Round 8 of the Northam Cricket Association 40 over competition was played in a comfortable setting on Saturday. A blustery south easterly blew throughout the afternoon. The temperature was mild but the cricket was not.
Grass Valley hosted Ferals at Bert Hawke 1 in Northam.
Ferals won the toss and decided to go with their strength and bowl first in conditions that offered assistance.
The decision was justified as Ferals struck early through young left arm quick Michael Ferguson, who scythed through the defense of Glenn Smith with the total on 5.
Soon after, Callum Norrish held on to a catch at mid wicket from Troy Sims bowling to remove Rhys Byfield.
Valley had lost both openers for 16.
Ferguson produced another pearler to rattle the castle of the dangerous Bailey O'Driscoll.
Sims returned the favour from earlier by holding a catch at cover from the bowling of Norrish.
Valley were wobbling at 4 for 34.
The stoic Kitt Byfield was undaunted and, as he does so often, set about accumulating runs and resurrecting the innings. He found an able partner in Cody Even (27) and the pair put on 68 runs for the fifth wicket.
The partnership was broken when a thick edge from Even's bat popped up to Max Smith at extra cover to hand Sims his second wicket (2 wickets for 31 runs from 9 overs).
Byfield passed his half century with little fanfare and, with more than 10 overs remaining, was eyeing an even greater contribution. However, his attempt to loft over the infield failed to clear Fletcher Page at mid on.
Byfield's dismissal for 60 rekindled Ferals' ambitions but, as has been the case too often this season, they failed to wrap up the tail.
Lower order batsmen, led by Ben Casey (21), pushed the Valley total to 169, all out in the 39th over.
Norrish finished with the best figures for the bowling side (4 for 27 from 6.2).
Ferguson continued his rapid improvement (2 for 23 from 7) to claim multiple wickets along with Sims.
Requiring 170 to win presented a difficult challenge for Feral's batting. Particularly when Valley boast two of the most promising young express bowlers in the competition in Bailey O'Driscoll and Cody Even.
Even struck in the third over when a ball just short of a length climbed into the batsmen's grill and this writer could only fend it to first slip.
Valley thought they had the other opening batsmen caught down the legside by the keeper but were denied by the benefit of the doubt, a tradition of cricket sometimes forgotten.
O'Driscoll was soon introduced to the attack and he found range.
In a damaging spell, notable for consistency and control to compliment his pace, O'Driscoll took 3 wickets for 22 runs from 9 overs with 2 maidens, leaving Ferals in a position from which they could not recover.
He probed outside the off stump of the left handed Norrish (24), repeatedly missing the outside edge or the stumps by a whisker, before finally inducing a faint edge to slip.
At the other end, an unlikely appeal for caught behind was turned down, further frustrating Valley, before Even claimed his second wicket two balls later, when he clean bowled Ferguson. He finished with 2 for 22 from 7.
A last wicket unbroken partnership of 23 between Max Smith (5 not out) and Connor Sargeant (19 not out) added some respectability to the total.
Ferals reached 113 from their 40 overs. While Valley eventually accounted for Ferals comfortably, it should make for an interesting contest should these two teams meet again this season in the 40 over competition.
In the other game of Round 8, Toodyay hosted Balladong at the Toodyay Town Oval, also on Saturday.
Toodyay won the toss and made the risky decision to bat first against the powerful Balladong side on a green top.
The fact they were missing some players left the Toodyay captain with little choice. Unfortunately, Toodyay were dismissed for just 25 after 16.2 overs.
In reply, Balladong cantered to 122 in the 21st over before declaring with 4 wickets remaining.
Next week is the penultimate round of the regular season of the Northam Cricket Association 40 over competition.
Ferals host Balladong at Bert Hawke 2 in Northam. Toodyay travel to Bakers Hill Oval to play Bakers. Grass Valley has the bye.
Only two rounds of 40 over cricket remain as teams jostle for position on the ladder.
Valley and Balladong sit first and second with six wins each, separated only by points.
Bakers are third with two wins.
Ferals and Toodyay are fourth and fifth with one win each, desperately trying to distance themselves from the bottom before season end.