By Richard Millott
Knoxfield and Upwey entered the top four following wins during a pivotal round of results in Norm Reeves Shield.
At Belgrave, Knoxfield showed why they are a force still to be reckoned with.
Batting first, the Knights were able to affect the scoreboard from multiple angles, with Adith Sundaresh (68), Trent Scholfield (65) and Zac Wilson (69) all scoring as they peppered the Belgrave Reserve boundaries to finish at 6/323 from their 40 overs.
Henry Charter was the pick of the bowlers for the Pies with 3/69.
Belgrave’s Jordon King (34) and Aaron Brunner (31) replied, but efforts from Tom Boxell (3/28) and Adam Maloney (3/32) kept Belgrave to 159.
Also entering finals calculations is Upwey, who had a convincing away win over Eildon Park to claim fourth place after round six action.
The Panthers had a day to forget, dismissed for 97 with Cameron Wheeler taking 3/27.
The Tigers took a little bit to settle to chase the target, with Monto Perera taking 3/28 for Eildon Park, but Wheeler knocked up a 38 to lead the Tigers to victory.
It was a shootout between neighboring Johnson Park and Ferntree Gully Footballers, with the Griffens taking the honours.
Again the Sharks had the Devenish Connection with the willow, with Steve (64) and Andrew (42) both scoring towards the effort to reach 9/195.
Steve continued his influence with the ball in hand, claiming 3/13 to have the visitors requiring a solid contribution, with the call duly answered by Ben Rawlings who scored 98 to take the Griffens to victory and remain within the top four heading into summer.
A vital derby match between Upper Ferntree Gully and Ferntree Gully saw both sides seeking to open accounts for the season, with the Kings posting 7/152 with Jay Collee the lead with 54.
Jayden Bradbury (41) and Ben Pearce (35) were determined for the Blues to bank their opening win, however Collee claimed 3/29 to help the Kings to honors at Kings Park, keeping Ferntree Gully to 146.
At Knox Gardens, the ladder-leading Bears were at their best again, accounting for the home team by eight wickets.
The Basin’s Blake Walter claimed 3/40 to help keep the Falcons to 9/157 on their home ground, with Walter (59*), Scott Vozzo (56) and Joel Robertson (38*) all partnering up across the innings to land at 2/159 and remain a match clear.
Decoite Shield action saw Lysterfield reclaim top place on percentage following their victory over fellow aspirants South Belgrave.
Daniel Cormack led the way for South with 57, but Brad Paull (3/22) and Ryan Hicks (3/32) ensured that South Belgrave was restricted to 9/147.
The reply was swift, as Daniel Forster-Jennings (60) and Josh Bundy (38) helped provide the foundations for victory.
Monbulk moved down to second despite victory over Mountain Gate.
Jason Fraser (61), Shane Cosstick (30) and Daniel Clarke (30) all made starts, with Mitch Goddard thwarting the Hawks by claiming 5/20 while supported by Russell Wilson (3/22).
The Gators chase was thereabouts for the innings, however 4/41 to Braden Taeuber helped ensure the Hawks’ success.
Brett Morrison was the cornerstone of the Knox Gardens innings at Talaskia Reserve, scoring 136 of the Falcons’ 4/295.
Along with Morrison, Gerard Jongen (76) and Nav Singh (46*) ensured that a large target was required to take the points away.
For the Saints, Trent Pitts (62), Andrew Evans (49) and Luke Hands (47*) gave a full effort to chase and register a famous win, however fell short finishing at 8/261.
The win keeps the Falcons within the four, with Rowville closing in following their victory over Olinda.
Rowville set 8/164 from their overs, with James Buck notching 70 despite Dominic Woodfield claiming 4/26.
Tom Nash took 5/33 for the Hawks as they dismissed Olinda for 118 in reply.