WDCA | Benalla back from brink with McCallum knock

By Meg Saultry

A stirring partnership between Benalla Bushrangers’ Josh McCallum and Dale Stratton has pulled Benalla back from the brink on the opening day of its two-day match against Ovens Valley United.

After five rounds, the Wangaratta District Cricket Association A-grade season has moved into the two-day portion of the competition.

But the change in format will also require Benalla to foster a new mindset, captain James Carboon said.

“Obviously batting 75 overs is quite different to 40 overs,” he said.

“It’s about valuing wicket and getting a good start.

“And you need more than one person getting runs.”

A need for greater contribution on the scoreboard was evident at Whorouly Memorial Reserve on Saturday, with Benalla relying on several solid stints at the crease to reach a defendable total of 9-184 by the end of the innings.

Benalla looked in strife early, with its line-up rattled as the team fell to 3-14.

“Early on we were in trouble, but luckily [Senaka] Lakmal and myself were able to steady the ship,” Carboon said.

The duo's efforts gave the Bushrangers a push, both notching up 25 runs apiece.

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But the innings again looked in dire straits as Ovens Valley broke through and sent more of Benalla’s line-up back to the clubhouse, with the visitors further dropping to 7-76.

It was at this point Stratton and McCallum stepped in, combining for a partnership of 101 to edge Benalla closer to the 200 mark by the end of the innings.

Each batsman complemented the other; Stratton finishing with 34 from 139 balls, though ultimately holding down his end, while McCallum accelerated to finish with 76 from 61 balls, including 10 fours and a six.

Carboon said it wasn’t surprising that McCaullm posted a dominant score coming in at nine as a tail-ender. 

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“[McCallum’s innings] didn’t surprise me,” Carboon said.

“He’s played a different role this season than in the past.

“He’s gone down the order which has given him the freedom to play his natural game.

“It was all about putting him in the right spot.”

Among Ovens Valley’s attack, Dan Walker shone with 3-25, while James Neary proved threatening with 2-17 from nine overs.

Benalla will take to the field this Saturday, hell-bent on defending its total through its attack with the ball.

“We’ll have a big week of training this week,” Carboon said.

“With a score of 180-odd, it’s good to have a run and attack their wicket, and then defend if we need to.”

And at the forefront of Benalla’s attack will be a quintet of bowlers.

“Dale Stratton and Conor Brodie, they’re our opening bowlers and have been mainstays this season,” Carboon said.

“Another is Tom Williams — he's a quick and will have a big role with the ball next week.

“And there is Jack Fullager, who is a leg spinner, as well as [Senaka] Lakmal — he’s a slow right arm and has lots of variation to take the pace off the ball.”