 20 balls to be bowled, the match should have been allowed to continue.

"The umpires had a tough call to make but, from my perspective, I think we should have played out the end of the game. I'm not sure how much conditions had changed, but that's the call they made.

"We faced a third of the overs and almost made their runs, so I'm really proud of my side."

Batty said it was time the umpires were given help with light monitors while he and Calder agreed there should be a spare weekend for the final.

"We need a spare weekend. I know in 2008 playing for Corrimal how tough it was when bad light cost us against Uni," Batty said.

For Keira, this first premiership since 1987-88 was reward for a fine season in which they finished second to Balgownie and had the competition's leading run-getter in Batty and leading wicket-taker in Jono Cook.

Meanwhile, the second-grade final was washed out, while Wests beat Dapto in the third-grade final and Corrimal Red beat Uni Gold in the fourth-grade decider.

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